FITS AND STARTS Divine Fits

More than a bromance,
and more than a love story, too: the reluctant supergroup launches a debut that
lives up to the hype.

 

BY ALLI MARSHALL

 

Divine Fits – the indie rock trifecta of Spoon
vocalist/guitarist Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs vocalist/guitarist
Dan Boeckner and New Bomb Turks drummer Sam Brown (with Alex Fischel, from
Papa, added more recently on keys) – is a far cry from a bunch of upstarts. The
term “supergroup” has been tossed around, though Divine Fits can take it or
leave it. “There are worse names to be called,” says Daniel.

 

            Really, the
band is less about an industry dream lineup and more about a bromance. “With
Dan, I was such a fan of his voice and his records and what he’s like onstage,”
says Daniel. The two started out by trading tracks, and then they holed up in
Daniel’s L.A. home (Canadian-born Boeckner lives in the same town) to write
songs.

 

            There’s an
immediacy to the band’s debut, A Thing
called Divine Fits
(released at the end of August on Merge), that suggests
a passion project long in the works – though Daniel insists that wasn’t the
case.

 

            “I think
the furthest I got was thinking, ‘I’d love to be in a band with Dan.’ When he
said one of his bands was winding down, it immediately became a thing that
could be a reality.” Quickly, Boeckner and Daniel realized that, though they’re
very different musicians, they’re a well-matched songwriting team.

 

            The songs
marry Daniel’s bombastic rocker inclinations with Boeckner’s swagger and
emotion with an itchy, staticy, adrenaline-fueled urgency from start to finish.
“Baby Get Worse” (written by Boeckner) is a feverish distillation of ‘80s-era
synths, kick drum pummel and real-time anguish.

 

            The angst
and dark romance that runs like a thread throughout the album were likely born,
at least in part, from Boeckner’s frame of mind. “I had kind of a rough eight
months, emotionally, while we were recording,” he says. (During that time he
announced that Handsome Furs, his project with his wife, was calling it quits.)
“I did have a couple of songs that were kicking around and then I kind of
scrapped them without ever bringing them to Britt. I felt like anything I was
writing, if it was going it to be honest, it had to come from that place.”

 

            Boeckner’s
“For Your Heart” is a raw howl against a velvety backdrop of synths and murky
guitars. But Daniel’s hand-clappy, jittery “Flaggin a Ride” also thumps and
creeps as his voice hits that signature ragged edge.

 

 

            Daniel
isn’t as forthcoming about his emotional state during the writing and recording
process (though, just as Boeckner started fresh with his material, Daniel says
that none of the songs he contributed
to A Thing called Divine Fits were
written for or during the last Spoon album). But songs like “Neopolitans” – a
lushly-layered, slow burn at the end of the 11-track album – are both
experimental and fully-realized. That particular offering crackles with coiled
energy, Daniel’s voice a husky rasp.

 

            “Unless you
get really lucky, and sometimes you do, it’s never easy to write really good
songs,” says Daniel. Perhaps surprising: “My only design for the band at all
was to be in a band where I wasn’t the only guy writing and singing,” Daniel
says. That sounds like a lot of relinquishing of control for someone who has
held down the front man role for two decades: “Maybe it wouldn’t have worked if
it wasn’t with someone as great as Dan,” he admits.

 

             Daniel goes on to point out that, because the
lineup includes people on his wavelength, getting Divine Fits off the grounds
has been a lot easier than starting out with Spoon back in the early ‘90s.

 

            Brown came
into the group when Daniel described his ideal drummer to Spoon producer Mike
McCarthy, who immediately recommended the New Bomb Turks percussionist. “I
already kind of knew the guys I was getting together with would be great,” says
Daniel.

 

            One thing
about putting together a supergroup (whether or not it’s called that) is the
immediate sense of trust, both from the audience and among the musicians.
Daniel says that, because everyone involved has put out records and done a lot
of touring, “We know what we’re doing and people are kind of interested in what
we do, which is a fortunate position to be in.”

 

            This is how
interested people are: “There’s a band website that basically ripped audio from
different YouTube performances, matched the lyrics with the track listing that
was available on the internet and cobbled together a live album,” says
Boeckner. “That people care that much – who wouldn’t feel good about that?”

 

             “It’s just all fallen together, really,” he
continues. “And when things fall together, it’s the best way. It’s the most
natural way.”

 

            For Divine
Fits, the natural way was sort of backwards. First they recorded their album,
and then, along with making their introduction to the world, the band announced
a tour. The first handful of shows included home turf appearances (Austin,
Texas for Daniel; Montreal, Quebec for Boeckner; and Columbus, Ohio for Brown)
plus Chicago, Illinois for Lollapalooza and the Twilight Concert Series in Salt
Lake City, Utah. For a band that had yet to release more than a single (the
twitchy, flirty, fuzzed-out, “My Love Is Real”), they were, just out of the
gate, playing both to rooms of 300 and festival crowds of 25,000.

 

            “What kid
who ever picked up a guitar or a keyboard or a sampler never dreamt of playing
in front of a lot of people outside?” Boeckner says. “It makes me happy. It’s
nerve wracking, but it’s good.”

 

            He adds, “To
be totally honest, I don’t think you can replace the feeling of playing in a
small, packed, sweaty club. I think that’s something totally special. That
venue kind of has the advantage to me.”

 

            Both Wolf
Parade and Spoon grew beyond 300-cap venues a long time ago, but Daniel agrees
with Boeckner: “It’s so much easier for us to get feedback from the audience,
and for us to hear ourselves in a way that feels great, and for the audience to
feel like it’s an intimate experience,” he says. “It’s always going to be
better playing smaller shows.”

 

            That’s the
way this band likes it. And Divine Fits is all about doing what makes them
happy. Which is why this is more than a bromance. More than a love story. It’s
full-blown love at first sight: a hot, heady whirlwind that’s shaping up to be
the real thing. Early concert reviews have been positive and what was,
initially, just a handful of shows has already expanded across the country and
well into the fall. And the band is only just hitting its stride.

 

            Says
Boeckner, “I’ve been able to do stuff – aesthetics, sounds and structures –
that wouldn’t have worked with either of the other bands I was in. It feels
good, especially, to be on stage and flex those muscles.”

 

 

Divine Fits are
currently on a U.S. tour – which includes a stop at Moogfest this coming
weekend – and you can view the itinerary at their official website.

 

 

[Photo Credit: Pamela Littky]

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