To call Dan Boeckner a ‘busy man’ would be an understatement.
Fresh off a tour alongside Future Islands, the prolific indie-rock veteran is already gearing up for yet another North American tour with his newest band Operators; a mesmerizing power-trio who have been gathering critical acclaim for their dance-driven electronic sound for the past year. While most bands focus on pushing their online presence before a release – whether it be a music video, teaser trailer, or an abundance of tweets and status updates – Operators decided against that, opting instead to premiere their music over a month-long series of shows to sweaty, buzzing audiences who didn’t know a single lyric. Their debut EP – aptly titled EP1 – harks back to synth-pop of the past, to a time where analog music thrived and where Macbooks had yet to be invented.
Best known for writing lyrically dense songs about heartbreak and the human condition, it’s clear that Boeckner is exploring new territory. While synths and pop melodies have always made their way into his previous work with Wolf Parade, Divine Fits, and Handsome Furs, Operators are making music to dance to – the complexity of it all lying just below the surface of each aggressive, fun, and undeniably upbeat track. Accompanied by former Divine Fits bandmate Sam Brown and synth mastermind Devojka, Boeckner came back to Montreal last night, accompanied by The New Pornographers at the Corona Theater.
Girls. Girls who are out with their friends, don’t give a shit and want to dance. That is the best possible audience.
Q: It’s been almost a year since your Il Motore debut. What has changed since then?
A: We’ve played a ridiculous amount of shows, went to Europe, got tighter, crossed the continent multiple times, my hair was longer, then shorter, then longer, we are louder live, I play more guitar, I quit smoking and hit all the high notes, new songs, more sweat.
Q: Why did you choose to record EP1 at Hotel2Tango?
A: I love that studio. I had (at that point) a sort of conflicted relationship with Montreal. Recording with Howard at Hotel was really cathartic and probably the most productive I’ve ever been in my life. Waking up and writing, staying up late watching the snow fall and writing and drinking a bottle of cheap red wine. We stayed at a great apartment in Little Italy and lived what i consider an ideal life for a month and a half. Montreal has been my lightning rod for creativity and it felt right to get back there.
Q: Why do you choose to call yourselves ‘Operators’?
A: Kraftwerk referred to themselves at one point as Musicarbeiters. Music Workers. I think Operators has that connotation too. I was reading the memoirs of Phillip Agee (Inside The CIA) when i moved up to San Jose and he’s constantly referring to “Operators”…men who would run agents in the field. I guess it seeped into my subconscious.
Q: Who is your ideal audience?
A: Girls. Girls who are out with their friends, don’t give a shit and want to dance. That is the best possible audience.
Q: What thoughts run through your head when you’re on stage?
A: I’m pretty focused on performing. It’s a combination of intense focus and a blissful “non thought”. Being onstage is simultaneously the MOST aware and unconcerned with whatever’s rattling around in the sub basement of my mind AND the most meditative i get.
Q: There was no promotional marketing done before the release of EP1. What’s your take on bands that release teaser trailers for albums or music videos before their releases?
A: I did that with Divine Fits. It worked really well for that band. With Operators, I felt like we couldn’t afford to wait. I just really wanted the band to be experienced organically by an audience before we announced a release. I think both ways are valid. But, the element of surprise is always good. coming out fully formed onstage is something worthwhile, artistically.
Q: Can we expect an EP2 and an EP3 in the near future?
A: There will be an EP2 a single and an album this year.
Q: What are you listening to right now?
A: I’m listening to a mixtape on Chances With Wolves, which is a sister site to Aquarium Drunkard. Weird, weird American and international psych, krautrock, jazz, folk and garage. Also a mixtape on Eastern Daze which has great new music from the ex soviet block. Tonight I bought the new album by Viet Cong (ex-Women) and I’m in love with it. Probably the best band in Canada right now.
Q: What are you reading?
A: Here’s what i read last month:
‘The Peripheral’ – Willam Gibson: Total return to form by one of my favorite living SF writers. Set in a completely believable dystopia of mediocrity. Best time travel novel of the century.
‘Decline and Fall of the British Empire’ – Dr. Piers Brendan: Visceral, bloody, sad and totally engaging look at the collapse of England and its colonial “property”. Great writing on Canada, India, Myanmar, Singapore, Afghanistan…you name it. The depiction of British military officers getting massacred in the Khyber pass on account of them being slowed down by armoires full of china, tea and mustache wax is worth the price of admission. A lot of parallels with the current sunset of global dominance in the US too.
‘Parts one and two of the Eisenhorn Trilogy’ – Dan Abnett: Insane space opera set in the Warhammer 40k universe. Humanity has conquered the galaxy and been the dominant power for tens of thousands of years. The Emperor of mankind sits in a kind of living death stasis, kept alive by an automated throne. He’s worshipped like a god. Free will is crushed by bureaucracy that takes light years to exact its purpose. Life is absolute garbage for most of the trillions of citizens. Endless wars with alien civilizations and the sheer horror unleashed by Lovecraftian beings from beyond space-time make existence bloody, brutish and short for basically everyone. The Eisenhorn Trilogy throws a Sherlock Holmes type leading man into this ridiculous nightmare and makes him solve mysteries. It’s fantastic. It’s self aware, completely batshit crazy and veers into psychedelia every other page. Smart pulp at it’s best.
‘The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All’ – Laird Barron: My favorite contemporary genre writer. He’s built an entire Mythos that stands up with Lovecraft and Steven King. Big influence on True Detective but honestly…his stuff is infinitely more disturbing. I tweeted at him and he tweeted back. That was huge.
‘Korg Electribe 2 Manual’- a Japanese programmer: Incomprehensible. Weird. Translated poorly. For such an intuitive machine, the documentation is just…crazy. Want to know how to erase something you recorded? Too bad. Want to know how to quantize to 3/4 notes? Tough luck.
Q: When – and where – are you happiest?
A: Onstage. Making dinner for family. When everyone else is asleep. With my girl and my dog.
Q: Where is home?
A: The suburbs of Silicon Valley and Montreal.
Q: How do you define success?
A: Being your own boss. Making something that’s true and getting paid a real living wage to bring that to people.
Q: What advice can you give to emerging bands that are looking to make it big?
A: Don’t be a dick. Just don’t. The long term rewards in this business are the lasting connections you make with your fans, your peers in other bands and the people you work with. You will be adrift and homeless for months on end. You will become unstuck in time. Home will be a state of mind and the faces of people you see every time you roll into a town. The world this job inhabits is vast…you might cross the dateline and be on the other side of the planet…you might be wandering around Beijing at 5am on a Sunday…but the people you meet…you’ll see them again. That part of your world is small. So don’t be a dick.
Check out their new single, ‘Ecstasy in My House:’