While Dan Snaith (aka Caribou) has a Ph.D. in mathematics, a degree

While Dan Snaith (aka Caribou) has a Ph.D. in mathematics, a degree in Darwin-inspired biology seems more appropriate. During his 15-year career, the veteran electronic producer has continuously evolved. The IDM of his early Manitoba releases expanded into psychedelia on Up in Flames, followed by the krautrock/’60s pop of The Milk of Human Kindness and the Polaris Music Prize winner Andorra. Snaith’s extensive DJ performances in Europe then inspired the club-influenced Swim, which surged into The Guardian’s, Pitchfork’s, Spin’s, and Mojo’s top-20 lists.

Caribou’s latest album, 2014’s Our Love, continues the club journey while comprehensively synthesizing Snaith’s various paths into one of 2014’s best releases. His astutely precise mixing of adventurous electronic pop, deep house, and R&B-infused dance melodies here is a study in reinventing, rather than regurgitating, popular trends. The Canadian-born producer chatted with me from his London home about the joys of playing two shows in one night, the future of contemporary music, what influenced Our Love, and why it’s his most personal album to date.


Your albums have explored various genres over the years. What inspires you to continually expand your sound?

Snaith: It’s because I’m a music fan first. I’m always searching for music that’s new to me—both new music and old—and my excitement for that stuff can’t help but inform the music I’m making. I’m always listening to a variety of music, but you can pretty accurately date the main type of thing I was interested in by the music I was making at that time.

Your interests include long DJ performances. Rumor has it you played a nine-hour set at Horst in Berlin. Did you have a catheter hooked up? How is it even physically possible to DJ that long?

Yeah. Somehow I didn’t even go to the toilet during that one. When the promoter pointed that out after I finished, I suddenly had to go more than I ever have before in my life. The time just flies by during those long DJ sets, though. I’d much rather than do that than a shorter one—you have more control over the mood in the room, et cetera, and can share more music you love, which is what it’s all about for me anyway.

Did your famously long DJ sets, and the recording of the club-oriented Daphni album [another of Snaith’s pseudonyms], influence the dance direction of

Our Love


I think so, but also largely because in the last six or so years, most of the exciting music I’ve heard production-wise has come from the club world. Not the glossy EDM world, but underground dance-music productions. That and contemporary R&B. It seems to me like that’s clearly where things are moving the fastest in contemporary music at the moment. There’s definitely an element of wanting to respond to that—not necessarily fit in with it, but to have my own take on what’s going on.

Our Love

feels intimate and personal. You’ve said in other interviews that it’s comprehensive of all the things that matter in your life. Talk about how your personal life influences your music.

The music is entirely saturated in my personal life. People will interpret the music in all sorts of ways, which is something I love and revel in. But for me, it’s impossible to listen to this album and not hear someone in their mid-30s with a young child, and friends getting divorced, and starting to reflect on mortality and how things change over the time scale of a human life, because that’s where my parents’ generation are. It’s a record that I never would have made when I was younger. Not that that’s good or bad particularly, but rather that I’m happy with how it diarizes my life—when I listen to it 10 or 20 years from now, if I listen to it, it will be like a photo album that reminds me of this time.

How did the success of


impact your approach to

Our Love

? Did you feel pressure to live up to expectations, or did it free you by giving you more confidence to continue exploring what comes natural?

The latter. It made me really aware for the first time that people were waiting for a new album from me, and it felt like a vote of confidence. That was the first impulse I had—to make a record that reached out to everyone who was going to hear it and to impart more of my personal life in there.

Let’s talk about your show. In the studio, you operate primarily as a solo artist playing most of the instruments. However, live you perform with a full band. Talk about your choice to incorporate live musicians into your shows.

There are four of us in the band, and we’ve been playing together a long time. Ryan Smith [guitar, keys] and I have been in bands together since we were in high, school so I guess that’s more than 20 years! Brad Weber [drums] joined the band in 2007, and John Schmersal in 2009. They’re all super-close friends as well as being talented musicians, and the show is put together equally by all of us and not just by me dictating what we’re going to do. I feel like that’s what makes the show, hopefully, special—that the songs take on a life of their own because we know each other so well musically and can intuit what each other are going to do when we’re playing. For me, it’s almost a separate thing from the albums, and something that we all put lots of work into making sure it’s as good as possible and that it develops as we tour.

You have two Seattle shows on the same day. How do you approach a double-header, and how do you keep each show fresh? Does your early all-ages show differ from the later 21-and-over show?

We’ve done these double-headers a bunch of times, actually, and I love doing them. People ask, “Won’t you be tired?” and similar questions. Tired? We’re playing music, not doing heavy manual labor. I actually find it super-exciting. It makes it super-special that we get to do two shows in one day. I don’t know what we’re going to play. We’ll probably play a similar but different set list at the two shows, and quite often the two shows feel quite different when we’re playing them. I can’t wait. We played the Showbox opening for Stereolab in 2004 or 2003, and it’s such a great venue. Playing two shows of our own there is surreal.

What advice would you give to a kid with a laptop in his parent’s basement, trying to make a first record?

Well, in many ways I can empathize with that situation. I remember wanting to be able to release music so badly, and still the life that I’m leading feels like an unreal dream a lot of the time, because it’s what I always wanted to do. The difference between now and when I was starting to make music is that there are more avenues to share your music with people, obviously. So it’s easy to make your music available to lots of people. Of course, as a consequence, there’s also way more music being released and shared all the time; it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. I still think that contacting the musicians whose music you love is a great idea. That’s how my music was first released—through getting in touch with Kieran [Hebden, aka] Four Tet. I still listen to everything that’s sent to me even if it takes me a long time to get around to it, and I don’t always have time to write back.

Also, my main advice is to be patient. I remember feeling such a sense of urgency when I was young and trying to get my music released as soon as possible. In the end, though, I feel like it happened for me when it did because it was at that time that the music I was making turned a corner, and I’m so glad the music I made before that didn’t get a release! After however many years—15 years, I guess—of releasing music, meeting new artists, hearing demos, et cetera, I’m of the firm opinion that it may take time, but that good and interesting music will find an audience if artists make an effort to play it for people. I’m really an optimist about the state of music. The future is bright.


CARIBOU With Koreless. The Showbox, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151, showboxpresents.com. $22 adv./$25 DOS. 7:30 (all ages) & 11 p.m. (21 and over) Wed., March 4.