Wolf mentality

Wolf Parade brings Thin Mind to Oklahoma City.

Wolf mentality
Pamela Evelyn and Joseph Yarmush / provided
Wolf Parade plays 8 p.m. Feb. 5 at Tower Theatre.
Wolf Parade

8 p.m. Feb. 5

Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St.

True to its name, Wolf Parade is not standing still.

“If your job is to output art and creative content, and if you’re not constantly re-interrogating your process and what you want to say, unless you’re just working in a straight marketing capacity, you have to evolve, otherwise there’s no point in doing it,” guitarist and vocalist Dan Boeckner said.

Wolf Parade plays 8 p.m. Feb. 5 at Tower Theatre, 425 NW 23rd St. The band, which first formed in Montreal in 2003, released Thin Mind, its fifth full-length album, last week.

“It’s definitely different from the last record we did,” Boeckner said. “We’re down to the original three-piece lineup. ... We’re back to the lineup that wrote [Apologies to the Queen Mary], and At Mount Zoomer, our first two records, and all the early demos and stuff — that being less of a capital R rock band format. The original idea of the band was really just simply a wall of synthesizers, drums and guitar.”

Wolf Parade, Boeckner said, “has gone through at least four metamorphoses” beginning with its original and current lineup featuring Arlen Thompson on drums and Boeckner and keyboardist Spencer Krug sharing songwriting and frontman duties. The trio released a self-titled four-song EP in 2003 before adding Hadji Bakara as a second keyboardist for a second EP and the critically acclaimed 2005 full-length debut Apologies to the Queen Mary produced by Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock.

“Throughout the album, the keyboard squeals and distorted guitars constantly cluster, dissolve and then reconfigure in new ways, engaging you with a harsh beauty while keeping you bracingly off-balance,” wrote Los Angeles Times critic Richard Cromelin, describing the debut.

Guitarist Dante DeCaro joined the band in 2005, and Wolf Parade released 2008 sophomore album At Mount Zoomer as a five-piece before Bakara left the band to pursue a career as an English professor. Following 2010’s Expo 86, the band went on hiatus until 2016. Cry Cry Cry released the following year featured the same four-piece lineup, but DeCaro left the band in 2019. Though Thin Mind was recorded by the same founding trio, Boeckner said Wolf Parade’s latest album sounds different from its first EP.

“It feels like something new because we’ve all sort of evolved musically in our tastes and our playing, what we want to get across, but I think it’s a return to the original writing process, which is really fun,” Boeckner said. “It’s really quick with three people, especially with Spencer and I both being principal vocalists in the band. It’s really fast to just bounce ideas off of each other. … I think the band has gotten broader in its ability to convey musical ideas, to get a feeling across.”

“I think the band has gotten broader in its ability to convey musical ideas, to get a feeling across.”
—Dan Boeckner

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Performing live as a trio is a little more complicated, especially on older songs originally written for a larger band.

“It just means that during the show neither of us really get to lay off or have a break,” Boeckner said. “Every moment is occupied by texture or picking up the slack on mid-range low-range or melody stuff.”

Changing thoughts

Though the songwriting process is similar to Wolf Parade’s early days, the results are different.

“Lyrically, definitely things have changed, but I think that’s because Spence and I are always writing about whatever is immediate to our lives,” Boeckner said. “This isn’t a band that writes short fictions or fantasy stuff. All of the lyric writing is immediate and influenced our environment and whatever’s going on, whether it’s politically or emotionally.”

In 2016, Boeckner told Stereogum that he tended to write personal lyrics for Wolf Parade and political lyrics for his band Operators, but the songs he wrote for Thin Mind include both.

“Those two worlds are kind of blending together,” Boeckner said. “There’s definitely some pretty on-the-nose political content coming from me, but generally speaking Operators is where I can work out that stuff in this sort of tripped-out synth pop format, and then Wolf Parade is more of the emotional interior of my life, I guess. If that doesn’t sound too pretentious, that’s pretty much it. Wolf Parade is more feelings-based.”

click to enlarge Wolf mentality
Thin Mind was released last week.

Boeckner said his interest in politics predates his career in music, but touring the world with bands gave him a more insightful perspective about the world than he learned in school.

“Before I started Wolf Parade, I was doing university courses in political science and history, but then I dropped out because I basically couldn’t afford to be in university anymore,” Boeckner said. “I was working to put myself through school, and then I wanted to pursue a career in music, so one of those things had to drop off.

“When I started touring Italy and Eastern Europe in the mid-2000s, right before the financial collapse, and once I started making friends with people in these post-communist spaces, these newly entered into the European Union spaces, I realized that almost everything I had been learning in university, ideologically speaking, was total bullshit. That was a huge catalyst for me to change my thoughts. I’ve always been pretty far left. I was involved in activism and sort of anarchist stuff when I was younger, but I kind of grew out of that. Just touring and meeting people was the best political education I think I could have possibly had, and I just continued on as I kept going back and going to new places. Touring China at the start of the 2010s repeatedly was eye-opening, too. Traveling and working with other artists from these places that I had preconceived ideas about really changed my mind about a lot of things.”

Thin Mind’s “Forest Green” and “Under Glass,” Boeckner said, are “both about different terrible aspects of neo-liberalism” inspired by growing up in British Columbia, which Boeckner said is “sort of at the spear point of the worst fucking stupid neo-liberal social policies.”

“Forest Green” describes “colonial days on stolen land,” where “life is so serene” but “cursed,” and “familial ghosts come and haunt me in my sleep.” “It feels like home, and I can’t stay long,” the song concludes. “I don’t want to stay.”

Thin Mind’s opening track “Under Glass,” Boeckner said, is about “being extremely online.”

“They said it’s the good life,” Boeckner sings. “You get the gold or you get the lead. / And if you stand up you get it / In the back of the head. … They always tell us we are free in our minds, but nobody knows what they want anymore.”

Closer “Town Square” sounds more optimistic. “They said, ‘If we don’t die young / We get old and die’” it concludes. “I said, ‘All we are / Is reaching for the light.’”

Land of Talk shares the bill. Tickets are $22-$32. Call 405-708-6937 or visit towertheatreokc.com.

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