Today marks the 10 year anniversary of Wolf Parade’s ‘Apologies To The Queen Mary’. This record has influenced and inspired a legion of fans. The ’12 Days of Apologies’ project was full of art, videos, covers, essays, all inspired by the 12 tracks that make up this brilliant record.
Thank you Arlen, Dan, Spencer, and Hadji for creating this record. Your music has been the soundtrack to my life, and for that I will forever be grateful.
“10 years ago this weekend an album was released that changed my life. Wolf Parade felt like they existed just for me. They were fully charged with emotion and their songs were epic productions of heart stopping grandeur. Guitars and drums and keyboards crashed in an unholy mess that was beyond thrilling. They had released some EPs that caught my attention. The first time I heard them I was hooked. Then they released their debut album. “Apologies to the Queen Mary” was born and in time it would become my favourite album of all time. It is near perfect. 12 songs of exploration, love, joy and passion. Two singers and songwriters, Dan and Spencer, that pushed and pulled each other to great heights. If a more perfect song has ever been recorded than “I’ll Believe in Anything” then I would like to meet it. I was lucky enough to see them twice in Canada in 2005 and in 2007. I will never forget them. They released two more albums of impeccable quality and then went their separate ways. I will never forget them and I will always have their perfect first album living deep inside my heart.”
And so it ends. Today is the last day of our ’12 Days of Apologies’ project. I really can not thank Arlen, Dan, and Spencer enough for entrusting me with their memories. This site has always been an absolute labor of love for me. Apologies really means alot to me personally, and it literally lead to great changes in my life. I’m so grateful to know these guys and to have been part of an incredible 10 years.
Now on to celebrating This Hearts on Fire!!
Justin Joffe of the NY Observer wrote a beautiful piece about Apologies to the Queen Mary. I spoke with him and my thoughts are featured in the article. Here are his thoughts on This Heart’s on Fire:
That the album ends instead with “This Heart’s on Fire” becomes an act of triumph for Mr. Boeckner, who still talks about his mother (“I am my mother’s hen, and left the body in bed all day, we don’t know what to do”) but has begun to look forward to the future. “It’s getting better all the time,” he repeats again and again, while the song builds to a final closure and he yells, with a pack of brothers behind him, “This heart’s on fire, this heart’s on fire!” Backed by Mr. Krug’s keyboard arpeggios, Arlen Thompson’s nearly heavy metal drumming, and Hadji Bakara’s textured electronics, the swell is felt just as strongly with repeated listens.
This old 2003 demo is the earliest version of ‘This Heart’s On Fire’ with just Spencer, Arlen, and Dan.
Here’s an excerpt from the last chapter of my talk with Spencer. He also graciously emailed me how 3 of his songs from Apologies came to fruition and the inspirations behind them. You can read the full post here.
Who came up with the tracklist for Apologies?
SK: To be honest I think Sub Pop had a lot to do with putting the track list together. I remember Stuart (Meyer) from Sub Pop saying ‘You Are a Runner…’ has to be first and us just being like ‘yeah we don’t care, of course’. We didn’t care back then. I can’t remember if they had an idea for the entire sequence but I definitely remember Stuart wanting that song to be first. I remember talking for a long time about the sequence for Expo 86 and for a short time on the sequence of Mount Zoomer and not talking at all about the sequence of Apologies. The first record we didn’t care. We didn’t think it was that important probably. The label just suggested a sequence and we were like, yeah. I think we liked it because it went me, Dan, me, Dan for the most part. That set this precedent for all the albums.
This is also the last chapter of my talk with Arlen. Here’s part of it, but read on the main ‘This Heart’s on Fire’ page about the hilarious take of ‘You Are A Runner..’ that disappeared, featuring a dub reggae singin Isaac Brock! I’ll have the full version archived eventually on the ’12 Days of Apologies’ page:
That Rocket Bar show in St Louis that Spencer and Dan talked about was probably thee worst show we ever played. The place had a really weird set up to it and it had a bunch of the regulars, and they really didn’t give a shit. We played with two really bad openers and everyone was in a bad mood. We were just all super burnt out at that point. Burnt out with each other, burnt out on everything. You know playing a show that there’s no crowd; I don’t think there was any promotion or whatever. We were just super burned out. I remember we got in the van after that show and drove straight home to Montreal. Then we were in Montreal for a long time, basically waiting around for something to happen and that was pretty frustrating for us that we didn’t have any mixes and didn’t know what was really going on. There were songs that were unfinished which now I finally got the full master reels. I just got the reels last week actually.
