CARIBOU with THE SINGING SAW SHADOW SHOW at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West ), tonight (Thursday, April 28). $15, advance $12. 416-598-4753. Rating: NNNNN
While it's a pain in the ass, a law suit over a band name is a pretty good sign that you're doing well.
But if you're unfortunate enough not to have a major-label team of lawyers behind you, it's not generally feasible to fight it, even when the lawsuit is as ridiculous as the one brought against Canadian math whiz and acclaimed bedroom producer Dan Snaith, formerly known as Manitoba.
He's now known as Caribou because of a legal action brought against him by Handsome Dick Manitoba, the former frontman of forgotten punk rock band the Dictators. Never mind that the province has the real right to the name, or the fact that Handsome Dick Manitoba never released an album under that name, or that copyright lawsuits are about as un-punk as you can get.
"I was playing a show in L.A., and the guy had actually hired a private investigator who showed up and handed me a court summons," recalls Snaith from his sometime home in London, England. "He was 100 per cent serious, and I realized that financially I couldn't even start fighting it. On the bright side, it kind of refocused me creatively on the actual music."
That new energy is clearly evident on his first album under the name Caribou, The Milk Of Human Kindness. Initially, Snaith was lumped in with the whole folktronica scene, but he quickly shed that baggage with his second album, Up In Flames, in which his love of trippy psych rock came to the fore. The rock side is still the main focus on the new record, but this time it's less of an eclectic free-for-all of influences and more a coherent sonic statement. However, as Snaith explains, the process used to record the three albums wasn't significantly different.
"All of them were recorded the same way - on my computer, with a bunch of records beside me. Later, we pick and choose which parts to learn to play live and which parts to let the computer play. I like the sound of vocals, so they're there as part of the arrangements, but we try to convey that they're not the focus in the live show."
His last tour's live show inspired rave reviews throughout the world. Wearing bear masks, Snaith and his small group of multi-instrumentalists reinvented laptop-based performance. No more self-conscious mouse clicks on a sparse stage in front of an audience of chin-strokers - these were real rock shows.
"We won't be wearing the bear masks this time around. Last time we were trying to get as far away as possible from the laptop thing, but that's been established now."