Wolf Parade are back. Late last year, the members of the Montreal band took a break from their various other bands (Sunset Rubdown, Handsome Furs, Swan Lake, Moonface) and reconvened to work on their third album, which is titled Expo 86.
The follow-up to 2008’s At Mount Zoomer is due for a late June or early July release on Sub Pop. We recently chatted with co-leader Dan Boeckner about the new album; he also calls it “more focused” than At Mount Zoomer and “definitely the most fun I’ve had recording a Wolf Parade record.” Check out our interview below.
Also below: Wolf Parade’s spring and summer tour dates, including a full North American trek.
Pitchfork: Is the new album finished?
Dan Boeckner: I think we have one or two more songs to mix, and then it’s done. This record was definitely the most fun I’ve had recording a Wolf Parade record, ever. It got done really quickly, which felt nice.
Pitchfork: You did most of the songs live to tape. So were you all playing in a room together?
DB: Yeah, as much as possible. There’s hardly any overdubs on this record. The vocals were tracked separately from the music, but almost all of it was recorded live to tape with very minimal overdubs. Any overdubs were just us going back in and fixing any mistakes that we made while we were playing it live.
Pitchfork: In an Exclaim interview, you said that it could turn out to be a double album.
DB: Yeah. We started writing in late October or early November, and we ended up writing about 15 songs . We tracked all of them. So we got about 80 minutes of music to work into a product, basically [laughs], into something. At this point, I don’t know whether it’ll be a double album. I’d really love to just release a single album and then, later on, an extended EP. But we’re still trying to figure out what format to put all the stuff out in. We want to release it all. I don’t feel that any of the songs are ugly cousins or duds. [laughs]
Pitchfork: Do you have a title for the album yet?
Expo 86 was a World’s Fair that happened in Vancouver in 1986. It’s been this thing we all talked about as a band. We all grew up in British Columbia, and we were all at Expo, which lasted about three or four days. It’s a weird little thought experiment– basically, we were all young children at the same big event. I remember Expo 86 was as big as the Olympics were this year in Vancouver. They completely reorganized part of the downtown core, and they built this giant geodesic dome called “Science World”. Now it looks completely, totally dated and a product of its time. They built monuments, built rides. It was something I don’t think we’re going to see in Canada ever again because World’s Fairs have fallen out of favor, at least for the Western World.
Pitchfork: Do you have any particular memories of going to Expo 86?
DB: I remember going to the German Pavilion, which was totally terrifying. Each country had a pavilion showing off their prime exports or a little bit of the culture, and the German Pavilion was this super austere, really cold Bauhaus-style minimalist building. It freaked me out as a child.
Pitchfork: How does the album title interact with the album itself?
DB: Honestly, it doesn‘t really. I don’t think there’s any relation to the significance of the album title with the song content.
Pitchfork: How does this album sound different from the last two?
DB: It’s a lot more focused than the last one. There’s a lot more energy on it, and it’s hard for me to even relate it back to Apologies [to the Queen Mary] because that album seems like a long time ago. I don’t know if it’s a blend of the last two records; it’s definitely different from both of them. There’s a lot more uptempo stuff on it than there was in the last record. But it’s really dense. All the songs and arrangements are really, really dense. And it sounds like a band playing live. Parts of it are pretty noisy, too, which I’m pretty happy with. I really liked making the last record, and I felt like it was a good snapshot of where the band was at at the time we recorded those songs. But I think this one is a little more faithful to the main aesthetic behind Wolf Parade.
Pitchfork: How would you describe that aesthetic?
DB: Maximalism— like, a kind of wall of counterpoint. There’s a lot of melodies going on within the songs. Not just the vocal melodies, but there’s an underpinning of drums. At any given time, there’s five or six counter-melodies running against each other, with the vocals kind of fighting for supremacy. I mean, if we have a sound, I think that’s it.
Pitchfork: Since you all have so many different projects going on, do you write together while you’re touring or working with your respective bands?
DB: No, we don’t write together when we’re working on other projects. Spencer and I don’t really generally get together and write while we’re working on different projects. We just block timelines for writing for Wolf Parade. I was really, really happy with the writing process for this one. It moved along quickly. Every day in November and early December, we’d come into the studio, and Spencer would be like, “Here’s something that might be a song.” We rehearsed hours and hours a day to turn these songs into something. Some of them were more easy, and some of them took a little longer. This is the first record we’ve done with Dante [DeCaro] writing at point of conception for the songs, so that was really interesting. Arlen [Thompson], Spencer, and I always write the stuff together. Pretty much everything but the lyrics is a collaborative effort. So to have one more person in the mix that we hadn‘t worked with at the writing stage– it was pretty cool. [Exclaim reports that keyboardist Hadji Bakara is no longer in the band, and is at the University of Chicago getting his doctorate in English literature. — Ed.]
