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Divine Fits

Divine Fits

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Thursday 4th October, 2012 9:02AM

Dan Boecker is the ex-front man of both Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs, two cult Canadian bands that have ended in the last twelve months. He now has a new project, a super group of sorts called Divine Fits, with Spoon front man Britt Daniel. UTR caught up with Boeckner to discuss the decline of his previous bands and the advent of this new one. Divine Fits will also play the 2013 Laneway Festival, and you can head over here for more information on this event.

Hey Dan, so you’ve got a new band, Divine Fits. It must be exciting to have a brand new project?

Yeah it really is, it’s really exciting. It’s been a while since I’ve played with a rock 'n roll band so I’m pretty happy. I really love playing music so having a new band after the previous two was really important.

How did the Divine Fits project come about?

Well Britt and I met when we were touring Wolf Parade’s first record, and he was a fan of the band. I’ve always been a big fan of Spoon too, so we hit it off and started hanging out and became friends over the next few years. We played a bunch of shows together - I joined him onstage at Radio City Music Hall because they were covering a Wolf Parade song at the time and he got me up to sing that. We spent a lot of time together.

Then late the year before last we were talking about doing a project together – making a rock band happen – and then a couple months later he called me and said ‘I’m serious, let’s do this’ and so we did. We had to wait for a while for Handsome Furs touring cycle for Sound Kapital to finish but as soon as that was over I started to write songs with Britt and then eventually moved here [to L.A] and then that was that.

Obviously Spoon and Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs have different and distinct styles. How did you two approach merging those sounds?

Well when we first got together the only meeting or talk we ever had about what the band was going to sound like was pretty early on, and we both agreed that we shouldn’t have any rules attached to the project. We shouldn’t make it like "we decide on what we should sound like and write songs in that format". We just decided that whatever we wrote would end up sounding like whatever Divine Fits was supposed to sound like, you know?

I combined two different styles of songwriting I’ve been working on for years which is firstly, the more rock-based, Wolf Parade stuff and then secondly my more electronic, keyboard-based Handsome Furs elements. Britt did what he does and we mashed it up together and edited eachother’s songs, and then came up with this record.

Did you struggle to achieve a cohesive sound on the record?

I think it just happened naturally. We didn’t go in with any preconceived notions over whether that would be difficult or not. I thought about it a couple of times; I wondered whether things would mesh well but as soon as we started actually working on the songs and editing them it became pretty clear that the band was going to sound like it sounds so we just kind of took it from there.

Now that the album is a finished product, how would you describe it?

I think we came up with a record that is tough and minimal in a lot of ways, and I think it pushed Britt outside of his comfort zones and it pushed me outside some of mine. When I listen to it objectively now I can hear elements of all these different things that I like and all these classic rock elements and krautrock elements and post punk and stuff like that. To me it just sounds like me an Britt which I’m proud of that you know.

Has writing a more classic rock album been something that you’ve always wanted to do or was it particularly when the opportunity to work with Britt came up that you wanted to do it?

It just kind of naturally happened that way. I got to explore parts of my songwriting process that I didn’t necessarily get to do with my other bands. For instance on ‘The Sultan Sea’ or ‘Baby Get Worse’ are obviously krautrock influenced, that was something I probably couldn’t have gotten away with in Wolfparade or Handsome Furs.

I didn’t think too much about it because I was going through a pretty turbulent emotional time when we recorded it so a lot of the music that I wrote is directly related to that which I think added something different to the record.

It must have been nice to work on something that didn’t have rules. Was it cathartic going into something where the result wasn't pre-prescribed?

Yeah it really was, it felt good. The songwriters I respect are people like Nick Cave and Joe Strummer, and I've always felt like those people always wrote for themselves. With Nick Cave, you listen to his records and the guy inhabits his own universe and he’s not playing the role of Nick Cave for Nick Cave fans: he wrote for himself. If I've learned anything playing music in the last nine or ten years you can’t imagine what your audience is going to want to hear from you, you just have to be confident that if you actualize the sounds you have in your head people will come with you, they’ll follow you there. And then you can a little respect for yourself at the end of the day too, because otherwise it’s like you’re working at a junk food company trying to manufacturing a bunch of Doritos that everybody is going to like. You’re sitting there being like "everybody is going to love these Spicy Bluberry Doritos" and then hope to god that’s what the kids are liking now. That’s the wrong way to do things.

I interviewed you when you were doing promotion for the last Handsome Furs record, and you mentioned that Wolf Parade was really hard toward the end. How does it feel to be in a band without any longstanding politics?

Well Handsome Furs is an anomaly because I don’t think I can really compare the artistic or working relationship of Handsome Furs with either of the other two bands. It was such a bizarrely personal project in a lot of ways: it was me writing songs with my wife and travelling and accumulating experience and then writing about the things that we saw and the things that we did. When you sleep in the same bed with somebody and are romantically involved with them and you write songs together, that’s a different type of creative partnership than me and Britt have or me and Spencer had.

Right from the beginning half of the people in Wolf Parade wanted something completely different to the other half of the band, and the only thing we agreed on was making music together: not how to distribute that music, not how to play it, not where to play it, not how to present it as a commercial product to support our respective lives which is you know something you have to do. Nobody in Wolf Parade came from privileged backgrounds so it wasn’t like we could just muck around and make a record and then be like "OK I’m just going to finish my business degree and then get a job at my parents company" or wait for my inheretence and move to Brooklyn and be a quote-unquote artist. So that created a lot of tension in the band and I think that tension was one thing that people really liked about us.

It was pretty obvious that Spencer and I were both coming from different places in songwriting and then Wolf Parade was this meeting point, and the tension spilled over into the music but after three albums it got to the point where nobody wanted the same things. Half of the band did not want to tour anymore. Half of the band didn’t want to tour to the point where we had a tour of Australia booked which was then cancelled because they didn’t realize that we’d be flying instead of renting a van. Which is fine, some people don’t want to tour, some people don’t have a good time on the road, but it just got to be too much. It did get to the point where we weren’t going to be friends anymore and that would have been a fucking tragedy because I grew up with those guys. I spent my twenties with those guys, they were at my wedding, they’re the closest thing I have to a family right now and it would have been an absolute tragedy if those relationships weren’t preserved. And actually tomorrow night Spencer is coming to L.A with his band MoonFace and I'm going to go see them and then they’re going to stay at my house which I’m really looking forward to. So this is the benefit of not being in Wolf Parade anymore: I’m looking forward to having some drinks with Spencer and Dante at my place.

I guess the difference between that and Divine Fits is the editing process: it’s not separated into 'Britt songs' and 'Dan songs'. Everything we did on the record and everything we do when we write songs is for the benefit of the songs and not for the benefit of the persons ego who wrote the song or came up with the guitar part or vocal line, and that’s kind of new for me and I really enjoyed it.

Do you see this as a one-off album or do you see this as a band that has legs that will tour and release more albums?

Oh no we never saw this as a recording project or anything. I think if it was a recording project we probably would have put something in a press release that it’s like a one-off thing. I’m happy with that because I never really do lab experiments musically. I put in a lot of personal energy and emotion and time into writing songs and into the simple mechanics of being in a band, and I feel like it would be ridiculous to put that much energy in and then not have the pay off of playing in front of an audience and making more records.