Take heed, all you kids out there hoping to find glitz and glamour in the music world: Nobody in indie rock is living out their champagne wishes and caviar dreams. Take Montreal art-rockers Wolf Parade, for instance. One of the year’s most hyped-up groups, the band has been raved about in everything from indie rags to Time magazine. A friendship with the members of the Arcade Fire and production help from Isaac Brock hasn’t hurt Wolf Parade’s popularity any, but the band lived up to huge expectations with Apologies to the Queen Mary, a staggering debut.
My point, in case you were wondering, is this: Despite the band’s surging popularity, the members of Wolf Parade spent the day of their album’s release driving through middle of nowhere in Montana on the way to the next venue. When cell-phone service was cooperating, the band’s drummer, Arlen Thompson, talked about Wolf Parade’s meteoric rise to fame, the recording process, and the band’s future.
PM: How’s the tour going?
Wolf Parade: It’s going good. We’re about eight shows in right now, and the shows we’ve been playing on our own have been really good. We played with Architecture in Helsinki in Vancouver, which was really cool, and of course the Arcade Fire stuff is going really well.
PM: Now that you guys have a big buzz, have you noticed any differences in the crowd? Are people going there to see you guys as much as the Arcade Fire, for example?
Wolf Parade: No. People are there to see Arcade Fire, for sure. There’s obviously a bit of crossover audience, but we got put on the bill after the dates had been announced and the tickets started to sell. But there definitely seems to be people who seem to know our stuff.
PM: There’s a relationship between Wolf Parade and the Arcade Fire – you guys are even being called the next Arcade Fire. Do you guys laugh at that kind of thing together, or is there some healthy competition between the two bands?
Wolf Parade: I don’t think anything anyone really pays attention to anything like that. It’s not about who’s going to be the bigger band or anything. Nothing has really changed for us. [Both bands began] playing together a couple of years ago, and [we all] really love each other’s bands. None of the external media stuff really makes much sense to us really.
PM: As a band, you guys aren’t originally from Montreal, right? You’re all from Victoria, British Columbia.
Wolf Parade: We pretty much all met one another in Victoria at some point.
PM: Do you guys feel like you’ve been accepted into the Montreal scene even though you’re not really from there and, I’m guessing, most of you guys aren’t all that fluent in French.
Wolf Parade: I don’t know. A lot of people in Montreal come from different parts of Canada anyway – a lot of people come here for school and just end up staying. There really aren’t that many people in the music scene that could properly be called native Montrealers.
PM: Living in Montreal myself, I’ve always felt there’s kind of a divide between the English speakers and French speakers.
Wolf Parade: I wouldn’t really call myself a real Montrealer. My French isn’t very good, and I didn’t grow up here. There are some people voicing concern that all the bands are getting attention, but I definitely don’t feel like an outsider in Montreal. I’m from B.C., but I love Montreal. It’s like my favorite city in North America.
PM: What was it like to work with Isaac Brock in the studio? Did he have any influence on some of the changes to the songs that were on the original EPs?
Wolf Parade: He definitely brought a lot of ideas to the table, and he has a lot of recording experience. He was just there to point out things that we could change or do better – things with vocals and stuff – and also just how to shape the songs a little bit differently than what’s on those EPs. Those EPs were straight off the floor – how we were playing the songs live at that point.
PM: Spencer [Krug, vocals] said he wasn’t really happy with the way some of the songs came out on the album, in comparison to the originals. Is that a consensus within the band?
Wolf Parade: It’s always weird when you have to re-record something. When we did the first recordings of the songs they were still really fresh, and we kind of captured a certain energy in those recordings. And for the album we went to a big studio and went over them with a fine-tooth comb, and a bit of that was lost. And by that time we had toured on those songs for a while, so they weren’t exactly fresh for us.
PM: The songs on the album sounded kind of rushed. Was there a feeling amongst the band of, “Okay, let’s just get this out there already?”
Wolf Parade: Well, kind of. We were just trying to get a lot done in a short amount of time. I guess it was a bit rushed, but we didn’t have a lot of time to work on the album, even though it took a long time to get out. The recording was kind of broken up into a lot of short periods. It’s definitely a record that reflects what we were doing as a band in a live sense, I think – just a bit more embellished.
PM: Speaking of your live act, you guys added Dante DeCaro to play bass and help out on percussion for this tour. Is this just a temporary thing?
Wolf Parade: I think at this point it’s pretty permanent. He’s definitely going to be working on the next record and maybe writing a few songs. It looks like he’s sticking around.
PM: Do you find that adding a fifth member changed the group dynamic or the band’s sound?
Wolf Parade: It makes everything a bit thicker, and it adds a lot more texture to the band.
PM: Dante’s also from Victoria, so I’m guessing you guys knew each other already?
Wolf Parade: I knew him from playing in bands with people I was friends with for years. We’ve all known each other for a while.
PM: I hate to focus on this so much, but were you guys surprised at all by the level of hype?
Wolf Parade: It’s pretty strange. I’ve never experienced anything even close to this in any other band I’ve been in.
PM: Do you guys feel any pressure because of it? Are you sitting around thinking, We’ve got all these people talking about our band, so this album’s really got to deliver?
Wolf Parade: No. I mean, it’s already done. To us it’s pretty old at this point – we recorded it almost a year ago now, so we just kind of have to let it go and see how it does. If people like it, people like it. There’s nothing we can really do now. We try not to even think about it; the hype can drive you crazy.
PM: I can imagine. The indie press was a given, I suppose, but you guys are getting praise from the Canadian edition of Time, and I even saw an article on msnbc.com. Stuff like that must blow your mind.
Wolf Parade: It’s just one of those weird things, I guess. If someone forwards a link to us or points it out, we’re just, “Oh, well, okay.” We’re usually the last ones to find out about this kind of stuff. Usually I hear about it through a telephone call from my mom or something.
PM: How does it feel when you see comparisons to artists like David Bowie or Springsteen? Are these artists you guys looked up to?
Wolf Parade: It’s flattering, I guess. But for me, when the band started, there was no real kind of discussion about how the band was going to sound. I just got a phone call and we got started. There was a really quick startup for this band. But it’s definitely weird to see the comparisons – “Oh, this is Bowie-ish,” or “This sounds like Modest Mouse.” Especially when you think you’re just kind of doing your own thing. I think everything just sounds like Wolf Parade, but maybe that’s my bias from being in the band.
PM: It’s kind of unfair to ask you this on the day your new album was released, but a lot of these songs are pretty old. Have you been working on any new material?
Wolf Parade: We’re probably going to start working on the new record this winter – January, we’re thinking.
PM: Strike while the iron is hot?
Wolf Parade: It’s not really that. We just want to start doing new things, try out some new ideas and keep things fresh, basically. Like you said, we’ve been playing some of these songs for almost two years now – day in, day out – so it’ll be exciting to do something different.
Wolf Parade on MySpace.com
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