Handsome Furs’ lead singer, Dan Boeckner, got a bad case of food poisoning yesterday right before the Handsome Furs’ concert at the Wescott Theatre last night. The opening acts still played, but I was pissed because I’ve never heard of this happening before. By the time I arrived at the Wescott Theatre, he had already left for Rochester. Well, so much for that!
Fortunately, I still got some time to talk with Dan about the tour and what it’s like rocking out with his wife, Alexei Perry.
This telephone interview took place from the Jabberwocky Cafe under Schine.
20W: Can you describe the Quebec music scene?
DB: There’s a lot of sub groups in the Quebec scene. There’s like the anglo-phone indie rock scene, which is like Arcade Fire. There’s also the French bands. Those scenes don’t mix so much, but it’s getting better.
20W: How’s the tour going?
DB: It’s been going good. The kids seem to like it. You’re in Syracuse, right? I think they’re trying to move it to a theatre, right?
20W: It says you’re scheduled to play at Spark Art Gallery. You’re saying they’re trying to change the venue at the last minute?
DB: Yeah. (laughs). I don’t know. It seems weird to me.
20W: Your MySpace says you’re a message band. What does that even mean?
DB: A message band? Does it say that? I don’t know if I consider us a message band. We don’t really write about girls, but more about travel diaries and feeling sad. The record we wrote last, Face Control, is more political.
20W: I noticed that. What are you politically active in?
DB: If there’s any message in that record, it’s about counter-surveillance. We got obsessed with post-Communistic bloc politics and we relate it back to the American security state that’s been around since September 11th.
20W: What’s it like playing in a band with your wife?
DB: For me personally, it’s great. We both really love playing live, and we also like our space. We’ve got it worked out. It’s cool because if we want to write a song, we live together.
20W: What does your wife do while you tour with Wolf Parade?
DB: She writes when I go on tour with Wolf Parade. It’s another reason the relationship works. She can be home alone and focus on her writing without having me distracting her.
20W: What does she write?
DB: She writes poetry and fiction.
20W: Where is home exactly?
DB: Home is Montreal right now. We’ve had our own apartment there for three years now, and we have a studio just around the corner. We did some work for Wolf Parade there and recorded both of the Handsome Furs records there. Plenty of bands live in the neighborhood too. It’s kind of like indie rock Sesame Street.
20W: How do you and your wife divide the work?
DB: It’s pretty 50-50. We’ll come up with a general idea for a song on paper, and then she’ll write a drum beat, and then I’ll write a drum beat. Then we’ll figure out a title, and then someone will add a melody to it. It’s pretty organic. We write pretty fast.
20W: What’s it like juggling two bands?
DB: It’s good for me, because I like staying busy. We just balance it out when Wolf Parade is touring or recording, and whenever that’s not happening, we’re working on Handsome Furs. Sometimes there’s cross-over with writing, but it’s pretty simple to schedule.
20W: Would you consider yourself a work-aholic?
DB: I’ve worked day jobs before, but now I have the luxury to quit those. I feel like my brain goes to mush if I’m not working on a record or trying to write a song. I feel like I start to lose mental clarity.
20W: When do you head back to Wolf Parade?
DB: We have a general idea to go back in October, and record something. Handsome Furs is going to wrap up the tour in September.
20W: How does each band do for you artistically?
DB: There’s no real creative constraint in each band. The only limitation in Handsome Furs is that we limit ourselves to these instruments, guitar, drum machine and synthesizer. Wolf Parade is totally collaborative and open-ended. Handsome Furs is a little noisier, and I can get away writing away a song off two chords.
20W: So there’s no favorite?
DB: Not at all. I put just as much energy into both.
20W: I think it’s really cool you’re just a two-piece band. Ever heard of Phantogram from Saratoga Springs? You guys have a lot in common.
DB: That’s cool. I’d totally like to check that out. I know of another two-piece band from Atlanta, and they’re called Salem. Really dark and heavy.