What’s it like touring with Arcade Fire again? Has it changed the way you perform under your own name?
I love playing with Arcade Fire. For me it’s about giving my self-obsession a bit of a vacation. I like the music, I like the people, and they seem to enjoy having me around both socially and musically. But the important thing for me is the feeling of humility, to be not-invisible but definitely-anonymous. It’s good exercise for me, to be working on a project that requires “subservience.”
I was struck by the sense of social ossification on “On a Path,” this notion that the early-2000s cultural eruption I guess we still call Torontopia might have cooled into suffocating rock. It’s like, augh, these integral experiences have become inescapable, how do I create new ones again? Plus you’re eating better bagels now.
I am fine with nostalgia—I don’t think of it as decadent or anything—but at the same time, I don’t tend to get caught up in it, so that is my privilege. I did however start to feel this crushing sense of non-progressiveness around my 14th and 15th years of living in Toronto. On a basic level, living in Toronto is untenable, the city has been fucked by developers and there are no low-income class options for tenants. But those developers have to live with their legacy of shit, which is no small load.
On a personal level, I’d been hearing “when did Torontopia die?” since 2006, I’d seen every other band and cultural micro-movement give up the ghost. Kids two-to-five years younger than me were more into doing coke and dancing to mash-ups than playing music. (Then there was a second wave of music-making kids. Then it was coke and mash-ups again.) In a way, what attracted me to Montreal—aside from the dry winters, the French language, the beauty of the city, the cheaper rent—was that there are so many musicians here that still have the same attitude I had and still have. I’m still up for touring and making albums and flyering and postering, I’m game to stay up til 4 a.m. watching noise bands. I don’t have a mortgage or a car or any kids. There are people here in their 50s and 60s still gigging and loving life.