Spencer Krug has a tiny voice on his Montreal end of the line, and when I tried to find the volume control on my Motel Six-inspired office phone, I felt like an asshole since he paused awkwardly in between giant bleeps as I hit important looking buttons at random. I gave up, strained my ears, and in the end, after coming off like a self-centered American (sure that there's a Canadian indie-rock sound), we got to the bottom of… something.
It's hard for Spencer Krug to maintain the stance he assumed a year ago when his private bedroom project turned blogged-about full-on band put out its first studio collaboration. “Well I just don't want to make a big deal about it. But then again, I'm talking to you, aren't I? …It's sort of a catch-22, because in order to sell records, the record needs to be publicized.”
It isn't simply privacy he wants, it's freedom. “I don't want it to get to a place where Sunset Rubdown is solidified as a sound, and people come to expect a certain sound, which to a certain extent is what's happened with Wolf Parade.” He wants the space (in pseudo-obscurity) to continue writing on his own terms under the Sunset Rubdown moniker.
“My band mates are incredibly understanding of my position,” he adds.
He's also assertive about privacy, but it's a more ambiguous stance: he publicizes records to sell them, ostensbily not for his own personal gain, but for others; (“I love Jagjaguwar. [Founder] Darius Van Arman is a dear friend.”) Yet, given the choice he wouldn't simply write his music in his bedroom; he wants to share it. “I love to perform live, to perform my music for people. I prefer smaller venues, but I feel that it's important.”
He even has plans (that may or may not have already been executed) that involve “doing my own private project, where I just record stuff and make CD-Rs and distribute them to record store and cafes around Montreal. And just see what happens. See if it catches on.” Perhaps it's tragic that at this point, his private endeavors, which embody a very distinct division of Krug's one-man music producing army, have to struggle to be anonymous. For one, they would have to leave his voice out of the mix.
Ultimately, there's a logic that unites his instinct to be both a public icon and a private artist. “For years, music was just my hobby, it wasn't something that I shared, until my friend Carey Mercer [of Frog Eyes] encouraged me to share my material.
“I was creating things for years in just my bedroom. And Carey convinced me to share my material. His logic was, 'What's this music good for if you're not going to show it to people? There might be 100 people who hate what you're doing, but there might be three who understand it and love it, and ulimately, that's what's important. Also, if you continue to work at it and put yourself out there, more and more people will start to understand what you're aiming at…
“And I'm glad there are people who are interested, I'm glad to share this. It sort of amazes me, because I'm not intersting, I don't really have very much to say…
“I think as I get older, as my friends get older, it becomes clearer that music is a communal thing, it's something that you share. It's not something that you hide away in your bedroom- I did that for many years, I have dozens of songs that probably no one will ever hear, I've lost half of them.”
He depicts his relationship with Wolf Parade lightly, if not tenuously. At this point in his life, he explains, he spends more time fixating on Sunset Rubdown than he does his harder-buzzed band.
“With Wolf Parade, you've got to understand, for us, our first album is very far away. It was originally released two years ago, and written three years ago. For this new album, we just tried to do something very different. Basically we just jammed a lot and took the pieces that we felt sounded like everyone felt the most comfortable and made the album from that. I think you'd be surprised to find that the members of Wolf Parade are very laid back people.”
Wolf Parade's process, with its instinctual, collaborative nature, marks an easy counterpoint to his work on Sunset Rubdown, which he quickly calls “more cerebral” and “private”.
With Random Spirit Lover, the Sunset Rubdown album due out October 9 on Jagjaguwar, “I came in with the song structure and the lyrics and the melody, and the band would come up with beautiful details.” He's quick to frame that process as “very collaborative,” and it seems, very cooperative: the band was initially “acquaintances, but now they're dear friends.”
When I glibly asked why everyone in the Canadian music scene seemed to know everyone else (“Canada is really small,” he explained), he quickly picked up on my tendency to generalize his country's music output into a sort of gleeful melting pot of precious indie rock. “Do you really think that? I think it's just the bands that are represented in your media, that make it to that level, to the point where it seems uniform. But I think it's crazy to think that a country could all be creating just one thing.” That night, Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Fucked Up came to me in my dreams, taping me to an office chair and forcing me to listen to Barenaked Ladies until my ears bled.
Finally, I asked him about my personal favorite of his endeavors, his collaboration with Carey Mercer and Dan Bejar (Destroyer, New Pornographers), Swan Lake, which resulted in a pristine, maritime LP last year called Beast Moans. Surprised that I was so taken by it (“most people weren't”), he promised more output:
“We’ll probably be doing something. Actually, we’ll definitely be doing something. The contract has already been signed, and we’ll be going into the studio in February for our second LP. There’s talks of touring but it’s hard to say at this point what will happen. We’d have to take on extra musicians- and some of the music we recorded just can’t be replicated on stage. About half the songs from the first LP, and maybe half from the next, but many of them just weren’t written with the intention of being played live. But we’re talking about doing a few live performances too.”