NUVO: I'm calling from Indy where you'll be at the end of the week. We're very excited to see you.
Dan Boeckner: I'm excited to play.
NUVO: I'd love to hear about the breakdown of vocals in your writing with Britt. How do you decide who is going to do what?
Boeckner: A lot of material on the record started as a skeleton. Bass and drums or a guitar part and a vocal that Britt and I brought to each other and then worked on fleshing it out. Usually whoever brought the genesis of the idea ended up singing on that track. But there were some songs like “What Gets You Alone” where Britt wrote the music for that and couldn't figure out the singing for it. So he gave it to me and I came up with some singing for it. He didn't tell me when he gave it to me that it was really really hard. It's kind of a super weird, complicated song. But I got it, I figured it out. That was one of the first songs we worked on together.
For “Would That Not Be Nice,” that's a bass part I came up with and a guitar part he came up with as part of a jam. I think it was the second rehearsal we ever had together with Sam [Brown, the drummer and member of New Bomb Turks]. We recorded it on an iPhone. We cut it up into segments and sang over it, then went back and rearranged it. Alex came in with a keyboard part at the end. So the song-writing process has been kind of all over the place for this album.
NUVO: Would you consider it fluid — a natural experience — compared to some of your other bands?
Boeckner: I wouldn't necessarily call it more fluid. It was easy to write the songs, but the arrangements...I think I spent more time on the arrangements for this record than any other. That's because Britt — I think Britt and the way we work together is really focused and detail oriented. I like that.
NUVO: You've been a part of so many groups. Is this your only band right now?
Boeckner: Yes, it is.
NUVO: How does it feel to just be doing one?
Boeckner: It's new for me. I guess for a few years I was just doing Wolf Parade. And then, simultaneously had Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs. And then I had Handsome Furs and Divine Fits, before anybody knew about Divine Fits. And now, I just have this band. It's interesting.
NUVO: Did you feel that Divine Fits was going to make the splash that it has? That it was inevitable based on who was in the group — that you would get a significant amount of buzz? I hate that word.
Boeckner: No, but it's the right word. I did feel like people would probably pay attention to it more than if I hadn't been in any other bands, and Britt hadn't been in any other bands. People are already introduced to us. But I have been surprised in how positive it's been.
NUVO: Well, luckily, you made a great record. I'd love to talk about your plans to tour internationally. I know you've spent significant amount of time in Burma and China, Russia, a lot of places.
Boeckner: We do have an Australian tour that includes Singapore. We'll go to Europe next year, and probably after that Russia. It's funny — I have so many contacts internationally from touring with the Furs that on the front end of that Australian tour, I'm actually going to go to Burma and hang out with my friends there. It should be very interesting. It's a different country than it was a few years ago.
When I told them I was coming, they said, “Oh my gosh, you guys have to come and play in Burma.” And I said, first time over is probably not going to make sense for us to come to Burma. I was trying to explain to them it's not just two people in the band (like in the Furs). It's three people and a crew. That being said, one thing I am looking forward to is that I know when we go to Europe we can go play in Zagreb or wherever if everybody wants to. It's kind of a luxury I have after touring so much with the Furs — that I have those close contacts in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
NUVO: Well, Indianapolis actually has the largest Burmese population in the United States.
Boeckner: I did not know that!
The next several minutes were consumed with me telling Boeckner about Burmese music in Indy and him telling me about his experiences playing in Burma. I would happily transcribe those minutes here, but we're planning more expansive coverage of the Burmese population in Indy, and I will be following up with Dan to talk more about his experiences with Burmese music. I did manage to give him a few restaurant recommendations for good Burmese local food, however!
NUVO: I'd love to ask you a few more specific questions about this project. So, I read that you used to be a chef — you're seeking Burmese food in Indy. Food-wise, do you hate the touring lifestyle because you're eating a lot of fast food, stuff on the go — or do you love it because you can try new regional cuisines?
Boeckner: I love trying new regional stuff on the road. If you're really grinding it out, like eight shows in a row and you're on a bus and you have time to get a good meal — it makes the food even better. It's such a luxury on tour. You get dropped in this town and you often get recommendations for food.
On the other hand, a lot of the in-between places, you're eating an egg sandwich at a truck stop. Or garbage food. The more I tour, the more I've figured out what to eat and what not to eat from a gas station.
NUVO: What's your number one gas station snack?
Boeckner: Probably trail mix, because it's not going to make you feel terrible. And I'm not a vegetarian or anything. The bad stuff to get is like Doritos and any kind of junk food. Deep fried chicken fingers, that kind of stuff. It's good at the time, but when you're on the bus...I mean, everybody knows this! You're just poisoning yourself.
NUVO: Slowly and on a bus. I know you've talked a bit about different things you were listening to a lot of AC/DC during the recording of This is Divine Fits. Can you point to any moments on the record that are indebted to your gratuitous AC/DC listening at the time?
Boeckner: “Would That Not Be Nice” and “Like Ice Cream” both have AC/DC moments in them. “Like Ice Cream” is like a psychedelicized stretched-out AC/DC song. “Would That Not Be Nice,” those big guitar tones really remind me of AC/DC — those big guitars chords.
NUVO: Where's this band's home?
Boeckner: It's LA. We're an LA band. Our keyboard player was born and raised there. I'm a transplant from Montreal, Britt's a transplant and Sammie lives in Ohio. We rehearse in LA, we wrote all our songs in LA. We're a transplant band. Not the first, and definitely not the last.
NUVO: How'd you decide to cover a Frank Ocean song?
Boeckner: When Channel Orange came out — I think it came out midnight on the day of the release — I listened to it a couple of times. The next day we were driving to practice at Bedrock Studios in LA and I put it on in the car, Britt and I were driving up there. I said, “You've got to hear this song.” It actually reminded me of Spoon in a lot of ways. The rhythm section is super Spoon-y. So, I was like, “Britt's going to looooove this!” And he did. So we kind of created this really stripped-down version with no bass, just two guitars and floaty keys over top.
NUVO: And other songs you've been covering lately?
Boeckner: We started doing “Sway” by the Rolling Stones. It's been really fun — I love that song, that smacked-out, dirgy rock song. I like that.
NUVO: And this will probably be my last question. We're so close to the election — I know that you're Canadian, but have you been doing any campaigning or working on any causes before Nov. 6?
Boeckner: I did write a column for the Seattle weekly about the Vice Presidential debates. THey asked me to cover them. I'm fairly political. It was nice for me to be able to do that. I can't vote in America — I have a three year residency work visa. Hopefully I'll eventually get citizenship so I can vote. But it was nice to be asked to share my opinion with the readers in the papers.
This Paul Ryan guy is a fucking Rand-droid. Here's a guy who's taking this Ayn Rand neo-conservative bullshit. America spent the last eight years (during the Bush presidency) getting fucked in the ass by people like this guy and his idea of what capitalism and democracy is. Just to have to sit and watch him and listen to him? He reminds me of the kind of go-getting nerd that was bullied in high school and just turns completely evil. Underneath that plastic-y veneer he's a vindictive little weasel.
NUVO: Luckily Biden had none of it.
Boeckner: No, Biden served him, but the really sad thing was after the debate. I was filing my story for this paper and looking at newsfeeds — and reading all of these pseudo-liberal papers. The LA Times praised Paul Ryan and said the debate was a draw because Paul Ryan “didn't make any serious blunders.” And if that is how a national paper is reporting on that, then that means there's something completely wrong with the state of journalism in America.
...But again, I'm Canadian!
A Thing Called Divine FIts