Last summer, the indie label Arts & Crafts celebrated its 10-year anniversary by throwing a festival. They called it Field Trip. It went well enough that this year the party has been expanded to two days (June 7 and 8), featuring among others Interpol, Broken Social Scene, the Kills, Feist (with Hydra), the reunited Constantines and Kevin Drew, the shaggy BSS frontman and co-founder of the A&C label. He’s got a sublime new solo album out, Darlings, which he’ll showcase on the festival’s first day. When we called Mr. Drew to chat, he told us he had just been on the phone with the Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie.
So, I interrupted two rock stars chatting on the phone, you and Gord Downie?
Not bad, huh? When I told him it was you, he told me that I shouldn’t tell you the truth. He was joking.
Of course. But let’s talk about him. You signed the cracking new band he has with the Sadies to Arts & Crafts. How did it come together?
He e-mailed and asked if I wanted to have lunch. We met and after we ate and caught up, I asked him, “Okay, Gord, why am I here?” He told me he had made a new record with the Sadies, and that he wanted me to listen to it and see if Arts & Crafts wanted to put it out. I told him that Arts & Crafts wants to put it out. I didn’t have to hear it.
They’re on the bill for this weekend’s Field Trip. It was a success last year, but was it a given that you’d do it again?
For the bands and the audience it was a great time last year. Broken Social Scene decided to do it again, because we have a great variety of songs and we could do a totally different show this year. It was actually difficult to get the band on board last year, just because of the hiatus that we wanted to take. But sometimes you have to realize that when you have something really wonderful in front of you, you can’t take it for granted.
Let's talk about another scene, that being the Toronto music scene. All we’ve been hearing about when it comes to the so-called musical alliance between Toronto and Austin, Texas, is what we can learn from them. But can we teach Austin something?
I don’t even know what we can learn from ourselves. I mean, forget about the music scene for the moment. I care about the transit scene more. I think the one thing we can all come together on is that we do not have a city that flows, at all.
Hmmm. How is the traffic in Austin?
Well, Austin is a much smaller city. They built a great foundation out of their music scene and festivals. It’s become internationally known, but now it’s to the point that it’s gotten out of control. I didn’t even go to South by Southwest this year.
How’s the music scene going in Toronto, as you see it?
I feel like I’m an alumnus at times. I feel out of touch with it. Also, I don’t see as strong a community as I saw when I was out there trying to do it. There are bands out there trying to do things together, but just within a generational aspect, I think there needs to be more of a kinship. Because we live in such a disposable artistic time, there needs to be way more effort made. Because more than ever, all we have is each other.
Is the scene here broken?
Recently I heard about an indie group. You needed a membership to hang out. I thought the whole reason you became a success is that you leave the doors open and welcome as many people as you can. Because when you build an army, things happen.