When I call Kevin Drew in the evening earlier this week, he’s in a hotel room in Portland, Maine. Our interview had been pushed from earlier in the day because the Broken Social Scene frontman’s bus broke down. He doesn’t really tell me why—it won’t affect the tour and is just “some technical difficulties”—but he’s ready to talk. And so, we talk. And we talk. And we talk some more. Our near hour-long chat quickly descends into pretty much every topic you could imagine: iPhones, indie rock, the struggles of making music (even when you’re successful), Facebook, the internet, regrets, romance, kissing people, skin, and honestly, every other subject ever.
Below, Noisey is happy to premiere the musician’s new music video for “Mexican Aftershow Party,” a beautiful, subtle track off of his second solo record, Darlings, which is out now. He’s also announcing a show in Los Angeles with Zach Galifinakis at Largo on April 24. If you can’t make that, though, catch him on tour.
April 10th Tarrytown, NY @ The Tarrytown Music Hall with Feist
April 11th Portsmouth, NH @ The Historic Theater with Feist
April 24th Los Angeles, LA @ Largo with Zach Galifianakis
April 28th New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom *
June 7th Toronto, ON @ Field Trip
August 1st Montreal, QC @ Osheaga Festival
August 9th Squamish, BC @ Squamish Valley Music Festival
Noisey: Let’s talk about the video for “Mexican Aftershow Party.”
Kevin Drew: Well it comes down to these guys who did it, you know. I wanted to work with Scott Cudmore and Michael Leblanc for a while. A goal was to make this video about fantasy. Make it like a dream and the fantasy of self-identification and how we identify with performers. And when he started telling me about this and the concept of people watching and myself watching myself perform, I really got into the voyeurism aspect of it. Just in the idea of how we're constantly looking at other things now.
We all get caught up in fantasy and we all get caught up in the idea of wondering what else is happening, what else is going on with people. And I've noticed in this era of what we live in, especially with the younger generations. It just seems like whenever there's space, or there's time in the day, or there's those moments when things are meant to breathe, that they gravitate towards their phones. They gravitate towards their Instagrams. They gravitate towards finding out what others are doing. Or seeking approval from what they have done. And I think one of the great things about what this video accomplished was the patience, and the time, and the breathing within it.
It's like life really does get lived more in between the moments. And that's something that's very hard to describe to people but those are the moments where you actually can see things for what they are. And you can take things in, and you can observe in more detail, but those moments are being occupied by all the digital inquiries—the whole idea that it hasn't happened unless you post it or you don't know what's right in front of you because you're constantly looking to see what else is happening around you.
You still own a flip phone, yeah?
I can’t check stuff out, and I don't really necessarily want to because it's very difficult already with all that's going around us to take in a moment. The availability to dive into everyone else's business distracts you from what everyday life is about, which is detail within the moments of where you're supposed to breathe. I find it very addictive. I just think it's a subconscious addiction. And everyone is just succumbing to it as if it's normality and it's not. It's a distraction.
Absolutely. The nature of my job is one that I need to be connected all the time. But, you know, I’ll be in a bar waiting for somebody or something, and I check my phone. It’s a nervous habit. Sometimes I'll catch myself walking down the street and I'll be like, “Wow I’ve been looking at my phone for like three blocks.”
I know. And self-meditation is dead. You know, the idea to observe a woman eating an apple in a park is a thing of the past, you know, to—it's almost as if museums are held in your hand now. And all you want to do is constantly just look at things. And I feel distressed by that notion of being something to being connected because it's really this foolish aspect of you're being disconnected from what is actually real.
Robots don't bleed. We bleed. But we're becoming a very robotic addictive society. I struggle with it. I turn on my computer. I'll check the Twitters and the Facebooks and suddenly 40 minutes have gone by and I've been reading about myself like a fucking narcissist. And then I'll shut it and say, “And what good did that do for me today?” Nothing. I think the fact that everyone's become a photographer is something cool. You know, people are putting effort into photos and putting effort into their posts. But some of these kids, man, it hasn't happened unless they post it and that's a false way of living.
We live in public.
That's exactly what I'm saying and that's what ties it back into this video for “Mexican Aftershow Party.” I love the way that they shot it and I love the way that they brought in this aspect of voyeurism, and fantasy, and just even watching myself perform. I thought it was hitting the nail on what I was doing in my many protests with this record. So I loved it and I owe them. They did a wonderful job.