Pitchfork: Last week, you guested with Spoon at Radio City. How’d that feel?
DB: It felt great, actually. I’ve been a fan of that band since I was in high school. I bought the Telephono record, and I just adored that band. I’d already listened to all the Pixies and the Modern Lovers stuff. I just listened to the shit out of those records, and then this Spoon record came along. It was one more record I could listen to in this really specific canon of music. I’ve been a massive fan of that band.
Over the last couple years, I’ve become friends with Britt [Daniel]. He asked me to come down and play with them, and it was a pretty big honor. Deerhunter played, and they were fantastic. Eleanor from the Fiery Furnaces was there. Being part of that show felt like a major coup for indie rock, you know? The fact that Spoon could sell out Radio City Music Hall without a massive FM radio presence felt like a major coup. I know they’re a huge band and everything, but ostensibly they’re an underground band. The fact that all those people would sit and watch Deerhunter, whose set veered between really catchy and super challenging wild noise stuff– that those people would sit and accept that was like this is a really positive thing. Spoon, Deerhunter, and the Fiery Furnaces are all very uncompromising in their own ways. That kind of restored my faith in music a little bit. It was an honor.
Pitchfork: Did your faith need restoring?
DB: Sometimes it does. I’ll go through phases where I don’t pay attention to what’s happening in modern music, especially if I’m writing for Wolf Parade. I don’t listen to other bands while I’m writing for an album. It’s just this really self-focused, self-contained thing. But sometimes I’ll pick up Spin, and occasionally it really depresses me. I totally love [Spoon’s] Transference. I think it’s a fantastic record, but objectively Transference is a difficult record for people who like them for their catchier singles. They’re touring on that record and they doubled the venue capacity in New York, which is something really cool. I have a lot of respect for those guys, and that’s something I kind of aspire to with Wolf Parade– not necessarily playing at that exact venue or anything. But just the idea that if you just keep doing exactly what you want to do, playing the music that makes you happy without trying to predict what your audience wants or pander to this preconceived idea of what your audience is, what they want to hear from you, then you can actually have some kind of longevity in your career. That’s exciting.
04-03 Halifax, Nova Scotia – Paragon Theatre *
04-04 Fredericton, New Brunswick – The Market *
04-06 Kingston, Ontario – Ale House *
04-07 Toronto, Ontario – Phoenix Concert Theatre *
05-06 Pecs, Hungary – Europe Mania Festival
05-07 Krems an der Donau, Austria – Donau Festival
05-08 Leipzig, Germany – Pop Up Festival
05-09 Prague, Czech Republic – Matrix
05-11 Salzburg, Austria – Rockhouse
05-12 Bologna, Italy – Lokomotiv
05-13 Torino, Italy – Spazio 211
05-16 Brussels, Belgium – Le Botanique
05-17 Brighton, England – Concorde 2
05-19 Glasgow, Scotland – Oran Mor
05-20 Dublin, Ireland – Vicar Street
05-21 Manchester, England – Club Academy
05-22 Utrecht, Netherlands – Tivoli
05-25 Lubijana, Slovenia – Menza Pri Koritu
05-26 Zagreb, Croatia – Teatar & TD
05-27 Milan, Italy – Salumeria della Musica
05-28 Gallen, Switzerland – Palace
05-29 Dudingen, Switzerland – Bad Bonn
05-31 Paris, France – Nouveau Casino
07-08 Montreal, Quebec – Le National
07-09 Montreal, Quebec – Le National
07-11 Portland, ME – Port City Music Hall
07-12 Boston, MA – House of Blues
07-13 New York, NY – Terminal 5
07-15 Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom
07-16 Newport, KY – Southgate House
07-18 Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue
07-19 Winnipeg, Manitoba – Garrick Center
07-21 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan – Louis (University of Saskatoon Campus)
07-22 Calgary, Alberta – Republik
07-23 Edmonton, Alberta – The Starlight Room
07-25 Vancouver, British Columbia – Vogue Theatre
07-26 Seattle, WA – Showbox
07-27 Portland, OR – Crystal Ballroom
07-29 Santa Cruz, CA – Catalyst Club
07-30 Oakland, CA – The Fox
07-31 Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern
09-15 London, England – The Forum
* with We Are Wolves