How I fell in and out of love with Wolf Parade

Indie rock nostalgia and band reunions can be a tumultuous relationship.

July 7, 2016

It’s always hard breaking up with a friend, especially when their role in your life holds such significance. I remember the first time I ever heard Wolf Parade. I was 18 years old, living in Windsor, working at Dr. Disc part-time. My good friend/coworker Aaron had been playing them pretty heavily in the shop and eventually their first EP was all we listened to.

My first love came in the form of “Modern World”, a blippy synth jam with washed out guitars, a perfect pairing with my other obsession at the time, The Organ (Katie Ritchie was my first female band crush). By the time I saw Wolf Parade play with The Organ in Detroit at The Magic Stick with my boss Liam in November 2005, their debut album Apologies to the Queen Mary had become my bible.

I listened to it religiously for a year, even after I moved away from Windsor to Toronto. It got me through the transition into the big city and a lot of the depression I felt leaving my old friends behind. Maybe it was just me, or living in a city where music and art was walking in every direction, but Wolf Parade and I began to drift apart.

There was definitely some great moments on their next album At Mount Zoomer, a lot of which I enjoyed while high for some reason, but the relationship was getting strange. I needed to distance myself with Wolf Parade for a minute in order to move on from the betrayals, fights, and internal struggles I had within. I’d check in with my old friend once in a while, having brief love affairs with Handsome Furs and Sunset Rubdown (Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug’s respective side projects).

I’ll always associate Sunset Rubdown with the time my basement apartment flooded and I had to give my ticket away for free, and the Handsome Furs to my later obsession with weirder electronic/club music. “Legal Tender” is still one of my favourite songs from their second album Face Control.

I used to sneak it into some of my first DJ sets, back when I was playing stuff like New Order, Public Image Ltd, Orange Juice and early jams from The Rapture at The Beaver on a Tuesday. I guess, thinking back, Wolf Parade was the catalyst for a lot of the good and bad parts of my early 20s. Whether it was their side projects or that first album, they always seemed to pop in just when my life either needed some clarity or excitement.

When Wolf Parade broke up, I had weird feelings, even though I’m the one who called it off to explore myself and other musical interests. It was sad that a part of my life was done, and even though my relationship to the music had changed, I still loved them for their contributions to shaping who I am today.

When I heard whispers of the Wolf Parade reunion, I was a bit skeptical. Although they said it was just a hiatus, a lot of the stories behind band break-ups are very nuanced. They’re often rooted in some bad blood you never realized you had until you’re three albums in and have that moment where you think “damn, I kind of don’t like playing with this person anymore.”

That’s not always the case, but it seems to be one of many stories that make it into interviews or documentaries down the line when bands start really talking about their break-ups. The drama surrounding Death From Above 1979’s initial split definitely fell in line with that type of narrative, and I still wonder what made two dudes that seemed to hate each other so much reform for a full-fledge reunion. Was it money? A truce? A change of heart?

I asked myself all these questions long and hard when it came time to decide if I was going to attend the Wolf Parade reunion shows this year. I didn’t know how I felt about seeing my old friend after so much time had passed, and I didn’t wanna get too attached if they were planning to just break up again. I was conflicted, but mostly kind of into the idea of seeing them one more time. Sadly, the shows sold out before I could make a decision and I kind of just let the idea of a reconciliation go.

I was walking home from work when I ran into my friend Brian Borcherdt outside of Lee’s Palace. Brian plays in Holy Fuck, who were opening for Wolf Parade at one of the four shows happening that week in May. Just as I went to say goodbye to Brian as he was heading back inside, Dan Boeckner came out of Lee’s Palace and said hello to me. It felt weird talking to him at first, especially after his comments about the Viet Cong controversy, but somehow we hit it off, despite my feelings about how the situation was handled.

After a great talk about music and other projects, he offered me a guest list spot for the show. I felt weird about taking it, but I did because I wanted to see Holy Fuck’s set. After Holy Fuck, I had this moment of anxiousness, wondering how I felt about seeing Wolf Parade 10 years after I saw them in Detroit and fell in love. The band came out full of energy and laughs, playing every gem from Apologies to the Queen Mary that shaped those early years of my 20s. I shed a tear during “I’ll Believe In Anything” because it reminded me of this boy I used to see at the record store all the time and secretly crush on back when I was still in the closet and smoking way too much pot.

I confronted that weird crush and many other moments those songs brought rushing back to me head on. My depression, my anxiety, the feelings of being unwelcome in spaces where I was one of the only people of colour at a Wolf Parade show and how that made me feel. It all came back and it all felt great. The demons of my young life were cleansed in that moment. I got my closure and some fuzzy feelings, but once it was done I felt a complete separation from the whole thing.

It’s almost as if Wolf Parade was telling me how much they appreciated our time together, all while saying goodbye one last time. I left the show feeling OK with how everything ended. That time in my life is over, but not forgotten. My old friend looked pretty damn good up there, even after all those years.

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