I started listening to Broken Social Scene when I was in high school, and I’m in .
Wow. That's great. How did it sound in high school? What does this band sound like as a teenager?
I mean, I liked it.
Whoa! So descriptive.
Well, “Anthems for a 17-Year-Old Girl” got me through some stuff. [Laughs.]
Okay. Well good. That’s what music's supposed to do.
I’m curious though, because you’ve been creating music for 17 years, and the culture has shifted quite a bit—echoing what we were talking about—and the culture consumes so fast now. What’s that do to you, as someone creating art?
Well it hasn't changed the art, but it's crushed a bit of a dream. You feel a little foolish at times. I mean I tasted a world that's sort of disappearing and I remember when I started, a lot of the guys complaining who were ten years prior to me and lived in that world. So I think just as you get older, you can't help but collect the memories that you have. I find that being in the industry of music or putting out records and all these things, it's very much—someone described it as running into walls never finding doorways. And I know my staff over at the label, they're working. That's all they do. They just work and they're trying to get wins. And their desks are getting stacked high and it's crunch time all the time. Because you're just constantly trying to figure out ways for people to hear what you're doing. We're not a major label. We don't have $500,000 budgets for radio promo. It doesn't exist in the cards. So in the last ten years, just being on the side of witnessing it, and experiencing it, and seeing it. And seeing the highs and the lows, it's very hard to shake that when you approach something.
They say you've got to manage your expectations, but that's very difficult to do if you're a human being. You want what you want. And you want to be able to dream. And you want to be able to think that it's all going to work out. And you don't want to be told that it's not. But you definitely get put in a room where you sit around in a circle and you say, “Hi, my name is Kevin and (sighs) I'm putting out records.” “Hi, Kevin.” [Laughs.]
My first record I put out, I did it myself. I burned CDs and made little orange cardboard fucking CD booklets, you know, and that kind of stuff. I just find that you've got to kind of have an understanding of how things are if you want to feel some sort of gratitude. But I feel as if it's just hard to sort of track what's happening. There's so much out there now. Everyone’s living in a circle recycling, borrowing, and making something honest of what they've lived, or thought of, or subconsciously heard. But you just want to believe that the genuinality can come out because for me, I still pump up the music. I still dance. I still raise my fists to bands that have come out weeks ago. I believe in good music and I believe in good art. And I believe that these things exist and these things are happening. And it's just constantly changing.
Making music is different than writing about music, and you’ve done the former much longer than I’ve done the latter, but it’s hard to not get jaded on either side. How do you not get jaded?
Oh no, I'm jaded. [Laughs.] People tell me they want to be in a band. I ask them why. [Laughs.] And I don't hide it. They say because that's what they want to do. And who are you to fucking stop someone from doing that? I just know the complications inside out and I know the financial complications of it very, very well. You've always got it better than someone else and someone else has always got it better than you. That's just the way that it works. Life is a state of mind. It's just that's the way you have to live it but you do get caught up in the game of “why” and “I should have” and “why isn't this” and all these things.
I mean, I wasn’t able to play in New York [earlier this month because of visa complications.] I'm a man that looks to the universe to guide me. And I felt so beaten down by that. I just thought, “What did I do wrong?” I did everything right. I've been doing this for years. I'm just trying to get to the people. And it's a popularity contest. You somehow have to try to keep your head above water to reach the ears that you want to reach. And not everyone who loves Social Scene even knows that this record is out! They just don't know. There's no slingshot that can penetrate. It's just all just trying to keep ahead of the game and make a mark within all that's going on. That’s the nature of how it is.
I try to explain to friends and to other bands that you've just got to do your best at what you're doing. That's it. Because that's how you go to bed and that's how you get up. You just—you try. And of course we're all dreamers. And of course we want what we want, but if you just look at it—I mean, I'm grateful to have the career that I've had. And I'm grateful for the people that help me.
You know, Social Scene, we had a great, great, great career. And for me, I just wanted to personalize it a little more within this record and it does feel like you're starting from the bottom again. But all I can do is hope that I'm going to get out there and get on stage and people are going to come out to the shows. You've got to devote a lot of time to it. You can't take it too lightly, but fortunately for me, I love my life. And I love living it. And I love not being completely obsessed with my career.
