Wolf Parade were / are a groundbreaking force in Canadian Indie Rock, who recently came out of a 5-year retirement with the release of 2016’s EP 4, and the scattered show, including tonight’s big Newfoundland Debut Performance, some 14 years after their rushed union as a band in 2003, out of Montreal.
Calling them a super group isn’t’ a stretch, given their 2 band leaders have fronted enough other bands to fill a rack in your record collection — Spencer Krug (Frog Eyes, Moonface, Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake, Two Tonne Bowlers, Fifths of Seven) and Dan Boeckner (Atlas Strategic, Handsome Furs, Divine Fits, Operators). Both Handsome Furs and Operators have delivered memorable shows in St. John’s.
Formed in a Hurry, and Forged in History
Working well with others helped Krug launch Wolf Parade in a hurry. In 2003, Grenadine Records offered Krug a touring gig, opening for Arcade Fire … leaving him with just 3 weeks to form a band. Kurg reached out to a fellow BC musician living in Montreal: Dan Boeckner.
The duo — and a drum machine — got to writing in Krug’s Basement. They found a drummer, Arlen Thompson, to replace that drum machine just a day before their debut show. They released their actual, now extinct EP on this debut tour. That fall, Hadji Bakara joined the band on synth and “sound manipulation.”
Modest Mouse’s Issac Brock Signed the Band to Sub Pop within a Year
Come September of 2004, the band were in Oregon, to record with Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock, who’d signed them to Sub Pop Records during his brief stint as an A&R man for the legendary label. They recorded the Wolf Parade EP (2005), and all 4 of its songs now considered classics for the band.
Two of which would end up on their debut full length, Apologies to the Queen Mary. One of those was “I Am a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son.”
Apologies to the Queen Mary was nominated for Canada’s most prize music award, the Polaris Music Prize. It was around this time in the band’s history that Dante Decaro of Hot Hot Heat joined the band as well. Hadji Bakara would eventually leave to band to teach literature at the University of Michigan.
Here’s a single off the album, “Grounds for Divorce”
Album two: At Mount Zoomer
Where’s Mt. Zoomer? It’s not a mountain at all. Mount Zoomer is the name Wolf Parade drummer Arlen Thompson’s sound Studio. It also happens to be a BC term for magic mushrooms. Not that it was recorded there: half of it was recorded at Arcade Fire’s Petite Église (where they recorded their album Neon Bible). The album was mixed chez Mount Zoomer.
The album was supposed to be named after its 10-minute closing track, “Kissing the Beehive.” But they were worried about confusion and copyright laws — Jonathan Carroll wrote a pretty popular novel by the same name in the late 90s, but that was news to them. Interestingly, the album art depicts two artists battling. Here’s a live version of “Language City”
Third and Last LP: Expo 86 (2010)
This one was a beauty; a fine album to have retired on, and described by Exclaim Magazine thusly, ” Expo 86 marks an evolution in sound, but not a change. It’s Spencer Krug’s manic-pop circus meeting Dan Boeckner’s twitchy Springsteen revivalism in one sprawling album that’s simultaneously more disjointed and more confident than ever.”
The album is named Expo 86 because all 5 bandmates realized they had all been at Vancouver’s World Fair in 86, the same week, when they were kids. They announced their hiatus after touring the album. Here’s one of Kurg’s songs off the album, “What Did My Lover Say?”
and one of Boeckner’s, “Ghost Pressure”
Return from Hiatus in 2016
At some point in 2016, fans noticed they’d launched new Instagram and Twitter pages. The next day, there were tour dates up on their old website. They dropped the incredible EP 4 in 2016 as well, and here’s its single, performed live:
Five Fun Facts
1.) In 2005, Krug & Boeckner contributed to the UNICEF benefit song, “Do They Know It’s Halloween?” (You know, instead of “Do THey Know It’s Christmas?”). At the time, Boeckner was a part of the satirical North American Halloween Prevention Initiative (NAHPI).
2.) In 2008, an arrangement of the Wolf Parade classic, “I’ll Believe in Anything” was written for full symphony orchestra treatment by the Victoria Symphony.
3.) Their song, “Shine a Light,” appeared in an episode of Criminal Minds.
4.) Wolf Parade’s drummer Arlen Thompson plays drums on Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up.”
5.) No matter what “Best Wolf Parade Songs” list you consult, this one ends up in the top 3: