Broken Social Scene with Zeus
9 p.m. Tuesday
Tipitina's, 501 Napoleon Ave., 895-8477; www.tipitinas.com
Only Broken Social Scene could get away with calling an eight-deep lineup "stripped-down." The octet set to visit Tipitina's this week is indeed intimate compared to New Orleans' first taste of the Toronto rock collective, which came in March 2004: an incestuous, stage-crowding WTUL Marathon concert at the former Howlin' Wolf with Tuscon, Ariz., pals Calexico and fellow Ontarioans Stars, one of a host of Social Scene ancillaries (see: Feist, Do Make Say Think, Metric, Apostle of Hustle, et al.).
"I remember that," says guitarist Andrew Whiteman. "We got drunk, and after the show we were using Calexico's upright bass — they weren't packing up their stuff real fast, so we grabbed their upright bass and we basically made up a song. ... We made some Latin mambo jam up, and then people started trying to limbo dance. Total New Orleans night."
Total Social Scene night, one could say. More than any other factor, community and spontaneity define the elastic, decade-old ensemble. The band claims anywhere from seven to 17 members — "It really depends on if anyone else we know is in town," Whiteman says — whose individual recording projects take a backseat every few years in deference to group dynamics.
In 2010, a series of jam sessions at keyboardist Charles Spearin's house in Toronto gave birth to Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts), their fourth proper LP. As with 2002 breakthrough You Forgot It In People and 2005's eponymous follow-up, the 14 songs grew in different ways, according to Whiteman: from pop kernels brought in by different members or out of expansive impromptu instrumentals, which were eventually germinated with tinny vocals by co-founder Kevin Drew. "You don't bring a finished product," Whiteman says. "You bring a hook, or you bring a few chords and a bit of a melody."
Two of the strongest moments, the horn-blown chords of "Art House Director" and the aggressive chorus of the single "Forced to Love," were in Whiteman's pocket for some time, while the vinelike twin guitars of opener "World Sick" belonged to Drew. "'Romance to the Grave,' 'Sentimental X's,' 'All to All' — that stuff, we all made that up together," Whiteman says. "We didn't do anything different this time, in terms of putting a million tracks on one thing and peeling them all back. And we have John McEntire in the control tower. He's amazing at peeling it back."
The mastermind behind Tortoise is perhaps the biggest change between records. McEntire replaced longtime producer Dave Newfeld, even joining the band on tour in Europe as an auxiliary percussionist, and his signatures with the Chicago post-rock band — creating breathing room between notes, letting guitars and electronics echo in space — are all over Forgiveness. "Johnny, he's family now," says Whiteman, who dips into the world of contemporary abstract art to describe the processes of Newfeld and McEntire. "[It's] the difference between Jackson Pollack and Robert Motherwell," he says. "You can figure out who's who."
After the touring cycle for this record is finished, Whiteman, like many of his bandmates, will revisit his side project, the Latin-influenced prog-rock trio Apostle of Hustle. He also has plans to hatch a family band. "It's going to be kind of faux-Arabic/Greek lo-fi dance music," he says, laughing. "What you would expect from me."