DAN DEACON at Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor West), Friday (November 9), doors 9 pm. $13.50. HS, RT, SS, TM. See listing.
Dan Deacon is an environmentalist who spends a great deal of time engaged in the decidedly earth-unfriendly activity of touring. He's in love with America enough to dedicate his newest album, America, to it but also hates much about how the country is run. (He calls the current federal election a "crazy Wagnerian theatre giving the illusion of choice.")
Mostly, though, he's a solution finder.
To reduce his carbon footprint, he and 11 musicians and crew tour in a school bus converted into an RV that runs on salvaged cooking oil. The vehicle has no heat or air conditioning to save on fuel. They cook their meals on the bus and camp in the woods.
"Most food on the road is totally GMO corn-syrup corporate garbage," says the composer and electronic musician en route to a show in Portland, Oregon. "We also avoid hotels as much as possible, since they're black holes of heat and water waste. And we almost never shower, but that's because we're filthy."
America the album, meanwhile, was inspired by his adopted hometown of Baltimore and the country's varied landscapes. It's largely instrumental, starting out with exuberant pop melodies, expressive synths and brisk rhythms. It then sidles into moodier but still propulsive compositions heavy on choral voices and the types of organic instruments you might find in a chamber music ensemble. It's his most acoustic-based album yet.
In college he studied electro-acoustic and computer music composition, but recently he's been making headway in the contemporary classical world. What's drawing him there?
"It's a whole world of sounds that can't be replicated otherwise," he says. "There are certain things you can only do with acoustic instruments. As a composer, I'm interested in making as many different sounds from as many different sources as possible. The cello is an amazing instrument. The human voice is an awesome instrument. Same with the computer. I want to work with all of them. I'm greedy."
Deacon first conceived of making an album that sonically evoked the States when his first European tour led him to realize how American he was.
"A lot of Americans, especially youth, don't think of themselves as American. It's not a conscious thought, or if they see an American flag they're not like, ‘That's me!' And if you're someone who disagrees with the imperialist nature of the government, it's even harder to identify as such.
"But that's part of the problem. People make themselves external to something they're ultimately a part of instead of trying to become more attached to it and change the aspects they dislike, which is what I've done."