Broken Social Scene

Toronto indie collective Broken Social Scene and Metric, one of its contributing sects, see Billboard chart debuts in the same week.

The whole of Toronto-based Broken Social Scene is the sum of many -- most of whom stem from a host of popular Canadian indie acts including Feist, Stars and Metric. In all, 17 members and four guest performers appear on the group's recently released self-titled album, which debuted the week of Oct. 22 at No. 2 on Billboard's Top Heatseekers chart.

The epicenter of Broken Social Scene is its label, Arts & Crafts. Launched by member Kevin Drew, the imprint is home to many of the acts that are part of the collective.

And since BSS' 2003 U.S. debut, "You Forgot It In People," generated interest in indie circles, several members' individual projects have also taken off.

One that's certainly benefiting from the newfound notoriety is Metric, whose members Jimmy Shaw and Emily Haines both also contribute to Broken Social Scene. Their "Live It Out" (Last Gang) debuted at No. 37 on the Top Heatseekers list the same week as the BSS album.

"I have a lot of faith in both projects," Shaw says. "Usually the music that I like doesn't make it anywhere, or at least doesn't gain mass appeal. But it seems like, for most of those bands that have come out of that area of Canada [and Broken Social Scene], people like the music and talk about it and word travels fast. A lot of kids know each other and like swapping records -- and that's the best way to find [new] music."

As the buzz surrounding Broken Social Scene continues to grow, so does interest in bands like Metric.

"There's a lot of overlap," Shaw says. "When I go to Social Scene shows, or when I'm on tour with those guys, there's a lot Feist fans, a lot of [Apostle Of Hustle] fans, a lot of Stars fans [in the audience because] it's all very much kind of the same thing. It's hard to say whether the scene is directly responsible for any one band's success or not, though."

But which came first, the individual bands or the collective?

"A lot of people talk about it as if the bands are offshoots of Social Scene, but it's actually the other way around -- Social Scene is the offshoot of all the other bands. [All the members] were in all these bands in Toronto at the same time when we decided to do these Social Scene shows," Shaw notes. "Aside from three or four [core] members, everyone else puts their own projects first and then whatever time is left over they dedicate to Social Scene."

With so many different bands and such diverse musical influences converging, it took more than two years to complete the latest album. And even for Shaw, it's hard to understand how it all came together in the end.

"If you were to ask everyone involved, you would get 15 different perceptions of how that record was made. But I could never tell who was in the studio when or what the hell was going on. I went in the studio when someone called me up and asked me to come in," he laughs. "I wasn't the only one left in the dark, everybody was like that. The only two people who knew what was going on were Kevin and [producer] Dave [Newfeld]."

As hard as it was to get everyone in the studio, it was even harder to coordinate a tour. That's why Metric's Shaw and Haines will be sitting this one out.

"We're learning the evils of releasing simultaneous records," Shaw says. "The only way for both projects to be promoted at the same time is for me to be on tour with Metric. Metric can't exist without me, but Social Scene can."

Both bands are currently touring North America.