There was a time when the word "supergroup" was reserved for bands like the Traveling Wilburys, but lately it's been flying around the work of Divine Fits, the brand-new project Spoon frontman Britt Daniel makes up with Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs, and drummer Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks.
Even if nowadays the term is more of a catch-all for what's basically a bunch of friends making music outside their long-established projects, Daniel assures me Divine Fits is "super," and the carefully curated new wave sheen of their debut album A Thing Called Divine Fits supports the claim. With producer Nick Launay (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Arcade Fire, David Byrne) at the helm, Fits builds on the gravel-flecked tone of Spoon's lo-fi rock with a clean pop buzz bathed in synthesizers and dance floor beats.
We recently caught up with Daniel for a chat about the venture and he shared his thoughts on forming the new group, Jessica Dobson, and how you should vote this coming November. Divine Fits play the Crocodile tomorrow (8/30) at 8pm with Black Whales.What has it been like performing live with your newly formed group?
I'm excited about it. It's been a lot of fun, and I was just saying to somebody, when we all got on stage for the first time, we were kind of looking at each other, shocked at what it felt like. It was kind of surprising. We've been doing a lot of real small shows, and it was weird to have written all the songs and finished the record and then some and still never played a show. It felt really good to finally be able to do that, there was a lot of tension being built up that we finally got to release.
Everyone is pegging Divine Fits as a "supergroup." What do you make of the tag?
Well, we are super. I don't know, I'm fine with people saying what they need to say, I mean, something has to be said. It could be worse. It's not a term we ever thought about once until the day we announced the band and then all of a sudden that word kept coming up. I mean, the reason we're playing together isn't because some managers got together in a board room and decided this would be something that would sell. It's because I've known Dan for five years and we always try to hang out when we're in the same town. We're buddies and our bands have played shows together. We like each other, we like each others' music, and it just kind of happened.
How did you connect with Sam [Brown]?
Spoon producer Mike McCarthy suggested him. I was recording a couple demos with Mike last summer, just my own stuff, and I said, "We need to get a drummer." He asked me to describe the perfect drummer and I did and he said, "I know who that is; it's this guy Sam Brown, he lives in Columbus, Ohio, and we should get him down here." So her came down and we had a great time doing those demos, and after Dan and I planned to get together several months later, I suggested we get Sam down to have somebody to keep time.
How did you come to work with Nick Launay on this record?
He was recommended to us by Win Butler of Arcade Fire. I had a lot of Nick's records but I didn't know who he was, though I had probably read his name several times. When Win suggested him I looked up his resume and he seemed like a good fit, and luckily he was really into it from the beginning. We sent him some rough demos and he was like, "Yup, when do we start?"
With your history of largely co-produced albums, what was it like to hand over the reins to this seasoned vet of the industry?
Well, this was a co-production as well. But you never know what that's going to be like when you work with someone for the first time. I guess it did feel a little bit risky, and Dan and Sam and I thought about working with somebody that we'd worked with before. Sam and I worked with Mike McCarthy, and we thought about working with him, and Dan suggested a guy who had produced a lot of his stuff, but we just kind of felt like this if is a new thing, we should really be doing something brand new all around, in as many ways as we could. We wanted to work with new people and do as many things differently as possible, to push ourselves, to make sure this thing has its own identity.
You and Dan wear interchangeable hats on the album and both play bass, keys, guitar, sing, and compose songs. Was that a conscious effort from the two of you, or is that just how things shaped up in the studio?
Originally, I kind of wanted to play bass myself, but there were certain songs that I brought in, like "Shivers," that only I knew how to play on guitar, so it made sense for me to play it the way I knew it as we were learning it. But then Dan came up with this bass line that was something I never would have thought of. It kind of just happened. Dan had the bass after we played "Shivers" and he started playing some riffs and I started adding to the riff and that ended up being "Would That Not Be Nice."
"Shivers," isn't that a Nick Cave song?
Yeah, it's a song Nick Cave sang in his first band called Boys Next Door, but it was written by another guy in that band called Rowland S. Howard. The first time I heard it I thought it was just a song that Nick Cave wrote but actually it's a song by this guy who was just 16 when he wrote those lyrics. Pretty nice.
But it's kind of funny because Launay produced a number of Nick Cave records.
Exactly. It was really a coincidence. I brought that song in long before I heard the name Nick Launay, and then someone suggested him and I saw how many Nick Cave and Grinderman records he'd been involved with, and it was pretty weird. I think it was a sign.
How did Jessica Dobson get involved on the album?
I first met her when she was playing with Beck; Spoon played a show with Beck and we met that night and stayed in touch. I tried to figure out if there was a way we could work on something together. I had her play at several Spoon shows and she'd come up and be a special guest musician on a few songs. We stayed in touch like that. I actually really wanted her to be in this band, and I think she kind of wanted to too, but she signed up with the Shins for at least a year or something like that. It didn't work out so I asked her to sing on "Flaggin A Ride."
How did you land your spot on the upcoming Moogfest bill? Did you ever see yourself playing such a synth-specific music fest?
Yeah, I don't know, I think they just asked us. I had heard of the fest but had never been invited to play it before. I was thrilled, I think it's going to be fun. I like Asheville.
My editor was telling me he interviewed you a while back and said you're kind of a political junkie, that your views are mostly liberal but you keep an eye on sites like the Drudge Report. As a political and current events enthusiast, what advice do you have for our voting readers during this coming election?
My suggestion is to not trust your vote with anyone who would name his son Tagg. It's just a hunch.