By Will Reisman
Special for examiner
Like many great stories, the story of how Wolf Parade became one of the most influential indie rock bands of this century goes back to a decidedly inauspicious beginning.
Before they teamed up to become an unstoppable and inscrutable songwriting tandem, Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner first crossed paths not in a music conservatory or a famous underground rock club, but in the seedy kitchen. of a fish fry restaurant in the small Canadian town of Victoria. .
“We both worked at a place called Bent Mast when we were basically kids,” said Krug, whose band will play August Hall on Sunday, May 22. “We got to gut the calamari together and we got to know each other. Dan was just this sarcastic, cynical guy who really resonated with me. We started talking about our favorite music and formed a band one day. is basically where it all started.
After stocking up on fish and chips at the Bent Mast (which is still open and offers clam chowder for $10), Krug moved to Montreal, hoping to be closer to the buzzing local music scene of this city, which at the time included young upstart groups. like Arcade Fire, Unicorns and Dears. Boeckner followed about a year later, and from there the two laid the groundwork for what would be the band’s seminal debut album, “Apologies to the Queen Mary.”
A bizarre amalgamation of gritty, working-class post-punk sounds and cerebral, progressive musings, “Apologies to the Queen Mary” set the tone for the indie revival of the 2000s, when bands shed the confines of the past to explore sounds that combined both electronic music and traditional rock trends. For many people of a certain age (including this writer), the album was a defining moment of the eccentricity and artistic audacity of this era, and as a testament to its lasting impact, the band will play the entire record at August Hall and its other dates on the Western coast.
“When COVID kind of erased everything, we really didn’t know when we would all get back on stage together,” Krug said. “Because with this band, where everyone’s busy all the time, there was a chance we’d never play again. So when the idea came up to play ‘Apologies’, we all thought that this would be a good way to reintroduce the band and get back into things.
Released in 2005 on the venerable Pacific Northwest Sub Pop record label, “Apologies to the Queen Mary” was loaded with hype and expectation, reflecting the height of powers of the bygone era of music blogging. Wolf Parade had released two acclaimed EPs, ‘Apologies’ was produced by Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock, and the band’s association with the new hit Arcade Fire led to a perfect storm of outsized hype. Surprisingly, the band exceeded those otherworldly expectations.
Immediately hailed as a masterpiece by taste-making sites like Pitchfork (which gave the album a 9.2 rating), the album showcased Krug’s dual worlds of cerebral and erudite pianist, and de Boeckner, a raspy-hearted guitarist on the fretboard. Krug said he had an idea people would be interested in the album, but he had no idea it would still hold such reverence nearly two decades after its release.
“I think people were like, ‘It must be something cool if Isaac is involved.’ But beyond that, I had no idea how it would be received,” Krug said. “It’s not that I thought the record was bad, I just didn’t think people would be drawn to this kind of crazy, loud, weird, artsy stuff.”
The album can be loud and goofy at times, but thanks to Krug’s deft touches, it’s oddly approachable and immediately listenable. Take, for example, the titanic opener, “You a Runner and I am My Father’s Son,” marked by drummer Arlen Thompson’s thundering bass kicks and Krug’s powerful, syncopated piano moves. Its immediate and precise opening moments dissolve into an unnerving deluge of feedback and static, as Krug’s yawning voice fades into a haze of dissonance. It’s the sound of a building collapsing again and again, but the immediacy and ambition of the track makes you want to participate in the demolition.
Other album highlights include “Grounds for Divorce,” a raging punk number filled with sharp guitars and Krug’s evocative lyrics detailing the breakdown of a relationship, and “Dinner Bells,” an airy spacerock jam. which floats uncomfortably in the ether – evoking an impending thunderstorm. On each of these tracks, Krug’s trademark scream acts as the North Star, providing an emotive, plaintive anchor (and contrasting Boeckner’s gruff delivery whose Springsteen-esque bark accompanies anthems like “This Heart’s on Fire” and “Shine a Light”).
And then there is “I’ll Believe in Anything”, the undeniable beating heart of the album. Arriving late to the party at track number nine, the song is nonetheless the towering magnum opus of “Apologies to the Queen Mary” — a generational listen akin to “Born to Run” or “Bastards of Young.” A playful synth rock track with manic drumming, thrumming background noises and power chords aplenty, the song starts out cheeky and just gets bolder, culminating in the defiant statement of self-reproach. de Krug, “Nobody Knows You! / And Nobody Cares!”
Krug said he originally wrote the genre-defining creation as a quiet piano ballad for his other band, Sunset Rubdown (a now-defunct band that released three flawless albums), but ended up quickly transformed into something different under the collective input of the group. .
“It doesn’t even make a good solo piano song, but it translated very well into Wolf Parade,” Krug said. “We didn’t necessarily know it was going to be a hit or anything – it’s kind of buried in the album. But for some reason it really resonated with people, and on stage it’s really fun to play because it starts big and ends fast.
When the band revisits this classic at August Hall, the performance will be even more special, as the four original band members who recorded “Apologies to the Queen Mary” will perform together for one of the first times in years. Synthesizer Hadji Bakara, who left the band shortly after the support tour to pursue a career in academia, will leave his current duties as a professor at the University of Michigan to perform live with the band.
“The four of us haven’t been in a room together in easily over a decade,” Krug said. “We keep in touch of course, but it’s been so long since we’ve played together. I can’t wait to be on stage again with all of them.
IF YOU ARE GOING TO:
parade of wolves
Or: August Hall, 420 Mason Street, SF
When: 8 p.m., Sunday May 22
Contact: (415) 872-5745, www.augusthallsf.com