Arts Online

At Coachella with Divine Fits' Dan Boeckner

Sun, 21 Apr 2013 18:06:20 -0500

 Divine Fits at Coachella on April 19. They've been dubbed a supergroup. (Devon Goodsell)

Divine Fits frontman Dan Boeckner likens playing a festival like the infamous Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival outside of Palm Springs, Calif., to "being dropped in the middle of the jungle with no supplies and a rabid tiger at your back" — because there's little time to set up and things often go wrong.

But when the band — Boeckner on guitar and vocals; Spoon's Britt Daniels, who does vocals and bass; Alex Fischel on keyboards; and drummer Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks fame — took the stage Friday, Boeckner looked anything but intimidated.

"I like it because — not that we don't always put on our best show, but you really have to project to the audience and it's kind of a challenge ... And honestly, usually people are just there to have a good time and when they hear loud sounds coming out of the big black boxes on stage, they like it," Boeckner said.

Two weekend festival

"You're part of this larger sort of machine of entertainment that's happening during the day and ... It's not about you. It's about people listening to music."

Boeckner, who grew up in the small community of Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island, says playing a festival like Coachella — a three-day outdoor music festival that spans two weekends — is beyond anything he thought possible.

 Dan Boeckner says playing Coachella like having a tiger at your back. (Devon Goodsell) "Honestly, when I was playing the Duncan community centre when I was 15 years old I assumed that the best I could possibly hope for was playing in, like, Lynn Valley at a community centre ... that was the big time," he said.

"With this band and the bands I've been in before, I've gotten to travel pretty much all over the world. I got to go to China twice in the last three years for a couple months at a time ... Like, things could have turned out a lot worse than they did for me."

Before starting Divine Fits, Boeckner saw critical success with indie bands Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs, which took home a Polaris Prize last year.

When Divine Fits released their debut album A Thing Called Divine Fits in 2012, they were dubbed a supergroup by critics.

"I think music journalists, they need to put a label on something, they need a hook," Boeckner said. "Because there's so many bands. You can't just be like, 'Four guys started a band. They're from bands you used to know.' They need something to draw people in. The supergroup thing didn't bother me because it's just kind of meaningless."

New project

In addition to playing a slew of festivals in the coming months — including stops in Dallas, TX, Chicago, IL, Calgary, Alta., and Squamish, B.C. — Boeckner is also working on a new project called Operators.

"It's a real mix of like electronics and lots of live drums and guitar. I'm kind of tapping into my ... I listened to a lot of Fugazi when I was a kid, so it's that plus my love of New Order. That's kind of how it's shaking up."

And the 35-year-old has no intention of slowing down any time soon.

"I feel lucky to be able to be creative for a living. That's a luxury, considering the economy is in the toilet. If I get tired and I'm at the studio and I'm like, 'Oh God, it's three in the morning, I've got to finish this song,' I'm like, 'Well, at least I'm not working at a telemarketing company any more,'" he said.

Relocates to L.A.

"I feel like I'm lucky that people want to pay money to listen to stuff that I come up with in my head or go see me jump around on stage and yell, and that's amazing. So if I were to not take full advantage of that, I'd be an a**hole."

The Canadian rocker recently relocated to Los Angeles from Montreal — and he says the decision to leave Canada wasn't an easy one.

"You know what I miss most of all? The f***ing CBC. I listen to Q on my iPhone, the podcast," Boeckner said.

"There's a certain tone that the CBC has, an acoustic tone. I don't even mean journalistically ... It's always the clearest radio station and that rich sound reminds me of being a child, so I like it."

— by Devon Goodsell

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