This one created by Hadji’s step-dad has over 2 Million views!
The one and only time Wolf Parade performed on late night tv! Performing ‘This Heart’s on Fire’ on Craig Ferguson
You can see more videos, some amazing covers and illustrations, as well as the last chapter of my talks with Spencer and Arlen here.
Listen to this super early version of Dinner Bells from Wolf Parade’s 2003 self released EP 1. That EP also has an incredible version of Modern World, early song Wits or a Dagger, and live favorite Secret Knives.
The live version of Dinner Bells was so epic and beautiful. It was my absolutely favorite part of the live set in 2005/2006. Listen to this version from 8/28/2006 at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, CO with Frog Eyes. That tour Frog Eyes supported Wolf Parade and would come on stage sometimes during this song.
The live version lyric that kills me every time: ‘You love and you love and love till it all goes away’
Freelance journalist and Polaris Juror Erik Leijon submitted this piece about Dinner Bells:
Dinner Bells is one of those songs I hardly listen to anymore because I wore it out the first time around. Although I’m born and raised in Montreal, the release of Apologies coincided with my semester abroad in Colorado. I bought the album (and Depeche Mode’s Playing the Angel) at Finest CD in Fort Collins, CO with a credit card my mother had given me for emergency purchases. When I got back to Montreal that spring, I spent hours at home listening to the sorrowful, dirge-y, under-appreciated Dinner Bells, which suited my mood of missing the place I had just been to and unsure of whether I really wanted to come back home. Later that April the band played Le National and I saw them give one of the best drunken performances I’ve ever seen, and it jolted me back into reality. Dinner Bells, though, remains stuck in that time. Too inextricably linked to a very specific period in my life, which a song can sometimes do.
Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my talk with Spencer:
The creation of ‘You are a Runner…’:
Everyone was out getting food or something and Arlen and I put that rif together just me and him. The beginning thing, and the chord progression for the whole song. It’s quite simple right, I just kinda whipped it up and was like ‘Arlen can you play drums’ and he did this weird thing where the drums didn’t really line up with the rhythm of what I was doing. And then there’s this moment of ‘lets not fix that’ and lets keep that a little bit awkward like that. Then it became a great rhythm once we got it tight. So we had the music and I remember writing the lyrics for that song in the basement of the studio kind of like right before I tried to sing them. There was a point then where Isaac was like, ‘this could be a great song’ but it just doesn’t have the energy, it’s not bombastic enough. He was like yelling and getting everyone to keep playing it over and over again. It was fun. Isaac helped to build up the energy of a song like that, which ended being one of my favorite songs on the record.
I spoke with Arlen Thompson about the recording process and some of the more technical things (that I know a lot of people have asked me to find out):
We were kind of thrown into this process of making a record. I don’t think, at the time, anyone in the band had really made a full record. It was all really new and and we didn’t really know what we were doing. We were working with Isaac, and he had really specific ideas of how he wanted to do this, but there was zero pre production. Which is usually something that you at least do a little bit of before. So we were trying to do this pretty high production value sound so we had click tracks that we did a bunch of the drums to. It was actually kind of a struggle technically to get things going because we hadn’t planned too much on tempos and that kind of thing. We just were a band just playing in a jam room and we had made those EP’s which were all kinda like 4 track style basically Throw some mics in a room and press record. Now we were getting into the sphere of a more contemporary recording. We did do it on tape, we used 2” tape on a Studer machine. We had a console; I think it was a Broadcast Neve from the 80’s. Chris Chandler he was kind of the unsung hero of that whole record. He was like the glue that held all that total madness together. Isaac was doing his best but he was super busy with Modest Mouse and we had no idea what we were doing and we were totally broke. Chris helped keep everything moving along.
Check the main Dinner Bells page for additional fan made videos, the rest of part 2 of my talk with Spencer, and for part 1 of my talk with Arlen.
