It was six years ago in a drab Maidstone hotel when the members of Wolf Parade decided to call it a day. “I don’t think Maidstone had a big influence on the decision,” Dan Boeckner laughs, a worn and gravelly laugh. “But our tour manager at the time sure loved this really uncomfortable conference centre there.”
“That was just the first time it was said out loud, but it was on everyone’s mind for a year.” Spencer Krug, his co-frontman explains. This wasn’t a dramatic decision, there were no fights or bombshells. “It was just all of the normal reasons that bands break up – everyone getting overwhelmed with the touring, wanting to do other projects, needing some space.” Or as Dan puts it: “The fun levels had been almost totally depleted.”
That, it seemed then, was that. Each member of the band had other projects they wanted to focus on, and they’d always maintained lives outside of Wolf Parade. “I think we all thought the band was most likely finished for good,” says Spencer. “But for whatever reason we didn’t want to solidify that, we left it open- ended just in case.”
That meant it was somewhat surprising when, in April 2016, the band announced an end to their hiatus, subsequently produced a new EP, and played a host of reunion shows.
So what changed? “I don’t know,” Dan says. “Spencer and Dante both stayed at my place the summer before we started talking about doing stuff again. It was nice to see everybody.”
Soon, they were all on Vancouver Island, “started talking about what it would look like if we started up Wolf Parade again and played some music”. Did it feel natural? “Yeah, but the first rehearsal wasn’t by anyone’s metrics ‘good’,” says Dan. “But it was fun to play music again together.”
Now they have a new album, Cry Cry Cry. It’s a revelation, the sound of a band finding joy in rediscovering their creative spark. It ranks up there with their other records – each different, starting with the defining Apologies to the Queen Mary up to their last Expo 86, and each a reaction to the previous one. “I think we make all of our records as a reaction to what we didn’t like from the one before. Expo 86 has a lot of long, sprawling, nuanced songs – here we tried to be a little more succinct and just write poppy little numbers and weren’t afraid to axe things – cut ideas, cut entire songs.”
We’re speaking as they’re on tour supporting Arcade Fire (“I think some of their fans are a little confused because they’re a band that sort of straddles the line between their demographic from 10 years ago and straight up pop music.”) and it’s clear enjoyment levels have been restored. “All the songs are so much fun to play live and that’s usually a really good indicator that a song was worth spending time on,” says Spencer.
Dan agrees: “You definitely don’t want to get on stage with anything where you’re like ‘Oh, fuck this shit.'”
“It’s like a chemical reaction, it doesn’t happen for me outside of this band.”
If anyone was lucky enough to be at one of their Scala shows last year they would have seen how euphoric it was. It was a reminder that Wolf Parade have always stood apart from their peers: always weirder, more complex and artier than the others with their dissonant punchy pop and gnarled edges.
And that unique chemistry has remained. Indeed, Dan has spoken about the fact that when he’s with Wolf Parade he plays, writes and sings in a way he can only do with this band. “With my other projects, especially Operators, I’m writing everything and and there’s definitely an aesthetic to what I do on my own. But with Wolf Parade I just find myself playing guitar in a certain way and playing around how Spencer plays. It’s like a chemical reaction, it doesn’t happen for me outside of this band.”
It’s a record of short punchy but clever songs which are coloured by the dark events of last year. Not least the album’s title. “It’s a reaction to 2016 and how much it sucked in so many ways,” explains Spencer. “Politically, and we lost so many artists and some of those things were coming out in the songs lyrically. Not that we wrote a protest album in any way but we were lamenting the current state of affairs – ergo, Cry Cry Cry.”
One particular song, ‘Valley Boy’, references Leonard Cohen’s death. “In my memory it was the day after Trump won the election. There was something serendipitous there. It was like he was saying ‘Alright I’m out’. Shit just got too… whack.” There’s a pause and a cackle. “Yeah, whack,” Dan says. “He used that word a lot in his songs.” “I think that’s a direct quote from I’m Your Man, the song ‘Shit Just Got Too Whack’,” Spencer laughs.
As we finish I ask if Wolf Parade are back for good now. Spencer says definitely. “We’re working towards the long term. We had a bunch of long conversations when we got back together and one of them was around the fact we don’t want to do a reunion tour and just play old material – we wanted to do new material and take it on tour until it’s not fun anymore like the first time. And so far it’s going really good, so we’re hoping it lasts as long if not longer than Wolf Parade 1.0.” Long live version 2.0.