With new albums by the Hold Steady, the National, LCD Soundsystem and Band of Horses scheduled to hit stores within a three-week span, the beginning of May has become blockbuster month for indie rock releases. No one could be happier about the indie stars aligning than Kevin Drew, singer/guitarist of Toronto collective Broken Social Scene, whose fourth album, "Forgiveness Rock Record," will be released May 4 in the United States.
"Me and [Hold Steady frontman] Craig Finn wanted to start a campaign for kids to skip school on the day our records come out," Drew says. "I feel like it's a great time for the return of a lot of bands."
The difference between "Forgiveness" and the other releases is how long it took to come together. After its gritty art-rock dazzled the indie scene with 2002 sophomore disc "You Forgot It in People," Broken Social Scene hadn't issued any new material since the release of its self-titled third album in October 2005 on the Arts & Crafts label.
The band remained active after the release, embarking on a lengthy tour and composing the score to 2006 film "Half Nelson." However, Drew says there were some "slightly turbulent times" trying to manage the band's many members and dozen-plus regular collaborators, which include Leslie Feist and members of Canadian bands Metric, Stars and Do Make Say Think.
"It was a little scattered," Drew says. "When you have a big group of people, it's hard to find a ground to stand on."
Drew released an intimate solo debut, "Spirit If...," under the "Broken Social Scene Presents" tag line in 2007, while singer/bassist Brendan Canning issued a solo album the following year. Drew decided to bring Broken Social Scene along for a tour in support of his album in 2008. With the addition of guitarist Sam Goldberg, the band rounded into a core six-piece lineup and regained its composure.
"The solo record was therapeutic for [Drew], and when it came to the tour, it didn't make sense to put a whole new band together," band manager/Arts & Crafts president Jeffrey Remedios says. "With all the touring and solo material, it also helped to leave people with a thirst for new music."
Drew, Canning, Goldberg, drummer Justin Peroff, guitarist Charles Spearin, singer/guitarist Andrew Whiteman and new singer Lisa Lobsinger recorded "Forgiveness" during sessions in Chicago and Toronto beginning last May. Under the guidance of new producer John McEntire, who plays in post-rock groups Tortoise and the Sea & Cake, the band worked with nearly 20 guest contributors including Feist, Jason Collett, Sebastian Grainger and Pavement's Scott Kannberg.
With tracks like "Chase Scene" and "Forced to Love" bursting with memorable hooks, "Forgiveness" is the first Broken Social Scene album that Drew says was written for the people at the band's shows. "We've never really had choruses before, so it was a challenge for us," he says. "I don't really know what 'accessible' means or what the hit single's going to be, but we just wanted to write songs that jammed and embraced the people we're playing for."
After releasing album opener "World Sick" in February, the band began a preorder campaign that lets fans order "Forgiveness" as a CD, digital download, double-LP or vinyl boxed set. Broken Social Scene unveiled new songs at South by Southwest (SXSW) before making two more tracks, "Forced to Love" and "All to All," available for streaming.
The band plans to promote the album with in-store appearances and a major-market U.S. tour in May, including performances on "Late Show With David Letterman" and "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon." In addition to a European trek and appearances at summer festivals like Oxegen and Sasquatch, Broken Social Scene will curate and perform June 19 at the Toronto Island Concert on Toronto's Olympic Island, sharing the stage with Pavement and Beach House.
The festival will also feature the launch of "This Movie Is Broken," Bruce McDonald's fictional film that centers on a Broken Social Scene concert that premiered at SXSW. "It's a homage to the city of Toronto, so I think everyone is going to love it," Remedios says.
Despite the packed schedule, Drew says that he's excited to experience the energy of the band's live shows. He's also looking forward to resuming work on film scores and soundtracks, especially with this incarnation of the group.
"I feel like everyone in the band could be a composer," Drew says. "We're a band that just likes to make stuff. We want to create."