Arts·Q with Tom Power

Kevin Drew tells us why there are so many people in Broken Social Scene

In a live taping of Q at the Hot Docs Podcast Festival, the Broken Social Scene co-founder looks back on the success of the legendary Toronto-based musical collective, which included as many as 19 members at its height.

In a Q interview, the Broken Social Scene co-founder reflects on the band’s early days

Kevin Drew speaking on stage at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto.
Kevin Drew speaking on stage at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto on Oct. 22, 2023. (Gabriel Li/Hot Docs)

At the Hot Docs Podcast Festival in October, Q's Tom Power had the chance to ask Canadian musician Kevin Drew a question he's wanted to ask since he was 18: why are there so many people in Broken Social Scene?

"It became a bit of a meme," Power told Drew with a laugh in a live onstage taping of Q. "I remember I saw a tweet one time that was like, 'Everybody check your mailboxes to see if you're in Broken Social Scene or not. They're about to go on tour. Make sure you don't have to go too.'"

In 1999, Drew co-founded the Toronto-based musical collective with Brendan Canning of the bands hHead and By Divine Right. Over the years, Broken Social Scene would grow to include anywhere from six to 19 members, most of whom played in other successful groups and solo projects, such as Metric, Feist and Stars.

Drew gave a "quick Coles Notes version" of how the group came together in the first place.

"This is what happened: Brendan came in and said, 'I want to make some music with you,'" Drew recalled. "I was completely enamoured by him because I listened to his records in the '90s…. We made Broken Social Scene's Feel Good Lost … and we decided that we wanted to play this with our friends.

"He brought his circle of friends, I brought my circle of friends. We ended up not playing a single song from the record that we made and we started writing songs together, and then it just became a rotating door.… It was really just these two guys bringing in their crew of friends — and that's how that happened."

It was never meant to be a career. It was never meant to last this long. It was never meant to have an impact.- Kevin Drew

To put it simply, Drew told Power "we knew a lot of people."

One of the biggest advantages to having so many band members was that the sheer amount of talent both inspired and challenged each individual artist to bring their best.

"I never thought that the doors should close," said Drew. "Let's try this taste of this person, let's try the taste of that person…. I think the musicianship becomes a little bit addictive when you realize, well, you can't get that unless it's with them, and you can't get that unless that's with them.

"It was never meant to be a career. It was never meant to last this long. It was never meant to have an impact. It was just meant to be in that moment to see if we could impress ourselves. The wonderment of the talent that you have in a room where everyone brings something individually — it's pretty wild when that happens."

Kevin Drew and Tom Power in conversation onstage.
Kevin Drew and Tom Power in conversation. (Gabriel Li/Hot Docs)

The full interview with Kevin Drew is available on our podcast, Q with Tom Power. He talks more about Broken Social Scene, plus, his third solo album, Aging. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.


Interview with Kevin Drew produced by Kaitlyn Swan.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vivian Rashotte is a digital producer, writer and photographer for Q with Tom Power. She's also a visual artist. You can reach her at vivian.rashotte@cbc.ca.

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