Musical voice mails the answer to solo effort
BRENDAN Canning says he never fancied himself a solo artist for one simple reason: “I like bands.” Indeed, the Broken Social Scene cofounder has spent most of his 20-year career in indie-rock groups, including such Toronto music scene luminaries as By Divine Right, Blurtonia, Len and hHead. These days, though, he’s promoting an October album release that bears just his name on the cover. You Gots 2 Chill, Canning’s second solo effort, was recorded with Ohad Benchetrit (Do Make Say Think) and singer/songwriter Steve Singh and reveals a more intimate, private side. For an album about mellowing out and unplugging, it’s fitting Canning did the same. “This was the first time I had the chance to make a record around the acoustic guitar,” he says on the phone from Sarnia, Ont. “So much of my time spent at noodling around on the guitar on the front steps or on the couch beside my dog. Then you put it on the answering machine to remember it. After 15 years or so, there’s a catalogue of ideas.” Canning has been demoing songs on his answering machine for most of his career, calling his home line to record them. (He’s not a total Luddite, though; he uses the voice memo app on his smartphone now, too.) Two of the album’s tracks, the aptly titled Long Live Land Lines and Once a Lighthouse, were recorded on voicemail. “I wanted to include that part of the tapped to work on the original music for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, the Edgar Wright-directed adaptation of the hit Toronto-centric graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O’Malley. Canning says the process of writing scores varies movie to movie. “With The Canyons, I just had a script to start with. I read it and basically said, ‘This is what I’m hearing for your movie.’ They knew Broken Social Scene, so they trusted me when I would say things like, ‘It’s going to be a Depeche Mode kind of western thing.’” Other films, such as Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, came with more specific parameters. “We had to write all these foursecond songs as Crash and the Boys.” Canning also just completed a score for an interactive video game/film project that involves director David Cronenberg selling his intellectual property to a biotech lab. You Gots 2 Chill had him using his creativity in new ways, as well. He even drew the cover art. “There were all these new things that, while I was in Broken Social Scene, I didn’t have the mental capacity for,” he says. “When I released (2008’s solo album) Something for All of Us, people were like, ‘Why didn’t you make a different sounding record?’ I just didn’t have the mental space. Sometimes you need silence.”
Chilling out: Brendan Canning unplugs on his sophomore solo album.