Wolf Parade “Language City”
Wolf Parade have just released their newest album and are able to spontaneously assess and answer difficult questions about unorthodox transanthropomorphification of various band members. They speak now to Daiana Feuer.
Your new album, At Mount Zoomer, came out a few weeks ago. How are you feeling about it? Like your baby just started walking, or like you’re watching a balloon drift off into space, or like the morning after intense lovemaking, and you’re having breakfast, kind of drunk and shaky?
Arlen Thompson (drums): I’d say ‘B.’ I feel like when you finish making a record, it kind of leaves your hands. It really becomes its own thing. You lose vision of it in a lot of ways, like watching a balloon. You kind of let it go and see where it ends up.
And hope it doesn’t choke a turtle, right?
Yeah, ultimately you want it to be good, a balloon that does good.
Were you bummed that the album leaked a couple months ago? How did it happen?
It’s kind of impossible for it not to these days. Yeah, I was a little bit bummed but what can you do? I think it leaked through a journalist.
Speaking of journalists, how do you feel about being compared all the time? Does it stick you somewhere?
It kind of seems to me a lazy way to describe a band by saying they sound like this and this. We get thrown in a lot with Modest Mouse and Arcade Fire but I don’t really think we sound like either band. I guess we sound more like Modest Mouse than we do like Nickelback.
OK, if each person in your band were a sound effect, what would they be?
Oh man. Dan would be a smoker’s cough. Hadji would be a Fleetwood Mac record. Spencer would be…? Dante would be the sound of a cat sleeping. What would Spencer be…? Spencer would be the sound of a bottle being dropped. I would be…the sound of a banana being peeled.
Those are all interesting sounds to come together. And it’s true, everyone seems to be doing different things, but when it comes together in the same room, all these different elements will help you evolve forever.
Oh totally. I think that’s kind of what’s happening. And we’ll keep doing it for as long as we’re interested in making music together. I don’t think we’re going to be the Rolling Stones or Aerosmith or something.
In terms of cranking it out in a wheelchair?
I think everyone will still be making music until they’re, you know, cranking it out in wheelchairs, but we’ll keep going as a group until it doesn’t seem fun anymore.
Are you excited to finally tour again?
Yeah, we’ve started rehearsing again. It’s pretty fun. Just getting to play music together. We haven’t done that in quite a while. Besides recording, which isn’t really actually playing together because it’s done in separate parts. But getting to play some old songs was nice. It’d been a long time. We did the last tour last summer, ended in September and after that we really just focused on the record, just did mixing and overdubs. I don’t think we’ve played as a band since.
How does a band practice session take shape?
Someone’s always late. Usually we have a couple of running jokes that we kind of work on during the session. I can’t even get into that. It’s really long-winded, complicated inside jokes I doubt anyone would find funny. It would take a while and you would wonder what the hell we were talking about. Eventually we get down to business. And during breaks Dante and Hadji are fucking around with their instruments. Our room has no ventilation so it gets extremely hot and stuffy and we sweat a lot.
Got anything special planned for the tour?
Nothing really special. We’re dusting off some old songs. No great surprises. It’s still going to be just us playing music. We’re not really a band that’s every going to get like Iron Maiden where we’re going to have a 20-foot-tall Yeti running across the stage.
There’s a certain declamation of punk spirit in your band’s ways, how does that go into performing and how you create your music?
I think Dan said something about it once. Generally, the way we like to perform, I guess. Obviously it sounds pretty ridiculous because of the size of the venues we’re playing now, but we try to play as if we’re playing in someone’s basement. We really try to let it all hang out rather than put on any staged performance. For music, we really just keep ourselves honest and play music that we find interesting. Not get caught up in being some sort of act.
How long did the production stuff take? The actual putting together of the album, jamming out sessions, picking it apart for the goods and then laying it down?
We were all kind of working on it. We took these rough ideas that we had sketched out, came together and started piecing it. Dan or Spencer weaved things together. For me, I was acting as an agent just to try to record it all and keep things somewhat organized in that respect. It was a pretty interesting process to do a record like this.
That recording part is pretty important. The sound quality, the tone, that’s like an additional instrument.
Totally. We wanted to keep it simple, a pretty live feel to things. I tried to record the songs when they were still pretty fresh. Just tried to keep things sounding pretty open and natural. Not make things sound overproduced, like a lot of modern rock records sound. Not too mechanical. Trying to make it sound loose and organic. It’s just got to have some life to it. What we did was built out of spontaneity.
