Sam Brown, Britt Daniel and Dan Boeckner
DIVINE FITS with HOODED FANG at Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor West), Wednesday (September 5). $20, adv. $18.50. HS, RT, SS, TM. See listing.
It's about midnight on a Friday night in Montreal and diminutive dive bar Il Motore is packed with people eager to catch a first glimpse of Divine Fits, the new group started by Spoon frontman Britt Daniel and former Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs principal Dan Boeckner.
Edging their way through the crowd from the back bar, politely excusing themselves as they go, the two indie rock luminaries trade anticipation for informality, then alternate guitar, bass and vocal duties, tinkering with sound and arrangements on the fly and addressing audience members by first names.
Only the third-ever show for the brand new band and a homecoming for Boeckner, it's hardly the meteoric clash of egos or the big-name, big-venue cash grab the union might suggest, but that hasn't stopped many from saddling Divine Fits with one of rock and roll's ultimate backhanded compliments: supergroup.
"I'll take supergroup over side project," Boeckner says a few weeks later over the phone.
He's referring to the Handsome Furs, his recently halted husband-wife electro-rock duo. Launched after Wolf Parade, the group was considered secondary to the earlier band until it finally and definitively eclipsed it.
Divine Fits, his new collaboration with Spoon's Daniel and New Bomb Turks drummer Sam Brown, is already getting similar treatment. They actually came together based on their similar aesthetics - a swaggering, stripped-down economy that somehow blends AC/DC and Kraftwerk - but most journalists approach them by way of their impressive resumés. Us included.
"There's a line in NOW's review of our record [A Thing Called Divine Fits (Universal)] that says the songs sound like they're left over from our previous projects," Boeckner says. "It's funny - I actually did have a bunch of songs left over from Handsome Furs, but I went through some heavy emotional shit when that band broke up, so when we finally got together in a room to record, I decided to start from scratch."
He's referring, obliquely, to the romantic and musical demise of his Handsome Furs partnership with Alexei Perry. When your band is also your marriage, "breakup" means more than just puting down your guitar.
Divine Fits gives Boeckner something new to talk about, but he can't leave his old band behind just yet. Their 2011 album, Sound Kapital, now finds itself on the short list for the Polaris Prize. Boeckner says he'll likely attend the gala but won't play, and though he feels validated by the acclaim, his focus is squarely on the new band.
"None of us wanted to go into this saying we were going to jettison every personal aesthetic we'd developed over the last 10 years," he says. "But Divine Fits isn't Wolf Parade, it's not Handsome Furs and it's definitely not Spoon."