Written by Will Raisman
Like many great stories, the story of how the Wolf Parade became one of the most influential indie rock bands of this century can be traced back to a decidedly inauspicious beginning.
Before teaming up to become an unstoppable tandem and writing obscure songs, Spencer Krogh and Dan Buckner first crossed paths not at a conservatory or an underground rock club, but in the filthy kitchen of a fried fish restaurant in the small Canadian town of Victoria.
“We worked at a place called Paint Mast when we were kids,” said Krug, whose band will be playing at August Hall on Sunday, May 22. “We had to sear calamari together, and we got to know each other. Dan was just that cynical and sarcastic guy who was. It really resonated with me. We started talking about our favorite music and about forming a band one day. This is where it all started.”
After picking up fish and chips at Bent Mast (which is still open and serves clam chowder for $10), Krug moved to Montreal, hoping to get closer to that city’s bustling local music scene, which at the time featured small, cocky bands. Such as Arcade Fire, Unicorns and Dears. Buckner followed about a year later, and from there, the two laid the foundation for what would be the group’s groundbreaking debut album, “An Apology to Queen Mary.”
A curious mixture of working-class scrawled post-punk sounds and cerebral and elaborate musings, “Apologies to Queen Mary” set the tone for the indie renaissance of the 2000s, when bands broke free from the shackles of the past to explore sounds that combined both music and traditional rock leanings. . For many people of a certain age (including this writer), the album was a defining moment in the era’s artistic quirkiness and daring, and as a testament to its lasting impact, the band would play the entire record at Augustus Hall. and other West Coast histories.
“When COVID kind of obliterated everything, we didn’t really know when we would all be back on stage together,” Krug said. “Because with this band, where everyone is busy all the time, there was a chance that we might not play again. So, when the idea of playing ‘Apologies’ came up, we all thought it would be a great way to reintroduce the band and get back into things.”
Released in 2005 to the revered Pacific Northwest music label Sub Pop, “Apologies to the Queen Mary” was full of hype and anticipation, reflecting the height of power of the past music blog era. Wolf Parade released two internationally acclaimed EPs, “Apologies” produced by Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock, and the band’s association with the newly popular Arcade Fire created a great storm of hype. Shockingly, the band exceeded those other expectations.
Immediately hailed as a masterpiece by tastemaking sites like Pitchfork (which gave the album a rating of 9.2), the album featured the double universes of Krug, the cerebral pianist, and Boeckner, the bass guitarist, Heart on Quantum. Krug said he had an idea of people’s interest in the album, but had no idea it would still command such respect nearly two decades after its release.
“I think people were like, ‘That must be a cool thing if Isaac was involved. After that, I had no idea how it was received,” Krug said. “It’s not that I thought the record was bad, I didn’t think people would be drawn to this kind of weird, loud, intrusive art.”
The album can be loud and eerie at times, but thanks to Krug’s clever touches, it’s grotesquely accessible and instantly accessible. Take, for example, the giant opening, “You’re a Runner and I’m My Father’s Son,” which featured Arleen Thompson’s thunderous drum beats and Krug’s powerful, synchronized piano movements. The instant, subtle opening moments fade into a irritating and steady deluge of feedback, as Krug’s yawning voice blends into a mist of dissonance. It’s the sound of a building collapsing over and over again, but the immediacy and ambition of the track makes you want to take part in the demolition.
Other highlights from the album include “Grounds for Divorce,” a raging number of punk music filled with spiky guitars and Krug’s racy lyrics detailing a relationship breakdown, and “Dinner Bells,” an airy space jam uncomfortably floating in the ether — making Raises an impending thunderstorm. On each of these trails, Krogh’s trademark acts as the North Star, providing an emotional and melancholy anchor (and contrasting Boeckner’s blunt delivery of Springsteen-esque bark drives like “This Heart’s on Fire” and “Shine a Light”).
Then there’s “I’ll Believe in Anything,” the undeniably beating heart of the album. The song made it to the party late on track number nine, yet it is the greatest composition from “Apologies to Queen Mary” – a song similar to “Born to Run” or “Bastards of Young”. A resplendent piece of rock with crazy drumming, buzzing background noise and a lot of energy chords, the song starts out rudely and gets bolder, climaxing with Krug’s defiant self-reproach, “Nobody knows you! / Nobody cares!!”
Krug said he originally wrote that genre-defining creation as a quiet piano song for his other band, Sunset Rubdown (a group that has now expired and released three flawless albums), but it quickly morphed into something different given the group’s collective input. .
“It doesn’t even make for a good piano solo, but it translated well into Wolf Parade,” Krug said. “We didn’t necessarily know it was going to be a hit or anything – it’s kind of buried in the album. But for some reason, it really resonated with people, and on stage it’s really fun to play because it starts big and ends quickly.”
When the band revisits that classic at August Hall, the performance will be very special, as the original four members of the group that recorded “Apologies to the Queen Mary” will play together for the first time in years. Bassist Sinth Haji Bakara, who left the band shortly after a supporting tour to pursue a career in academia, will be stepping down from his current jobs as a professor at the University of Michigan to perform live with the band.
“The four of us haven’t been in a room together easily in over a decade,” Krug said. “We are in contact of course, but it has been a long time since we played together. I can’t wait to be on stage with all of them again.”
if you go:
where: August Hall, 420 Mason Street, SF
when: 8 p.m., Sunday, May 22
the tickets: $35
Contact: (415) 872-5745, www.augusthallsf.com