Your album’s named after your studio, Mount Zoomer? What’s it look like?
As studios go, it’s pretty unimpressive. It’s a couple of rooms in a loft in Montreal. It’s got a light grey color to it. It’s not very big. It’s got some recording equipment and some music-making equipment. Maybe 20 feet by 15 feet. It’s really a workspace. Wolf Parade uses it, and Handsome Furs, Megazoid uses it, one of Hadji’s side projects.
Are there snacks?
There’s usually beer. That’s pretty common. Or a bottle of booze of some sort. It’s pretty bare when it comes to any sort of homemaking. There aren’t very many homemaking touches. I do have one poster I want to put up.
‘Mount Zoomer,’ a euphemism for shrooms?
Zoomers is B.C. slang for magic mushrooms. It’s also an anagram name for Matt Moroz, whose done videos for us (‘I’ll Believe in Anything’ and ‘Shine A Light’) and did the album artwork with Elizabeth Huey, both good friends of ours. Matt also did the Apologies artwork. I like getting your friends to make art for you. It’s kind of nice.
Is there a song on Zoomers you especially like to play?
I like ‘Kissing a Beehive.’ It’s got a lot of neat parts to it. I like ‘Call It a Ritual,’ even though I have a really repetitive part. It’s a fun song.
How many bands have you been in?
How old were you when you entered your first band?
What kind of hairdo did you have?
Shitty teenage long hair. I was well into grunge in those days.
What drummers did you like?
I was a big fan of your classics. John Bonham and Ginger Baker and I liked the guy who drummed in Helmet and I guess drums in Battles now, John Steiner. Probably Dave Grohl.
What’s your favorite country that you’ve been to?
I like Germany a lot. That was pretty fun. I like Berlin. The kind of attitude there. I like Hungary a lot too. I spent a couple of weeks in Budapest. I like the Hungarians.
Are you the one that found a skull in the garbage there?
No, that was my friend Quinn. That was pretty weird. I liked Budapest a lot actually. It’s a lot like Berlin. Compared to North America, it’s pretty loose. It’s pretty easy livin’. There’s a lot of interesting history.
What country has the weirdest toilet?
Hungary. They’re different. I don’t know if it’s still kind of like a Soviet era system going on. But they were kind of backwards, if you can imagine that. It was kind of the opposite of what an American toilet looks like.
What kind of imaginary place could this record play at?
This record goes all over the place so it’s hard to think of just one. Have you heard of tales of the world inside the earth? The secret worlds, the lost people. There’s supposed to be an earth inside the earth. And a whole other civilization that exists inside the earth. That’s probably what this record is like.
If this album were an animal, what would it be?
Oh! We actually have a painting of us as animal figures with each band member in his animal body, like his totem animal. I am a bear. Dan is a snake. Spencer is a goat. No, Hadji is a goat. Or Dante is a cat. I got to look this up real quick…I’m a Bear. Dan’s a snake. Spencer’s a duck. Hadji’s a goat and Dante’s a rabbit. The artist, Spencer’s sister, picked them for us.
Who would be your ideal tourmates?
Getting to tour with people you like. We tend to bring friends of ours on tour. It makes touring more fun. Once you’re on the road, you don’t have day-to-day responsibilities. You don‘t have to think about what you’re doing that day. It’s pretty summer camp-ish in a way. I’ve never been to summer camp so I don’t really know but I bet it is…
What three foods would you take on an endless tour?
I would take dumplings and Szechuan beef, that’s one. Two, I would take Lebanese shwarma. And three, I would take probably a Mission-style burrito. You can’t get any good burritos in Montreal. It’s really disappointing.
What is your cure for a hangover?
Eating greasy food. Water, greasy food.
What are your plans for today?
I’ll be hanging out then I’ve got a rehearsal with another band. That’s about it. Taking it easy. It’s this band called Transylvania. A bunch of friends that are musicians and a bunch that are not musicians that basically make…noise.
What do you like about making noise?
I like the chance aspect of it. That something good might come out of total mayhem.
WOLF PARADE’S AT MOUNT ZOOMER IS OUT NOW ON SUB POP. VISIT WOLF PARADE AT MYSPACE.COM/WOLFPARADE.