Four years ago you conducted an entire interview with Stereogum posing as a worker in a lightbulb factory. Did the band put you up to that to test-drive the David character?
Mike Haliechuk: The lightbulb thing was just kind of this random thing, and obviously we adopted it for the story. For the play it kind of worked because you have this poor guy David who’s working in this really dark, dingy place, but he’s making a source of light for other people. So we thought it would be this really cool symbol. You know, like when you have a job where you’re making something really good for someone else, but it makes you feel bad?
You initially put this album aside to make The Chemistry of Common Life, which was considered ambitious in its own right. Why did you feel ready for one epic thing but not the other?
MH: We sort of toyed with doing this one in 2007, but we just weren’t ready. I guess we didn’t want our second album to be this musical/conceptual thing, we wanted to have another real record under our belts. And we didn’t really have the time, we were sort of doing a record at the same time we were figuring out a contract and a record deal so. We didn’t really have a calculated plan for the last record, it just kind of came together. This one, we had a lot of time to think about it and make it properly.
Damian Abraham: I think we were still kind of joking about it at that stage. We didn’t really know what shape this thing would take. So we just kind of went in and made [Chemistry] and it was very straightforward and the concepts weren’t too heady. And I’m really happy we didn’t try to make this record then because it’s a lot more involved and I think would have killed us.
I was impressed with how closely the album sticks to the storyline. Even most famous concept albums have a handful of tracks that have nothing to do with the plot.
DA: We tried to be cognizant of making sure every song had something to do with the story. I don’t like when you listen to a record, especially a rock opera, and it has songs that don’t contribute to the story. I mean, you wouldn’t want to see a movie and have a scene that has nothing to do with what you’re watching!
Did the band ever get shit for these kinds of ambitions among your hometown scene?
MH: I mostly just hear that we’re like, pretentious or something now.
Well, you did open one record with a flute…
MH: We used to toy a lot with the idea of like, mind control and all that shit. And it acts as a reference to kind of a “pied piper” thing, to start off the record with this flute that kind of... draws you in.
DA: We’ve kind of gotten shit the whole way. I can say this because the people I’m talking about are actually friends of mine, but people who hated Hidden World when it came out and are now like, “Man, you guys were awesome when Hidden World came out and now you suck!” But Toronto as a hometown has always been supportive of us. And one of the ways we’ve lucked out is when some people stop attention other people have started paying attention. There’s still punk and hardcore kids but it’s shifted slightly.