Here’s the version from Wolf Parade’s 2004 self released 2nd EP:
Fan Made Video
I spoke with Spencer Krug about his memories from recording Apologies and how some of the songs were created. Here’s Part 1. You can read the full post here
I remember driving to Portland from Montreal and halfway there being like ‘We’re only half way?” As we were getting closer it’s sort of dawning on us, just being like, why are we driving to Portland to make a record? This is insane. We live in Montreal. You know the travel anger just building up, the anxiety. We’re just like, what are we doing here? Then we got there and we went to Isaac’s house and he clearly was surprised to see us and didn’t expect us until at least the next day. He didn’t care, but that just right away showed how disorganized everything was. He was like ‘Oh yeah, fuck, you guys, right, yeah I booked the studio, we gotta do this. I wasn’t expecting to see you yet’. And us being like ‘I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to be here but you could be right’. In retrospect anyone could have been wrong about when we were supposed to be there, we were so disorganized.
Arlen Thompson sent me some great photos he took while Wolf Parade where on tour in 2005.
Backstage opening for Arcade Fire at the Paramount in Seattle, tour ’05
This piece is titled ‘Wolf Parade’ and created by German artist Drømsjel. Please visit his website and see his incredible work. You can buy this and other digital prints of his here.
See more amazing art, Arlen’s tour photos, and read the rest of my talk with Spencer Krug on the main It’s A Curse page.
This track is probably the most recognizable from the record. So many people are utterly inspired by this track. Here is a great quote from a fan:
John Watson: “My favourite song on this album is believe in anything- I have 4:36 tattooed on the back of my arm (the running time of the song). I used to commute to school in the Canadian winter by train and used to listen to this album on repeat. This song in particular I associate with the changing in friendships, enemies and overall relationships I had change over the course of my early 20s. Another key point to note about this song is that Spencer wrote it an extremely long time ago and along with standing the test of time, like people, has changed and warped into what it is today- a beautiful reflection of the hardships of a man. That’s something I really love.”
I’ll Believe in Anything first appeared on Spencer Krug’s earliest release as Sunset Rubdown, ‘Snake’s Got A Leg’, which features this amazing solo version. You can purchase Snakes Got A Leg from Absolutely Kosher Records:
Here is an excerpt from the last chapter of my talk with Dan Boeckner. Here he talk about the songs he wrote for Apologies and what they mean. You can read the full entry here. Thank you again to Dan for sharing this with us.
A lot of the songs like ‘This Hearts on Fire’ obviously are just completely autobiographical. ‘Same Ghost Every Night’ is also about that, and about living in this environment. This weird isolated rural area in Canada. It’s a little different now, the world has changed and there’s no industry here and the redneck component is a lot smaller. But at the time when I was growing up there was this backdrop of family tragedy but there’s also the environment you’re in. If you liked punk rock music, the environment is hostile to you. Because of the people who lived there and the environment itself, the natural world. People come here for vacation now, but for me as a kid I tuned into this aspect of it, an almost ‘Lovecraftian’ cosmic horror of living in this tiny outpost of humanity surrounded by the woods. And not in a nice way. In a way that nature is constantly just trying to swallow up these little colonies of humanity and just doesn’t give a shit about you. This forest just doesn’t care about you. You’re insignificant compared to it. And those two thing, my mom passing away and that feeling of being here I think that translated into the way I started writing songs and how I wanted to communicate things. I wrote about landscapes and describing geography more than I wrote about personal relationships or love. I would rather write about that, this place. Existential horror with a bit of positivity thrown in there. Maybe there’s an exit. There’s dignity in feeling that bad.
Dan Boeckner and I spoke last week about the creation of Apologies to the Queen Mary. The last 7 parts of this conversation have been about the recording process and the year it took for the record to come together.
These next two parts are more personal. Dan spoke frankly with me about his personal life. He wanted to share with the fans what he was dealing with personally and how those events inspired his lyrics for his songs on Apologies. I want to truly thank Dan for sharing this with us. You can read today’s post in full here.
