Toronto-based Arts & Crafts Productions has been hailed as a record label, an arts collective and a successful business, but its hardworking staff and artists unanimously agree that it is first and foremost a family. This weekend, the label will celebrate its tenth anniversary with the day-long Field Trip music festival, featuring Feist, Stars, Ra Ra Riot – and, at the top of the bill, a reunion of Broken Social Scene, the sprawling group led by label co-founder Kevin Drew. “Broken Social Scene was the rocket ship that started it,” says label co-founder Jeff Remedios, who launched Arts & Crafts with Drew back in 2003 in order to release BSS’ You Forgot It In People.
On Saturday, Broken Social Scene will play that breakthrough album in its entirety. The show will mark their first full performance since going on hiatus at the end of 2011. “Of course I think it’s too soon!” says Drew with a laugh. “But we’re not going to make a new record – we’re just going to get up onstage and enjoy it. Though our values have changed as individuals, we accomplished that one thing together, so it’s always nice to go back and remember why and how and what the purpose was.”
Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning echoes Drew’s thoughts. “Whatever a hiatus means, it’s been happening,” says Canning. “But it’s not like we’re enemies. It just makes perfect sense to get together with our friends and play a gig for the sake of playing a gig.”
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Band member Jason Collett says to expect something “akin to a family reunion. There’s going to be a lot of high fives and hugs going on.”
Metric and BSS member Jimmy Shaw (who, along with Emily Haines, will be absent from Saturday’s festivities) says it’s hard to overestimate the impact that Arts & Crafts had on the Toronto music scene a decade ago. “Everyone in Toronto, whether they knew it or not, was waiting for it to happen,” he says. “One of the reasons why I got the news in Los Angeles when this label happened was because there was no industry [in Toronto] that would support the kind of music that I wanted to make and the kind of music that I saw all my friends making at the time.”
Since then, Arts & Crafts has grown from a tiny independent venture into an international brand, with over 150 releases by 40 artists. After skipping any celebration for its five-year anniversary in 2008, Remedios thought this summer would be a good time to reflect on the label’s history. “I get the need to look backwards for love, like anniversaries in dating, but when companies do it, I’m scared that it’s just entirely self-serving,” Remedios says. “We’ve always been too busy looking at where we’re going as opposed to where we’ve been. But with 10 years coming up, we felt like it’s been enough time that we should stop and try to honor where we’ve come from.”
Drew says he’s proud of everything Arts & Crafts has accomplished. “I feel like it’s been a big chunk of my life,” he says. “It’s been nice to go and look back at what we did. It’s been hard at times – but it just exposes you to a lot of the efforts that a lot of these people made. We had failures, because failure just comes with winning, but moving forward is the only way to really keep going. I’m still taken aback by it all, right now, as we speak.”