I’ve always known that I really enjoy what was in front of me as opposed to what I was working towards. So I have to just sort of balance that out and not turn against myself. Nor does anyone. You know at the end of the day, I say a lot of this stuff, like you've got to protect yourself from you. Like they're going to take you away from you. It's really—it's a massive theme of things. But you're your own worst enemy. Like you are your own worst enemy. You are the one that will take you away from yourself the most. So you've got to look in the mirror now and again and you've got to remember you've got to be your own best friend. It's not called selfishness. It's called—it's just a responsibility to your blood.
The album has been out for about three weeks. What’s the album cycle like for you now, versus Broken Social Scene?
Well, (sighs) it's good. I mean, I get mixed reviews but I've gotten mixed reviews since I was a kid. I told my friend Gordy the other day, we were talking about it. And he said, “What kind of reviews are you getting” I said, “I don't know. Been 7s, getting 8s, I'm getting 5s.” He said, “Five? Give me a 2 or give me an 8. Don't give me a fucking 5.” [Laughs.] And I thought, “Goddammit I love you.”
Is that how you feel too?
You know what? People say you shouldn't read your own press and I try not to a lot of times. But I was interested to see what people were thinking with this. And I love this record. I really do. I'm really happy. I really loved it going in and I'm going to love it coming out. And there's no one with their fingertips is going to take that away from me. And that's something secure that I love to have inside my pocket. I've always been all over the map for people. I'm not saying I'm into a certain degree, there's a certain crowd or anything. But not everybody wants to hear about hope and loss and masturbation. And I certainly don't write the songs that the whole world sings. But I'm not looking at one piece of work. I'm looking at my body of work. And that's what this is about for me. So that when I die, I can just look at everything. From the people to the work to the accomplishments to the—across the board. Did I enjoy myself? What was the worst? What was the best? All those things are going to compile into what is my body of work which is my life.
This record's going to survive. And I realize this. And I'm kind of hoping for a couple of like lightning strike moments because I need them. [Laughs.] I do. I need them. And fortunately I've got good friends. I've got good people. I’ve got good workers who're on my side trying and helping me out. And that's really all I can ask for. And my whole thing in general is as long as you try, then we're good. Try to get—shoot for the fucking top. Just put—start at the top of the list and go for it. And wherever you land, you can feel at peace with yourself if you know that you tried. And that just works in everything in life. And I think that's why so many of us have regrets because there's so many times we've realized, “Shit. I didn't try hard enough. I didn't give that my all.”
Do you have regrets?
Oh Christ yes. I have a lot of moments I should have tried harder. I should have been more competitive. I should have been more respectful. And that word “should” comes into the frame. And there's only so much time you can spend with that before you have to sort of let it go and put your fucking shoes on and get outside. That's all you can really do. I don’t know, man. I like playing for people. I don't know what else to say, Eric.
Do you feel misunderstood?
People are always going to misunderstand you. People are judging. They're just going to judge you. They're going to misunderstand you. And they're going to think they have you figured out. And maybe they do. But at the end of the day, it's within your surroundings that counts the most. I don't make hate music. I make music about fucking love. I make music about all the things that get you to that place, good or bad. I go inside the bedrooms and I seek out those moments I was talking about. What's around you? The things that people don't really care about anymore because they'd rather just distract themselves with what makes them feel good in that moment. You know that it's an addiction. You know that that's coming soon. Soon there’s going to be therapists. Soon there's going to be people like, “I've gotten rid of my iPhone. I haven't been on it for three months.” It's going to happen.
Yeah. I don't doubt it.
People are getting killed because of it. You know that. People are getting killed because of phones. That wasn't the point when they invented it. [Laughs.]
I don’t know. What do we do though? I don’t want to ask you how to fix it.
Keep going. I love that—you're looking for something. Keep looking. You might find it. I don't know.
Well in that case, how do you fix it? You probably don’t have an answer, but you’ve observed and participated in so much of the culture. What do we do?
Besides shutting down the satellites, creating a bunch of assassins, you mean?
Yeah besides that. [Laughs.]
