Indie music, as defined by nothing in particular, has no set of rules that govern artists attempting to break into the scene. There are no standard instruments, no limits to how many musicians are involved, and, most certainly, no distinct sound. It’s as varied as the shelves of a record store, meaning simply that the artists have chosen to play, and to play well. There is no better analogy for what makes an indie band than Broken Social Scene, the Toronto-based musical conglomerate nearly 20 artists deep and a decade old, which travels the world spreading aural freedom.
Charles Spearin, guitarist, bassist, trumpeter and keyboardist, has been with the group since the beginning, traveling everywhere from Taipei to Seoul, and this weekend he’ll be with the band as it takes the stage at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival, followed by a night at the Ventura Theater.
“We do a lot of examining of our calendars, it’s how we survive that kind of thing,” Spearin said, speaking with the Reporter from his home in Toronto.
The group’s latest, Forgiveness Rock Record, was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize in 2010, and topped “best of”’ lists worldwide, while Spearin found time to participate in his other band, Do Make Say Think, and on his self-produced album, The Happiness Project. Spearin has a lot in common with his fellow Broken Social Scene band mates in this regard: every member brings a unique vibe to the group while maintaining a presence detached from it.
“That’s what the name of the band kind of alludes to,” he explained. “Being in a band and being musicians is first; having a way to present it is secondary.”
VCReporter: Is there a unifying inspiration that brings Broken Social Scene together?
Charles Spearin: There is a passion for the music more than being in a band. There’s a lot of influence from bands from the ’90s. As in, there were a million great musicians and they were all playing on each others’ records. They didn’t really care too much about the music industry and being recognized; it just seemed like a healthy community.
That was kind of inspiring to us, people playing music for the sake of music and seeing where it goes.
How do you find your groove on stage with so many other musicians?
It’s chaos up there. There’s a kind of friendly “hang on by your fingernails, let’s just go for it” vibe. As long as we can hear the gist of it from everybody else, we can play off the people beside us and that kind of thing. It’s really more feeding off the crowd. Communication back and forth with the audience is a little bit more prevalent when you’ve been touring for a while. After a month of touring, you know what everyone is doing, even if you can’t hear them.
How has the Internet and the dawn of the electronic age changed things for Broken Social Scene, and music in general?
The Internet has really opened it up for certain things. We now have a kind of middle class of bands. Back in the ’80s, there were a ton of struggling bands and a few super groups. Now, because there are more avenues, there’s a lot more bands that have medium success, and it’s really healthy. You don’t have to be a rock star to make a living as a musician, as long as you’re touring. I remember when you started booking tours, you could do it three months in advance, and now you have to do it six months in advance, because of the saturation. It’s great.
If there’s anything you want people to take from a Broken Social Scene show, what would that be?
Just to celebrate their lives. Feel good about themselves. Nothing too specific. Just to feel good, basically. Think a little less of bands as being the center of a solar system but a natural thing for people to do, no matter how big or small. It’s an experience.
Broken Social Scene will perform April 19 at the Ventura Theater, 26 S. Chestnut St., Ventura. For tickets and more information, call 653-0721 or visit www.venturatheater.net.