Q&A: Britt Daniel Of Divine Fits
Divine Fits, indie rock’s latest super-group, is comprised of Spoon’s Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade/Hansdome Furs frontman Dan Boeckner, and drummer Sam Brown of The New Bomb Turks. Their 2012 debut A Thing Called Divine Fits has earned them rave reviews. You can catch them on Letterman tonight, and on tour in December (they’ll be opening for The Black Keys in Las Vegas on New Years Eve). We spoke to Daniel about reading your own press, getting inspired by his new band mates, the fate of Spoon, The Ramones and more.
How have these first Divine Fits shows been going?
They’re going really well. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a totally different experience for me, personally, and I just think it’s a band with a lot of chemistry. I think we put on a real good show. People liked it.
What have the set lists been like?
Well, we play every song on the record plus we play a couple covers so it’s a pretty short set, like an hour, but we’re trying to work on some new tunes.
What covers have been in your sets?
We’ve been playing this Wipers cover called “Doom Town” and this Tom Petty song “You Got Lucky.” “Doom Town” came about when we were trying to record a B-side for “My Love Is Real.” And we just met up in Boston and recorded with Mike McCarthy and we had a number of covers that we tried. There was a Psychedelic Furs song, there was a Camper Van Beethoven song, a Wipers song, probably a couple more. And we didn’t record “Doom Town,” but it felt good right away, so we just came back to it when we started rehearsing for the tour. “You Got Lucky” we heard on the radio one day and I said to Dan, “You’d be great at singing this.” He said, “Man I covered this song before in my last band, The Handsome Furs.” But he said that they did a really bizarro version of it. So I was like, “Let’s do a rock and roll version of it.”
The Divine Fits record has been getting great reviews. Have you been reading them?
No. I have a concept of how generally good the reviews are.
Do you never like to read reviews, or just for this particular record?
People are going to say what they say, and I know how I feel about it, and if there’s something important… for instance, I know how many stars it got in Rolling Stone, [laughs] but I don’t want to sit there and read the article. There have been times in my life where I kind of would read everything, but I don’t really need to right now.
Does playing with a different drummer inspire you?
Yeah, sure. Playing with different people is inspiring. There are surprises. There are different struggles, but there are also different assets that you wouldn’t guess. The most fun part of this new combination of people is that I’m not the only guy that’s writing songs, or singing songs. And when Dan’s doing a song, I get to back him up, and I like backing people up, especially people I believe in as much as Dan.
I guess it engages a different part of the brain, to just play back up.
It’s actually less mental. It’s more instinctual. I don’t know why. When I’m coming up with a part for somebody on a song, it just comes to me real quickly. And backing vocals, I don’t ever think about doing a third down or a fifth up, or anything like that. I just sing what feels good. “Yeah, I like that part.” It’s all about making things feel good when I’m backing someone up. I don’t have to worry about what the song is about or all these big picture things. I just get to do some details.
What did you like about Wolf Parade?
I like their records. I never got to see them live. I saw Handsome Furs live a number of times but it never worked out for me to see Wolf Parade. Spoon covered “Modern World” by Wolf Parade — it was one of Dan’s songs. The first time we played it was with Dan at Radio City Music Hall. Then we covered it on our own for maybe another year nd a half or so. Great song. It’s a great tune. It’s rootsy but extremely dark and also very soulful. It’s got that acoustic guitar, and the instrumentation is not real “rock and roll,” it’s almost folky. But in the vocal, it’s almost like a John Fogerty vocal. Just screaming at the top of his range. He gets a real good scream on there.
When you’re singing these Divine Fits songs, are you inhabiting a different character, so to speak, than you are in Spoon? Is there any difference for you as a lyricist or a singer?
I like playing different parts. I am still me writing these songs. When we were writing the songs for the band, we never wanted to have any rules, we never set out to write from a different perspective, or to even decide what kind of instrumentation we were going to use as a band. Which is why when we’re playing live we switch roles, because we never really settled on anything.
It seems to me that indie rock over the past couple years is in a really good place. There is an explosion of good, young bands. Do you agree?
Well, I think a lot of good music is being made, yes.
On our local radio station, they’re playing a lot of these Americana-inspired bands like Grouplove and The Lumineers, and these Mumford and Sons-sounding bands.
I’m not a fan of Mumford and Sons. I just don’t get it. I don’t know. Maybe I haven’t heard the right stuff. They just don’t do it for me. There’s a lot of long, held notes in their music. I always wanted to do that. But they really specialize in that.
I don’t know if it’s Spoon, or The Strokes, or Coldplay or Arcade Fire who popularized it, but seems like you hear a lot of songs built on that dun-nun-nun-nun quarter note rhythm.
You mean in the bass and the guitar, that sort of thing? Yeah, that’s eighth notes, I think.
How did you start out playing in that style?
Well, it’s the easiest kind of thing to do. The first record I could easily play along to was The Ramones’ first album. I had a bass guitar and I tried to play along to a lot of records, and some of them I could kind of pick up bits and pieces. I’d play along to MTV. I’d watch MTV all day and play bass to it. But it wasn’t until The Ramones album when I was like, “Man, I can play every song on this album.”
It’s the most rudimentary, high energy way to put together a song. When Spoon started out, we used to do a lot of distorted electric guitar doing eighth notes. That has a real feel to it, sort of a pop-punk feel. It takes a lot of space up, and at some point we decided, “We’re not going to do that distorted, electric rhythm guitar anymore.” As soon as we stopped using it, people started saying there was space on our records, and saying we were minimalists. So, I don’t know. It was a good trick, I guess.
What’s the plan for Spoon for the future?
We are some time off right now while I do the Divine Fits stuff. The plan is to make another record.