Because that's the war. The war is going to be in space. But really, with everything, it's a method. It's a way of living. It's a plan. I've been sitting at the drinks table for a long time. I got to get that shit in check. I can't be turning 40 years old and singing "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" with a bunch of strangers at six in the morning. It's just not going to work for me. Or maybe it will. I don't know. [Laughs.] I can think of a worse evening, but I'll tell you that change comes when people want it. But that's the whole thing. People don't really want it. They're just going to keep accepting whatever they're given. There's a really interesting moment in Social Scene's career where we started off, we came up with all the ideas. Then we got busy. And then we just took—we just screened ideas from others. And that's one moment where I felt we went wrong. We should have just kept coming up with our own ideas.
What thing was that?
I don't know. I mean we've always stayed true to ourselves and made records that we want. I'm talking about how it just happens. You just don’t have time. You're just constantly busy. You're constantly keeping your head above the water. And you're on the road. And you're doing all these things. And you're playing shows. And you're just—you get lazy. You say, “I just want to sleep. I just want to shut off. Do whatever.” They say, “Well what’s this idea?” Okay. Now that one. Okay that one. But it really comes from your own self, you know that. And especially if you want to create your own art.
My opinion is my opinion. It's not fact nor is it the truth. It's just how I see it. And I have a massive addictive personality. I get addicted to people. I get addicted to coffee. I get addicted to drinks. I get addicted to food. I get addicted to repetition. I get addicted to music. I get addicted to things that I want to do it and I want to do it and I want to do it and I want to do it. And the way that I have to slow myself down is I literally have to slow myself down. I have to stop myself. And it's difficult because we're just perpetuatingly moving—we've just got to go. We've got to keep moving around. What's happening? What's going on? What's happening? What's going on? What's happening? What's going on? And I think in anything, it's the way you think about things. I think when you have that sort of creative ideas or whatever, the stereotypicalness of an artist, you're constantly over thinking. You're constantly regurgitating things inside your mind. And you're looking left. You're looking right. You're looking left. And you're looking right. And you're just—whenever the moment comes, you're—you go and you do what you have to do. And you release how you have to release. And you fulfill how you have to fulfill. And you bring spirit into what makes you go through this constant mental torment, let's say. The meditative minute, that's one to fall back on. Any more? Give me some more. You're looking for something.
I don't know. Basically, Eric, how am I supposed to answer that?
I don't know. That's why I asked it.
It's up to the individual. I mean look at where you're at and what you're doing. Check yourself. See how important it was when you decided to figure out what everyone else was doing or—look, I love photo albums. I do. Slide shows are a little daunting at times, but I sat through them as a kid. Someone goes on a trip, they want to show me photos, I'm in. Show me some photos. Tell me what it was like. I want to experience it with you. Why? Because I'm engaged in you. But Jesus Christ. [Laughs.] When you've got to fucking know what's going on all the time. Like really? You really fucking need to know what's going on all the time? [Laughs.] And then you've got to tell everyone what's going on with you all the time?
I grew up on the internet, so it’s ingrained. And now that I work on the internet and it's like, okay, what determines a good piece that I write? Is a good piece if like a lot of people look at it or is it good if like what I think is good, you know? And it's like I want to believe that it is what I think is good.
You have to, Eric. You have to. Look at me. I'm on the social media. I hardly have any followers compared to friends of mine. They've got like fucking thousands. They're friends with hundreds of thousands. And then I look at my number, I'm like, “Oh those are my little,” but whatever. [Laughs.] You can't be judged by—you just can't. But people were telling me like, “Kevin, your record's going really well. It's in the top three spins on radio.” And I don't know what the fuck that means. I don't. I'm like is this—I don't know. It just—what is that? That's—okay. I remember when Spirit If? came out, a friend's brother called me and said, “You're the number one downloaded leaked record right now. So it's kind of like you're number one.” [Laughs.] And I said—he said to him, "on Turn or utorrent" or whatever. Everyone's passing around files right now and you're number one. So I remember I think I was talking to my dad. I said, “Apparently I'm number one on the stolen charts.” [Laughs.] And he said, “Is that a good thing?” I said, “Apparently so. I've been getting lots of calls about it.”
I'm pretty sure that I downloaded that record. I was maybe part of the problem them.
