Thank goodness the Kelowna Community Theatre is so quaint.
After playing Taipei, Milan, and Singapore, Evan Cranley, of the epic Canadian indie band Stars, says he is still geared to come to our theatre.
The five-member group just released their sixth studio album, The North, last year, and only plays places they enjoy. After opening for Metric in November, they know the Kelowna/Nelson stops are a nice way to break up the drive between Vancouver and Calgary.
“Cute little theatre” is the term he uses, and as a seasoned musician, he’s seen a few.
“I consider myself a musician first, before I do a member of Stars, and I think everyone considers themselves an artist first,” says Cranley in a telephone interview from Ontario where they were playing to a hometown crowd in Toronto.
He starts talking about the collaborations he does outside of the band. All five members have extremely successful careers existing in a well-connected, if well-heeled Eastern Canadian musical elite that spans time in groups like Memphis (lead singer Torquil Campbell’s other project) and the Pat McGee Band and, of course, Broken Social Scene.
Stars, Broken Social Scene, Feist and Metric stem from a Toronto crowd which began connecting with one another in high school and wound up working out of the uber-successful, if tiny, label Arts & Crafts.
Described to the Globe and Mail newspaper by creator Jeffrey Remedios, a former Virgin Records executive who partnered with Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew to start the venture, it was conceived to be a “non-commercial, not-for-profit arts collective,” and wound up with 20 JUNO Awards on the label in 10 years.
Arts & Crafts backed the second Stars album, Heart, and a joint tour with Broken Social Scene, which launched that group’s Juno Award-winning record You Forgot it in People; the touring never stopped from that point forward from Cranley’s point of view.
When asked when this international tour ends, he said: “It doesn’t. I don’t know, next December, but then we’re off to the next things so, no, it doesn’t.”
If the party never stops, it at least changes and Cranley admits there are some of the 13 years he’s spent as a professional musician that do feel more like more work than others.
At the moment, he and partner/lead singer Amy Milan have their two-year-old daughter on the road with them, trying to juggle parenting, late nights, partying and exercise as they slide into their 40s. It’s a balance that’s not easy to strike he admits; but as a parent, he wouldn’t have his daughter’s life roll out any other way.
“She can play a full drum kit with Pat McGee. She went to the Louvre the other day. Her life is really quite remarkable,” he said, noting she also has the benefit of hanging out with six uncles on the road.
Milan grew up studying drama with Kevin Drew and Metric lead singer Emily Haines and works with Broken Social scene, Stars, and as a solo artist.
Cranley is also an original Broken Social Scene bandmate and, somewhat ironically, their visit comes on the heels of another former bandmate’s visit. Andrew Whiteman was in town performing an avant-garde poetry-inspired album, In the Pines, with his wife and AroarA collaborator, Ariel Engle, earlier this month.
As the main composer of Stars’ music, along with Chris Seligman, Cranley is always aspiring to improve his craft, noting he would like to pick up the sousaphone. Named for American bandmaster John Sousa, it’s the giant tuba-type instrument that wraps around the body and leans on one’s shoulder and causes a ruckus in a good marching band.
Asked how he plans to learn to play, let alone lug it around, he says he mostly just watches other musicians when he wants to learn something new and emulates them until he’s got the knack.
This summer the group will be in the lineup for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, but also the Field Trip Arts & Crafts Music Festival, in celebration of the label’s tenth anniversary.
Stars play the Kelowna Community Theatre with special guests Said the Whale on Wednesday, April 3. Tickets are $28.