A lot of the songs on that first record are about Cowichan Lake. I’m a 15-minute drive from there right now. I’m gonna have dinner tonight at the house where a lot of those, at least the psychological component of those songs were born and incubated. I was trying to have my own voice and I think I figured it out on that record, just naturally. Cause the stuff I had done up to till then was really informed by a lot of other musicians, people I worked with in Victoria, a lot of the Atlas Strategic stuff has like wacky science fiction components in it, with failed attempts at humor. Before I moved to Montreal, my Mom died in a pretty horrible way. She had been ill for a really long time, since I was a child, with systemic Lupus. We always had these groups of doctors saying ‘all right get ready she’s gonna die, everybody prepare for the inevitable’. But it would just never happen. She’d always pull out of it at the last minute. Her lupus would go into remission and this was the backdrop to my childhood, up until I was in my mid 20’s.
Here’s the early EP version of Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts. From Wolf Parade’s self released EP 2. You can purchase it from Cheap Thrills:
Spencer Krug explains what the song is about and talks about the recording of the track in a 2005 interview with Cokemachineglow.com. Read this in full here.
In one particular Buddhist religion – and don’t ask me why I referred to something Buddhist – but there are these neat characters in Buddhism that are these tortured characters. They symbolize one of the levels of Hell. I forget the name for it – but there are a bunch of different levels of Hell, and one of them is this level where hypocrites and liars go; not the worst sins, sort of middle-ground punishment. And when they get there, they turn into hungry ghosts, that’s the best translation for it. And hungry ghosts are always thirsty, and always hungry. They’re sort of like that character Tantalus in Greek mythology: he can’t eat or drink, but he’s always hungry or thirsty. And these ghosts, they have really tiny throats, so if they try to eat, it chokes them and they die, because they only have these little straws for throats. I THINK that when they drink water it turns into fire. Yeah, so Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts is addressing my own generation, I guess. Insatiable thirsts, and hunger for whatever.
Fan made videos and art
Illustration by David Jackson. Inspired by Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts. Check out his amazing prints at InkPatch.net
You can see all the photos, videos, and illustrations inspired by Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts here.
Here is Part 7 of my talk with Dan about the recording of ‘Apologies’. Stay tuned for two more chapters from our talk, where Dan tells me about the inspiration behind his tracks from the record.
After we left the session (in Portland) they lost the multitrack version of Shine a Light. So when we got back to Montreal there was no Shine a Light. We had recorded Killing Armies and Shine a Light around the same time and I believe those are on the missing reels. We never got those reels back. So we had to re-record Shine A Light in Montreal. The existing version of that song is recorded on a Mac G-3 with a couple SM 57 mics and Tim Kingsbury playing bass. The version of Shine a Light that came out is not the studio version. We recorded it at our jam space on home recording equipment basically and just slotted it in with the record. Disco Sheets was also recorded this way.
Here’s an early version from the CBC Radio 3 session:
I still remember the first time I heard “Shine a Light.” I’d gotten a copy of Wolf Parade’s Apologies to the Queen Mary, and inexcusably slept on it for a while – I seem to do that with every album that becomes an all-time favourite – but when iTunes shuffled into this song sometime in 2006, I was floored. The opening riff is pure joy; what could it bring? A flood of synths, for one, then words more defiant than they first seem: Dan Boeckner doesn’t sleep ‘til it’s light; whiles away in an office tower; slogs away on public transit as he heads home to his loved one. Spencer Krug’s backing vocals kick in, no consonants, just sound, a synth of their own. Boeckner admits to waiting on something that’ll never arrive; but then, as Krug’s rejoicing vocals chug along, Boeckner builds another world instead of ceding control.
We got back to Montreal and I didn’t have a copy of the record. Nobody had a copy of the record. We couldn’t listen to it. Then we stopped hearing back from Isaac. So we had done this thing and nobody knew what it sounded like, it only existed in our minds. I was so fucking broke I was living on my friend’s couch in Hochelaga, which is a shitty suburb of Montreal. My girlfriend at the time had moved to Taiwan. So I just worked my ass off at my job for a month, saved up for a plane ticket, and flew to Taipei. When I got there she broke up with me and I lived in Taiwan for 3 ½ months after that. All in the back of my mind I’m thinking, there’s like a record, we did a record.
Possibly the only live version of this track was recorded at the CBC Radio 3 Sessions in November 2004.
