Broken Social Scene Cooks Up Something Special

Like any traveling group of musicians, Canadian indie-rock collective Broken Social Scene has one thing in common with an army: It travels on its stomach.

Excluding mega-stars who travel with personal chefs or have contract riders guaranteeing catered meals, most bands tend to rely on convenience stores and restaurants for sustenance. But one can only live on Mickey D's and Taco Smell for so long—especially once you've cultivated a taste for finer foods.

Brendan Canning, who co-founded Broken Social Scene in 1999 with Kevin Drew, thanks his first drummer—who eventually gave up music to start a catering business—for sparking his initial interest in food. During the inception of Broken Social Scene, Canning did much of the cooking as he and Drew worked on the early home recordings that would eventually be released as 2001's sprawling, mostly instrumental Feel Good Lost. They particularly favored pizzas.

These days, though, while he wouldn't quite consider himself a gourmet chef, Canning is far more than confident in his cooking skills. He especially enjoys cooking meals for guests—even if a somewhat nomadic lifestyle makes opportunities to do so rare.

"I really like to cook anything," he says. "Soups, stews. I made a lasagna the other night, roasted chicken today. Curry dishes. Any sort of breakfast thing you like to eat. I don't bake, but that's about it."

A fan of volatile television chef Gordon Ramsay, Canning describes his cooking style as, mostly, a "fly by the seat of my pants" method. Eventually, he'd like to get some serious instruction, but, despite his lack of training, he's surprisingly fearless in the kitchen at the moment.

"I think I've got a pretty good handle on it," he says. "We don't own a car up here, but I do have a pretty nice stove. The only failed dish in recent memory was, of all things, a turkey pot pie right after Christmas. My girlfriend wanted to use this flourless crust, and it just wasn't going to happen. I don't want to pin it on her. Like I said, I'm not much of a baker."

For him, expanding his culinary horizons is comparable to hearing new music.

"I grew up in the suburbs, where the food was a little bit bland, which is putting it nicely," he says. "Once you live in the city, where you have all these options—you go to Little India here, Chinatown, Little Korea, a Portuguese neighborhood, a Jamaican area—you get to try all these different foods you never got to try as a kid, that you'd never even heard of.

"It's like music. You're in this period of discovery, like, 'Oh my God, this is good.' We get to travel the world playing music, but the one or two highlights of the day are getting a good meal. First, it's finding your good coffee. Once you find that, then it's, 'What am I going to eat? Who's going to feed me?'"

On the band's last Dallas stop, the entire band ate at a nearby Deep Ellum home-cooking restaurant—a rarity for a band that typically travels with about a dozen people. They had the next day off, too, so they wisely used the time to pursue Mexican food—an abundant resource in the Big D and a scarcity in the band's native Canada.

This time around, Dallas will be the band's first stop on an eight-date tour.

"First shows can be a little rough, or bounding with energy—or a little bit of both," he says. "We've been off the road for a couple months, so we'll be escaping the cold. I imagine it will be very liberating."

Fans should expect songs from every record, Canning says, even though he, Drew and Charles Spearin have put out recent solo discs in an ongoing series of Broken Social Scene Presents... releases. The lineup will be essentially the same crew of musicians as the band showcase on its last tour, he says: Canning, Drew, Spearin, Andrew Whiteman, Justin Peroff, Sam Goldberg, Leon Kingstone and Lisa Lobsinger. And it's likely, Canning says, that the band will likely test out some new songs as well before heading to the studio later this spring.

As for where they'll record, who will produce and which of the 20-odd BSS members will be present for those sessions, that's all still up in the air.

So, too, is the decision of where to eat when they come to town.