Between winning the SiriusXM Indie Award for rock artist of the year and debuting a behind-the-scenes studio documentary, Toronto five-piece Wildlife is having a big year. Frontman Dean Povinsky talks about clichéd heart metaphors, Bruce Springsteen, and what happens between albums.
How did the environment and the sorts of smaller shows you played in Scotland, where Wildlife began, inform the band’s personality and sound?
I don’t think it changed the kind of music we played but, coming back to Toronto, I had a clearer vision of what I wanted to do and didn’t want to do. It made me realize how much I like Canada and how great the music scene is here. I appreciate it a lot now.
Yeah. Like a lot of people do at that point in their lives, I crammed a lot into one period of time. That definitely informed the spirit of Strike Hard. It deals a lot with the naivety of adventure and the kinds of decisions you make at that time in your life.
Strike Hard’s follow-up, On The Heart, is more mature and contemplative. What happened in the life of the band that caused that change?
It’s all healthy stuff, but it had to do with the starkness of certain realities—dealing with things that are not always so bright, but trying to find some light in the darkness. Even in a terrible situation, you can always find something good in there, or something to learn, even though, at some point in your life, you get sick of learning from mistakes. You want to just do things right.
Of your last album, you wrote, “the heart is too complex to be summed up in a catchphrase.” How does that thought encompass the album’s lyrics?
I wanted to attack the very clichéd lyrical notion [of the heart] from all angles—physical, emotional, psychological, what it means to different people, and how it stands as a metaphor. Maybe we overanalyzed it a bit. It’s such a complicated and overused metaphor, but maybe it’s so archetypal that no one had gone full tilt with it. We wanted that lyrical theme to perforate the whole album.
One of the album’s singles, “Born to Ruin,” is one letter off from “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen, who you cite as an influence. Is that a case of modifying the “Born to Run” catchphrase and taking it to a new place?
Yeah. I love the idea of juxtaposing things. That’s a big part of what our band is. We have darker, more brooding-sounding music with positive lyrics, and then we’ll write a piece of more upbeat, uplifting music and put the darker, more twisted lyrics in that one.
[Director] Brendan [McCarney] approached us about doing something, and we’d been thinking about doing something anyway. We didn’t have any big idea [about what it should be] going into it. I liked the film as it turned out, and the nice surprise about it was that it wasn’t anything like any of the discussions we had about what kind of movie we would be interested in seeing. It’s a decent portrait of the band at that time.
Fairly. It’s always strange to be on camera for something that doesn’t normally involve you being on camera. The first few days were sort of weird, but then you get over it and move on. Brendan’s a great guy and he’s gone on tour with us before. He carved out personalities that may or may not be a little exaggerated, but it was interesting to watch.
Are there any ideas, motifs, or themes that have emerged since the last album that may inform the next album?
Every time we do something, we like to do it differently, put ourselves in a new environment, and change the creative aspect of it. We’ve decided that, on the next record we make, we’re going to do exactly what we want to do—well, I guess that’s what we do anyway. But we’re going to attack some of the things that we’ve wanted to try for a long time that we haven’t really gotten a chance to do yet. Making an album centred on a theme is great, but sometimes you want to be as experimental and interesting as possible. This is a point in the band where we’re sort of tearing it all down and seeing what we’re going to do next. We’re talking about adding all kinds of different things into the mix: backup singers, horn sections… A lot of people are super concerned with getting stuff on the radio. We were lucky that some songs from our last album got played on the radio, which is cool and everything. But when you talk about what happens between albums, it’s about making sure that you’re happy with the things you created. It’s great to make money as an artist, but it’s also easy to let your soul slip away.