There’s no question the lonesome crowded sound is here, but when Wolf Parade dig in and dust off their influences, the band rolls like a Ritalin-deprived power-Bowie or 70s Eno flexing piano-based hooks over Pixified rhythms. Component ingredients include electronics, keyboards, guitar, drums, and two spastically surging, forever tuneful vocalists (Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug), but there are also surprises: A theremin cries in the slow-poke “Same Ghost Every Night”– one of the longer tracks, it grows in pageantry as it swells to the six-minute mark
I found this short film titled ‘Same Ghost Every Night’ by writer/director Darren Anderson. Wolf Parade’s song ‘Fine Young Cannibals’ is playing at the 7:59 mark:
Check out the rest of the videos and photos as well as part 6 of my talk with Dan on the Same Ghost Every Night page.
Track 5 from Apologies To The Queen Mary is Fancy Claps
Here’s Part 5 from my talk with Dan. You can read the full post on the Fancy Claps page.
After ATP we toured our way back to Montreal. And that tour was fucking insane. It was everybody in the van. No one was coming to the shows. This is November 2004. So we played these small clubs that were huge distances from each other on a routing that would eventually get us back on Montreal. We played a terrible show in Phoenix where no one showed up, then drove to Denton, Texas and played an 80’s night between DJ’s. Our next show was in St Louis and that was kind of the nadir of the trip. It was our last show before we were supposed to go home. We played a show in Arkansas where Hadji passed out at the show, literally fell asleep on stage. We were just ground down. We had literally been out for over a month at this point, all of us getting pretty feral. I think the worst part of that whole thing, which started with us driving out to Portland to make the record, was when we played in St Louis at the Rocket Bar. That venue is basically the downstairs is the bar, there was a little step down to the bar and that’s where all the locals hang out. But if you pay a cover you could step up these tiny stairs and go see a band. The people that don’t pay cover are still in the bar and maybe they’re heckling you from there.
Love this cover that Brittany Scheffler submitted:
“We Built Another World” is about this time she and I went to a Halloween party and got thrown out for breakdancing. And also fighting with some people. We were super-drunk and on this street laughing, and it started snowing. It was the first snow I’d ever seen in Montreal. And we ended up in the back of this cab just making out.
Listen to this early version from EP 2, which you can purchase from Cheap Thrills
Oh my god man, I mean just listen to “We Built a Another World”. That’s the track that’s about how awful it is go out at night to parties, but how you’ve got to because that’s the only place you can exist on your own terms. There’s a feeling of being trapped there, a feeling that you could call Springsteen-ian if you wanted, of poetry and romanticism, but the two meet each other and never resolve. “I had a bad, bad time tonight” goes the chorus. There’s such a footstomping beat to its chorus, its determination whim the low “whoa whoa”s that you can’t help sing along. The catchiest part of the song is the part where you can’t give up on what you’ve built.
A selection of Part 4 from my talk with Dan about the recording of Apologies:
After the CBC Radio 3 session Spencer and I flew down to Los Angeles to listen to mixes and mix with Chris Chandler and Isaac. I remember Issac had done a pretty great job mixing and Chris was backing him up. But we went to LA and we just didn’t like the mixes. They were very polished. Isaac had just come out of making Good News for People Who Like Bad News. Issac had never worked in a pop studio format before and I think he had to do all sorts of stuff he’d never done before. Like tons of vocal comping and having 4 pro tools set ups running at the same time. So he was in that mindset, with vocals way up front, like everything being really clean. I remember that being the biggest problem we had with the original mixes.
Here’s part of the incredible story of how the title of the record came to be, as told by Hadji Bakara in a 2006 interview:
The Queen Mary was basically the nexus and the sleeping quarters for everyone who was playing All Tomorrow’s Parties and the bar closed really early. I mean it was literally a boatload of musicians and the bar shut down at like midnight or something. Our friends from Frog Eyes were also in town, so they came down. Whenever closing time was, I don’t really remember, but at some point we eventually got kicked out of the bar. Security on the Queen Mary was nice enough, though, to unlock a door that got us onto this area of the boat that was usually restricted and told us that we could make as much noise as we wanted because we wouldn’t disturb anyone.
You can read the rest of the story and my conversation with Dan, as well as David Grossman’s essay at the main page for We Built Another World.