Broken Social Scene rocker reflects on forgiveness, family

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Indie rock mainstay Broken Social Scene will be performing at the Budlight stage on Sunday at the Austin City Limits Festival. (Photo courtesy of Soma Studios)

In the brief moment Kevin Drew, founding member of indie rock band Broken Social Scene, and I spoke on the phone for our Austin City Limits Festival preview coverage, I was taken by his manner — he did not fall under those stereotypes of a rock star. He joked with me about his forthcoming post-tour plans and then later imparted profound advice to me.

Broken Social Scene has occupied a dominant role in the indie rock scene for a better portion of the last decade. The band has released four records since 2001, each to relative critical acclaim. Since their first tour for Feel Good Lost, the group’s lineup has undergone tremendous changes, going from three original members to a fluctuation of five to 10 plus in the past decade. Drew never found them to be bothersome though, and in fact, he embraces them.

“Having everyone come and go is how we survive,” he said. “It’s never easy being on the road, after touring for so long. Having new people helps out a lot though.”

As he continued to speak, he digressed into an introspective tangent.

“You know this,” he said, then pausing to ask my age. I told him I was 19. He redacted his previous statement and said, “You’re a young’un,” and proceeded to explain. ”You get caught up at times. You get hurt. You hurt people. You try not to cause complications, but they happen. At the end of all of it, all you can do is forgive.”

Drew’s affinity for forgiveness is fitting, given the title of Broken Social Scene’s last record, Forgiveness Rock Record. When asked about the title, Drew quickly responded, “[Forgiveness] is the greatest emotion you can have.”

Forgiveness is also appropriate for Drew in that he might be at the end of his career, or at least his career with Broken Social Scene.

“This is the last North American tour,” he said.

Drew was reluctant to divulge whether the hiatus was finite or not but finally settled on the safe statement that the band had no plans or intentions of doing anything more, but they also didn’t not have plans. It’s safe to assume that means indefinite hiatus.

Drew has ambitious plans for post-tour life which include hanging out with his family and building a new fence, possibly of gigantic proportions. The life of a rock star, indeed.

In all seriousness though, family, in addition to forgiveness, plays a large role in Drew’s life.

“With this tour, we’re going to play in honor of our families,” he said.

To Drew, the idea of family extends to his band mates and collaborators as well.

“We’re family,” he said. “Family means you’re in it whether you want to be or not.”

In Drew’s reflection on his beliefs, he somehow managed to stray from music again and eloquently stumble onto the concept of modern communication.

“You don’t know what it’s like to be free,” he said, again in reference to my age. “To be able to go out before cell phones. It used to be less claustrophobic, and there was more space. Now with cell phones, you’re never free.”

Drew continued on critiquing communications that are devoid of actual human interaction. He is not a fan of instant messaging, texting and things of the like.

“Never undervalue looking somebody in the eyes,” he said.

Drew’s values of communication make sense given his attachment to family and forgiveness.

Although I never really knew a time before cell phones, Drew’s heartfelt and collected enthusiasm won me over as the interview wound down.

“You’re going to ACL?” he asked me. As I answered yes, he responded, “Good. Just be grateful and rock out. That’s all you can do.” 

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