Yeah. Well art's free. I understand that. I get it. It's a struggle for me now because it's a struggle for everyone. Others are raking it in. Others aren't. Others can't even get heard. I sit in the position that I'm in and I know why I'm here. I worked my fucking ass off and I'm grateful for it. Like I said before, I've got people who have helped me, but there's a very, very, very small piece of pie. And there's only so long you can kind of eat off it. Life is to be lived. It's not to be battled with the same problems again and again. It's just not. And if you do battle with the same problems, I'd rather have more blood involved, like a family or something.
But I just have to say that you've got to fight for something. You've got to have a passion for something. You've got to fucking protest against things. And they can be of your choice and your selection. They don't have to be anything that anyone tells you. But you've got to fight for something. You can't just take in the information and sit there and be okay with it. You need to know that there's a lot of injustice going on. And you can only do so much and you can only be so aware. And you know, we all have ignorance inside of us and we all choose to sort of believe that we're—those things are bad. These things are good. And I understand that, but you've got to fight for something. You've got to feel something. You've got to fucking kiss somebody. You've got to turn your computer off. And you've got to go kiss somebody.
You’ve got to kiss somebody.
You know? You've got to know what you love and you've got to know what you're protecting. And distractions are exactly what that word defines. And it's hard to decipher what they are in today's day and age. It just really is. The whole theory, “If it feels good, do it,” okay. Sure. Dot dot dot. But I think everyone just wants to fucking be loved. That's all they want. They want to know that when they put stuff up, people are looking at it. They want to feel. And then great. Yeah. 30 fucking posts later, you're searching for that same feeling.
Yeah, man. Well, I don't really want to take up any more of your time.
You've got one more. Come on. You've got one more in you. You've been searching for something and you might find it. I might break down. Not that I'm talking a bunch of shit right now, but that's what I do.
That's true, you do talk a lot of shit.
Why are you looking into the career thing from the jaded aspect? I mean how can you not fucking be jaded?
I just wonder.
I'm not an Arcade Fire. I went and saw Arcade Fire in Toronto. And I was just so blown away. And I wrote them and just told them thanks. And I said when all the other bands ask me what was it like, I say, “It was so fucking good you didn't have time to get jealous.” Now that's an achievement right there. Where it just shoots away everything, you know? All you can do is be with the people screaming. It was incredible.
What do you think the words "indie rock" mean in 2014?
Not much. Good memories. Yeah I mean indie rock is always going to be indie rock because it's always going to be what it is. But music's just independent across the board now. I just don't think about these things. When people ask me those kinds of questions, not in terms of, “I don’t think about it.” I really just don't. I'm like, “Oh okay. What does it mean in today's day and age?” And then I try to find an answer for you, but I don't have it. Because I don't really fucking care. Not in a, “I'm a cool guy,” way just in a I don't really care. I don't understand. I'm indie rock. It was alternative. And then it became indie rock. And I was so glad to say, “It's an indie rock band,” going through all the borders I went through. “What kind of music is it?” “It's indie rock.” But somebody asked me what music I make now I say, “Emotional pop.” [Laughs.] I don't know. I'm out of the indie rock, aren't I? Jesus Christ.
I think you are. Yeah.
It's great in the indie rock. Great time. I'm fucking—some of my best years really, but more years to come. And at the end of the day, got to take care of yourself, Eric.
So do you, Kevin.
You've got to be safe out there and you've got to just if you love a record, you've got to tell everybody you know that you love it. And you've got to get it into their hands. And that's what I've done since I was six years old. Just like, “This band is incredible. You need to hear it. You need to hear it. You need to hear it. You need to hear it. You need to hear it.” And that's still happening. And that's amazing. Record stores are thriving. Kids are buying vinyl. People are—it's cool. It's a cool thing that's going on. The internet, yeah. What is it? It's a mysterious motherfucker of, you know, distinct punctuality. But I don't know. It's there for us. It's there for everyone. Just be careful. Just be careful, man.
Skin is an incredible thing, you know? Words exchanged in front of you that you hear while looking at somebody, pretty amazing thing. And not knowing what's happening in someone's life when you run into them and taking ten minutes on a street to just stand and chat with them, what a wonderful interaction. Where are you right now?
I'm in New York, in Brooklyn.
Good. Come out to the show and raise your fucking hand in the air for me.
Eric Sundermann, too, just wants to kiss somebody. He's Noisey's Managing Editor and is on Twitter — @ericsundy