I think we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do. And for us, we just really wanted to keep it simple.
story by Marlene Thompson
Montreal quartet Wolf Parade has packed a whole lot into the seven years they’ve been making music together: three full-length albums, a pair of EPs, touring the globe, and a slew of side projects that range from membership in bands such as Handsome Furs and Arcade Fire to studio engineering work. But they still feel the need, the drive and, somehow, the energy to come together again to make music as Wolf Parade — often employing their trademark mix of haphazard guitar riffs, keyboard grooves and yelp-yodel vocals. With their new album, Expo ’86, the band has smoothed their rougher edges with a more rock-oriented release, making you want to take the earplugs out and let the music surround the room. Drummer and sound engineer Arlen Thompson takes some time to talk to Chicago Innerview and offer a clue as to why Wolf Parade is such a prolific band, even after taking the occasional year-long hiatus.
Chicago Innerview: Between your second album At Mount Zoomer and your new album Expo’ 86, you took a year-long hiatus. Do you feel that was a good strategy as songwriters?
Arlen Thompson: Yeah, I think it was pretty good for us. I think because everyone has a lot of other projects they like to work on. And I think it just gave an opportunity for everyone to just do their own thing for a while. That’s kind of the benefit because people still, you know, get all these kinds of different creative energies. And I think it was good because when we came back off the break everyone, you know, was feeling like they had done their thing and we were ready to put all our attention into Wolf Parade. Yeah, it was kind of nice. It worked out well. Everyone came back fresh and ready to make another record.
Chicago Innerview: Do you think you’ll do that for future albums?
Arlen Thompson: I think that’s something we’re going to do. You know, Dan [Boeckner]’s got Handsome Furs, you know, Spencer [Krug]’s got projects too, so I think it just works out easier for everybody. Kind of like, when it’s time for Wolf Parade, it’s time for Wolf Parade. You know, put other things aside. I think it works better for the band. We’ve always had a problem with, kind of, maintaining our focus in some ways. So I think having, you know, definite kind of times where we’re working or not working works for us really well.
CI: The songs on your new record sound more distinctive of you guys as a band, meaning you hear it and you immediately know it’s Wolf Parade. Do you feel Expo’ 86 has captured more of a Wolf Parade sound than your previous records?
AT: Well I think we’re more comfortable with this record, like the whole process of songwriting and recording and all that. I think we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do. And for us, we just really wanted to keep it simple. We’ve kind of realized over the years that the biggest strength to this band is how we play together — you know, as people, you know, our live show and all that. So we really just wanted to harness that and we kind of focused on the songwriting and the recording to kind of enhance that. We just kept the production really simple. We did everything in a really condensed time frame compared to our other two albums. So we kind of got the whole [album] recorded in, I think, in about four months.
CI: That’s quick.
AT: Yeah. Well, that’s pretty quick for us [laughs]. We just kind of wanted to get down and really focus on it.
CI: So what bands or artists are you listening to now?
AT: Actually after I got off this tour, I haven’t gone to the record store yet. I’m trying to think of new bands…I know Dan played me some of that band Salem. Pretty great. And then, you know, I like a lot of what my friends are doing, so I have to go pick up the new Black Mountain and the new Arcade Fire. Keeping up with your friends’ bands keeps me kind of busy.
Wolf Parade :: with Wintersleep and Ogre You Asshole :: House of Blues :: November 23.