The Toronto indie-rock collective Broken Social Scene is on hiatus, but one of its founding members is keeping more than busy enough. Last year, Brendan Canning revived his decade-dormant power-pop band Cookie Duster and put together the soundtrack to the Lindsay Lohan-starring film The Canyons (which came out this summer.) Mr. Canning is a popular club DJ, and this fall he released a serene, acoustic- folk album You Gots 2 Chill. One should applaud his industriousness, but there are times for sweet inactivity as well. Where he kicks back is on Draper Street, a tiny, delightful stretch of Heritage row-houses near Spadina and Wellington he calls home.
(Click here to see a video of him performing at home.)
In fact his particular cozy abode is the only place he's ever really rested his head in Toronto: he slept on a friend's couch there more than 20 years ago, then began renting the three-story house himself, and now the 130-year-old property is all his own. Brad Wheeler chatted with the soft-spoken guitarist in his kitchen, over coffee and with eclectic vinyl choices in the background. Sometimes you really do gots to chill.
I've long admired Draper Street, and in my mind I picture close-knit neighbours and the occasional street party. Do I have it right?
We used to have street parties. We had the band Guh play one. They were a good collection of freaks. But certain people left the street and others moved in, and so it's not the glory days of street parties any longer. But I have great neighbours. People who I talk to daily. I know what's going on in their lives. It's hard not to after 20 years.
Your album as a home-spun feel to it, and it's called You Gots 2 Chill. So, is this house a good place chill?
I go out, I do things, I'm socially active. When I come home I like to cook in the kitchen. I like to tend to my garden. I like to play guitar on my porch. I have a piano here. I invite friends over. They sink into my couch and tell me they could sleep on it forever.
Is album title a reference to the hip hop song You Gots to Chill, by EPMD?
Yeah, it's a funny title. Some guy tweeted yesterday, "If this album isn't an EPMD tribute record then I'm not interested in it." I thought, "Which part of You Gots 2 Chill isn't an EPMD tribute?" I mean, don't try and mess with an old-schooler here.
The record is a bit of a departure from what you've done in the past, though it does have a gentle cinematic quality to it. How did this album happen?
Back when we used to have land lines, I'd leave an outgoing message with different acoustic guitar licks. People would tell me that it sounded really good. So when I did my first solo album [2008's Something For All of Us...], I think people were expecting more of a record like this one.
It's the first record on your Draper Street Records. Is that a proper label, or is it just something to put on your letterhead?
It's just a way to keep everything tight – a way to direct the traffic. In the United States, the management I'm with handles things. But in Canada, it's just me and my ex-girlfriend. We run things here, and we work with a lot of people who work with Broken Social Scene. So those people look after publicity and radio tracking and those kind of things.
Do you ever think of leaving Draper Street? I'm sure you'd find a buyer for your house.
The house up the street just sold for $1.2 million. Sometimes I think it'd be nice to go where the air's a little better, and where the house was a little bigger. But this place is central. I do a lot of DJ gigs downtown. So, for now, I can't imagine anywhere else I'd want to live.
On Dec. 11, Brendan Canning participates in the Andy Kim Christmas Show, with Gord Downie, Amy Millan, Ron Sexsmith, Kardinal Offishall, The Trews, Glass Tiger, Dan Hill and Kevin Drew. ($40.25, 7 p.m., Mod Club Theatre, 722 College St., 1-855-985-5000).
On Dec. 26, Mr. Canning takes part in Jason Collett's annual Basement Revue Series ($25, 8:30 p.m., Dec. 12 and 26, the Dakota Tavern, 249 Ossington Ave.; Dec. 19, the Great Hall, 1087 Queen St. W., galleryac.com).