Wolf Parade is enjoying a day off in New Orleans when I call drummer Arlen Thompson. The quartet’s been navigating the U.S. for the better part of a month with their friends and tour partners, Arcade Fire. “Their show right now I think is one of the best rock shows on the planet,” he gushes. “The production and lights and everything is amazing. It’s pretty fun.”
But Wolf Parade is celebrating more than a successful tour; the band is gearing up to release its first album in seven years, Cry Cry Cry. “I think everyone is really proud of this record,” Thompson admits. “It sounds ridiculous, but I think it’s our best record. A lot of our other records are always a little bit flawed in a certain way that is hard to explain unless you were there during the process, but with this record everything worked out great. We found our voice with songwriting that we hadn’t achieved before, which is exciting … I hope we can excite the kids to listen to guitar rock again. I hope people listen to it and don’t just think it’s old people music, but something kind of fresh.”
That hope shouldn’t be hard for the Canadian indie rockers to achieve. Since 2003, the band has garnered a substantial, loyal following that was floored by the announcement of an indefinite hiatus in 2010. That same fan base was overjoyed with the return of a band that’s as good as they were seven years ago.
VMP: The band was on hiatus from 2010 to 2016. Was there a particular moment or event that made you guys decide it was time to start making music together again?
Arlen Thompson: I don’t think there was one event; it was more circumstances. Right before we went on hiatus I had moved to the West Coast, and then shortly after Spencer [Krug] moved to Finland, and Dan [Boeckner] ended up [splitting time] between L.A. and San Jose. Maybe two-and-a-half years ago, Spencer moved back to Vancouver Island, where I live and where Dante [DeCaro] lives … We were all back in the same spot, and Dan had moved back to Montreal, so it kind of just fell together. We started talking about it, and it felt like the right time.
We had our first hangout/meeting and talked about what issues we had with the band, and if we did it again what we’d want to change, and we jammed for a little bit—it was really bad, but we were like, “Well, let’s try this again.” So a couple months later, we did it again and it felt like riding a bicycle. Like, “Oh yeah, this is why we’re a band.” The chemistry was totally there; we started writing songs again, and everybody thought it was great, so we were like, “OK, this is gonna happen.”
In what ways would you say the band has changed since reuniting?
We’ve definitely matured quite a bit. Since Wolf Parade, everyone’s had their own projects and records—Spencer with Moonface and Dan with Divine Fits and Operators—and Dante worked on some solo stuff. I had two kids [in that time too], so we all came back a little more grounded, experienced and mature.
How would you say that translated into Cry Cry Cry, if at all?
I think it totally did. All our records are usually a response to the last record we made. So when we made Expo 86, we had a real specific idea of how we wanted to do it. We really wanted a sound that was true to what we’d be able to do live. And then when we came to this record, we wanted to make it a little more lush. We wanted the songs to have a little more brevity to them. We found that Expo was kind of our prog record—a little denser—and this album we wanted to be more of how we think of Apologies and make the songs really succinct and tighten up the arrangement and the songwriting, kind of trim the fat. I think we pulled that off with this record.
Is that a different mindset from your previous albums?
Yeah, with Expo we were in a jam space, and even with Mount Zoomer, we just kind of played the songs and let them evolve the way they did, but we didn’t really go through and edit them at all. Everyone just threw in what they wanted to play. With Cry Cry Cry, we really thought about it and discussed it and really paid attention to how all the different parts were working and how all the different pieces of the song fit together.
**You recorded Cry Cry Cry with John Goodmanson (Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney). What would you say were the largest ways he influenced the sound of the album?
He’s just a really great facilitator for all our directions and where we wanted to go, and really great at melding the process of recording with how we wanted to develop our songs. He was a great sounding board, which is what you need. Making a record is kind of like giving birth; you need a midwife. He was an awesome midwife for this album.
This record has some very straightforward political songs on it, which is something we haven’t seen in its predecessors. Would you say writing and recording this album was a means of catharsis in reaction to the current political climate?
We never meant to make it a political album, I just think it was kind of impossible not to make it a political album. We did a lot of the recording in the States over December of 2016, when there was a real heavy feeling in the air, and I think it was just impossible that it wouldn’t creep into the songwriting.
You released EP4 before this album. What made you decide to release that before a new full-length?
When we got back together, we really didn’t want it to be a reunion kind of thing. We wanted to have something new to give to the fans. Instead of just going out and playing the old songs, we wanted to have something fresh, so we ended up doing this little short EP—we just kind of did it ourselves—to get things happening again in the creative sense, and to prove to ourselves that we could get back into it [rather than] doing reunion shows and taking a long time to give our fans new music.
Yeah, there are so many bands capitalizing on reunion tours these days, so it’s good to come out of the gate with new music to prove you’re doing more than that.
Yeah, it was sort of like a commitment to our fans that we’re really into this again.
Spencer has said that the band itself is almost a fifth member of the band—something more, or at least different, than the sum of its parts. Do you agree with that?
Yeah, there’s a crazy chemistry with this band that I’ve never felt with any other band I’ve played in. It’s hard to explain, but everybody knows how to play with each other. It’s almost like a symbiotic relationship, and it’s been like that since the very first day we started playing together. And sometimes it’s frustrating [laughs]. It’s like a wild animal: sometimes you tame it and ride it around, and sometimes it kicks you off. Luckily, right now we’re riding it.
Katrina Nattress is an LA-based freelance writer and bonafide cat lady. Aside from VMP, she writes for Paste, Bandcamp, LA Weekly and Flood.