Kevin Drew Is Under The Influence 

The Broken Social Scene founder lets his music do the talking on his latest instrumental endeavour, Influences.

by Gabe Lunn

Kevin Drew is excited to learn music all over again. The Toronto songwriter and founding member of Broken Social Scene has just unveiled his new project, KDAP (Kevin Drew a Picture), and its unlike most works he’s ever self-produced or shared a hand in creating before. 

Many know Drew mostly for his work with Broken Social Scene, a collective of songwriters and musicians based out of the Toronto area that has shifted from as few as six to as many as 19 members, with associated performers such as Feist, Metric’s Emily Haines, and Stars. The group’s baroque pop sound blasted onto the Canadian music scene right at the turn of the century with critically acclaimed albums such as Feel Good Lost and You Forgot it In People; projects which defied convention and established a precedent for indie rock ever since.

Apart from Broken Social Scene, Drew has produced music through K.C. Accidental (a collaborative project made alongside long-time friend Charles Spearin) and individually released the albums Spriti If… (2007) and Darlings (2014). His songwriting is marked by intimacy and sensitivity with a vocal range that varies from hushed whispers to roaring exclamations during his mosaics of noise.

Influences is a collection of instrumental tracks that Drew produced mostly while living abroad in England and stems from discovery and experimentation with smartphone applications that loop samples and allow for on the fly creativity. According to Drew, using unfamiliar software and platforms such as Endless brought back those “summer camp vibes” he felt much earlier in his music career. “After a long time of being in circles and behaviour patterns and loops and learned behaviours … there are certain things you don’t need to unpack or sit through or claim photo albums of you just say that’s it – goodbye. During the uprisings and revolutions [during the summer of 2020] I didn’t feel I had to say anything. I made Darlings as a farewell to singing about love and relationships.”

Of Influences, Drew has spoken about our current lifestyle climate saturated in social media, of “selling yourself back to yourself” and choosing methods of exploration over searching. “It’s a common knowledge but it’s ignored. I think we could do a lot better if we had more time to look at the hypocrisies, oppression, or things that are not correct for us human beings, and to see our place in that and not build a quick divide.”

Drew composed many of the instrumentals in outdoor settings with his phone, taking meandering walks through forests and the busy streets of London. After amassing a collection of tracks, Drew collaborated with producer Niles Spenser to export the tracks to a mixing console while adding additional acoustic instruments. “We figured out how to get the songs out of my phone and into the computer and put some blood into it. Recording piano and acoustics and drums, we melded the two together. It was always going to be instrumental to me because I felt that’s where I started and it’s a full circle of being at peace and coming back to where I began when I was still a teenager.”

With early career affectations for the ambient works of Brian Eno, early Warp Records catalogues, and Chicago post-rock, among other genre impacts, Drew says he’s relinquishing authorship and control over his new compositions, citing an amalgamation of factors and relationships in his life thus far. “I’m making it a point to say that I did not write this record. The albums that I love wrote this record, the people I love, things that I’ve gone through and the decisions I’ve made wrote the record. I have no problem being a vessel to the inspiration.”

Broken Social Scene are set to perform their next Canadian live concert at Massey Hall in Toronto (a first-time appearance for the venue) on December 16. The event is billed at the 20-year anniversary of the collective’s formation, which Drew expresses some ambivalence towards but nonetheless is grateful of others who support the band and his own respective projects. “I’m very proud of everybody and their partners and families and [supporters] … [and] that all the members have kept a place in their hearts for Broken Social Scene.”

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