Divine Fits (©Pamela Littky)
Dan Boeckner dishes on his new supergroup Divine Fits
By Litsa Dremousis
Special to MSNMusic
It is perhaps time for physicists or cultural anthropologists to study how the '80s revival has now lasted longer than the decade itself. Equally worthy of examination is how Divine Fits, the new indie supergroup comprised of Spoon's Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade's Dan Boeckner and New Bomb Turks' Sam Brown, has released a record, "A Thing Called Divine Fits," that draws heavily from the era but still sounds wonderfully kinetic and fresh and dodges hoary nostalgia.
Boeckner and Daniel share songwriting duties and the results, "My Love Is Real," "For Your Heart," "Like Ice Cream" and eight others, immediately enter your bloodstream, undoubtedly rendering it the same neon red and yellow that graces the album's cover.
Divine Fits have just kicked off a short U.S. tour that is a prelude to a much longer crisscross of North America. Audience and critical reception has been frenzied, and we spoke with Boeckner via phone while he was at an airport the day after the first show. He discussed how he and Daniel write songs, the importance of legendary producer Nick Launay to the band's process, why he never forgets how lucky he is to no longer toil at his day job and why his fellow airline passengers need to get their act together.
MSN: This record could be the great Cars album they never reformed and made. I mean that as a compliment.
DB: And I take it as a compliment.
MSN: And it sounds a little like Split Enz and Missing Persons, but it's not some kind of nostalgic homage. How did you guys work on this in the studio?
DB: We worked really hard on the songs before we went into the studio and played. We'd played the songs live as a band and recorded them, then took the live recordings back to the studio and tweaked them a little bit, changed the arrangements. We'd come up with a sound or an arrangement that we really liked. And [producer] Nick Launay -- he's been involved with so many great projects [Public Image LTD, Midnight Oil] -- so working with Nick was really great. We knew we wanted to work with Nick. A lot of planning that went into it. Neither Britt nor myself is the kind of guy who has any interest in f--king around. You know, for me, I had so many sh--ty day jobs, so no matter how tired I am on tour, I never forget I get to make my living playing music now, whether it's a new project or a tour. And Britt and Sam and Nick are the same way. So there was never a question of, "We're just going to toss up a piece of audio."
MSN: When were you able to quit your day job?
DB: In 2005. But not because I was making enough money to quit it. [Laughs.] I quit it because I basically had a choice. I was going to eat s--t for a year waiting for the royalties and the guarantees from the Wolf Parade shows to get better, you know? I could have done that, or I could have hamstrung our career by keeping my job at the pharmaceutical company I was working at. I was doing statistical analysis for a pharmaceutical company. It was a totally soul-crushing, low-paying drone job. And it was better than the manual labor job I had before and it was better than working at a bar, because I got to practice at night. So, I quit my job and was broke and was homeless for about a year and a half. And I even went to Taiwan for a couple months to teach English to try to scrape together some cash. I guess around 2006, or maybe late 2005, that's when things started picking up. And I feel incredibly lucky.
MSN: This current tour is pretty short. Are you also going to do a longer one?
DB: I think the biggest surprises came when we went and played shows before
anyone knew the album would be sold. That was surprising. And great. Last night
in Seattle, the crowd reception was off the charts. It felt really good. I felt
our audience last night was
MSN: That's a compliment because, as I'm sure you're aware, Seattle audiences can be notoriously undemonstrative.
DB: Yeah, people were losing it last night and I've played there enough to
know that's not an everyday occurrence. It makes me happy. With other bands I've
been in, it's happened a couple of times. With this one, it just
MSN: Will there be a second Divine Fits record?
DB: Definitely, there will be another Divine Fits record. I'm looking forward to playing more shows with this band and writing more songs. I'm going to try to write a couple more songs for the tour. Who knows when we'll get to record them, but we want to write more tunes because everyone's having such a good time and I feel like this record is just kind of the beginning for us creatively. Everything is subject to the good of the song. That's something we sort of decided early on. We didn't really talk about it. It's just how it happened. That's how I like to work.
MSN: Who have you gotten to meet who you really respect, but might not have met if you weren't a successful musician?
DB: I've gotten to meet all the people in my favorite contemporary bands. I got to meet Lou Reed, which was cool. You know, my friend Isaac Brock [Modest Mouse, Ugly Casanova]. I met him before, back when I was still playing in hardcore bands. We've been friends for years. I have more respect for that guy, more than I have for almost anyone in the music industry. You know, Isaac came from absolutely nothing. And he built a life for himself. He was kind of a redneck, I mean that in the best possible way, and he didn't even fit in with the punk rockers he was with. He wasn't a "cool" kid. He was a redneck with some big ideas.
MSN: I know you're about to catch a plane. What have you learned from all these years on the road?
DB: People in North America need to learn how to line up for a f--king airplane. [Laughs.] We flew out of Seattle yesterday and our flight was twenty-five minutes late because motherf--kers can't line up properly. "We'd like to invite our gold members and we'd like to get the people with wheelchairs on the plane, then people with small children." Every f--king idiot at the gate stands up and starts to run around. I'm like, you have a ticket, your bags are already on the plane, you're going to get on the plane. Sit the f--k down and wait for your row to be called. If you're at the gate and you have a ticket, you're going to get on. Just sit down.
Litsa Dremousis' work also appears in The Believer, Esquire, Jezebel, Huffington Post, McSweeney's, New York Magazine, The Onion's A.V. Club, Slate on KUOW, NPR, and in sundry other venues. She is completing her first novel. On Twitter: @LitsaDremousis