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Wolf Parade’s Spencer Krug on His Terrible French and the Difference Between His Band and Arcade Fire

Photo: Jen Maler / Retna


After storming lower North America with their 2005 debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, Canadian indie-rock heroes Wolf Parade recently released their sophomore release, At Mount Zoomer, and it was extremely well received as well. Keyboardist Spencer Krug is known to be a prickly interview now and then, but he talked gamely to Vulture about the new album, his side project band Sunset Rubdown, and why his band isn't Arcade Fire. Wolf Parade plays Terminal 5 tomorrow night and Friday.

Since you guys live in Montreal, does that mean you’re pretty fluent French speakers?
No, not at all. My French is terrible. [Guitarist] Dante [DeCaro]’s is probably worse than mine, because he doesn’t actually live here. I think we all have basically terrible French, and I don’t know whose is the worst or who is the best, because we never ever use French. The problem with my speaking French in Montreal is that if I use it I will get answered in English. But that’s a lazy cop-out; none of us have any reason for not knowing French by now.

For At Mount Zoomer I’ve heard you took a bunch of improvisational sessions at Arcade Fire's church outside Montreal (called Petite Église) and turned them into cohesive songs.
A lot of the record was done that way. Not all of it — probably two-thirds was just born out of jam sessions. That’s pretty normal, I think, for bands to work that way.

What do you see as the biggest aesthetic and philosophical differences between you guys and the Arcade Fire?
You want me to compare Wolf Parade to Arcade Fire right now?

You don’t have to.
I think the differences are huge. If you want to talk about the sonic aesthetic, they have more members, they have more ambition, more of a drive for perfection than we will ever have, so they sound bigger and they sound better. [Laughs] They will always sound tighter and more thought-out. Arcade Fire has everything just so. And that is to their benefit as a band, probably.

We’re friends, but we’re very different in terms of music and even probably politics, and how we approach our place in the world, if that makes sense. I don’t mean politics, like what they stand for, but the way they operate within this industry. They’re just more successful and have had to deal with things that we’ll never have to deal with it, like whether or not to play Saturday Night Live.

Tell me about “California Dreamer,” which is my favorite song on the new album.
It’s based on the song “California Dreaming” [by the Mamas & the Papas]. He says a line about halfway through the song that makes you realize there’s a woman involved. The line is “If I didn’t tell her / I could leave today.” He hadn’t mentioned anything about the lover until halfway through the song, and I just think it’s really cool for that. I wrote [this] song from the point of view of the woman he left behind. Who knows why the idea of that song appeals to me, about someone wanting to leave someone on the East Coast for the West Coast? I’m from the West Coast, and I miss it a lot. I want to go back there quite often. I’m from British Columbia, on the interior, and I’ve spent a lot of time in Vancouver.

Are things run differently in Wolf Parade and your side project band, Sunset Rubdown?
Sunset Rubdown is definitely more cerebral and more my personal brainchild, so I can fool around with those ideas of tying things together musically or thematically. I don’t have to really cooperate with anyone else to make that happen. —Ben Westhoff