Removing The Spoon — Britt Daniel On Divine Fits

Divine Fits may be an unfamiliar name, but the people behind it no doubt lurk in your record collection under their original outfits. Better known Britt Daniel from Spoon, Dan Boeckner from Wolf Parade, and Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks, Divine Fits is the band du jour for these gentlemen and A Thing Called Divine Fits is their first full length record. Speaking to Chris Berkley from Static, Britt Daniel talks about how Divine Fits came together, the recording of the album and adjusting to life in a new outfit.

Have you been introducing yourself as Britt Daniel from Divine Fits to people and strangers in the street?

You know, sometimes when you do those radio one liners where you say “This is Britt from Divine Fits” it does feel a little weird. I’ve been saying “I’m Britt from Spoon” for a long time.

It’s like changing your surname.

A little bit, yeah.

You guys in Divine Fits have already been tooling around the countryside as well. Was doing this tour daunting at first? When you were doing to play all new material and didn’t have hits or favourites to fall back on. Was that a bit of a stress?

Well, no, it wasn’t a stress. We were excited about going out and playing these songs that we’ve never played in front of people before, but I mean usually when Spoon puts out a record there’s a lot of stuff we can play from our back catalogue or from our history, but with this one we play every song on the record and a couple of covers. Sometimes there’s usually there’s two or three songs we don’t wanna play live for whatever reason, they’re not quite as great live or they don’t work in that setting or they’re not as up or whatever it is, but we gotta play all those songs.

I guess on the flipside those songs you’re sick to death of playing in Spoon you get to have a break from.

For sure, yeah. It is a big break and a totally different situation.

So how did it all come together then Britt? Were you guys all mutual admirers from afar or was it a set up blind date? How did you all find yourselves?

I’ve been friends with Dan for about five years and we had played on stage together. I had his band, Handsome Furs, open for Spoon a few times and generally when we found ourselves in the same town we tried to hang out. We’re buddies. I always liked what he did a lot, I love watching him onstage and just thought he was the real deal, y’know. So when I heard that Wolf Parade was sort of winding down, he told me that on the phone, the next words out of my mouth were ‘we need to start a band’.

He sort of mothballed Handsome Furs this year as well so the guy really needed some work. I’m glad you were there for him.

Yeah. I don’t think he was expecting that. He had two bands going for a while and then suddenly he had zero.

So were there conversations between you and Dan and Sam about how Divine Fits would sound?

Not many. We were in a hurry to come up with songs, because we, in the way that record companies work they don’t want you putting out a record basically from October to the middle of January, and we were sitting at the beginning of last January and we knew we needed to come up with some songs really fast if we were gonna put out a record this year. We didn’t talk too much about it, and also by design we didn’t want to. We just wanted to let what happened happen.

Because otherwise you start to over-analyse it and think you’re sounding too much like your old bands or the doubt sets in, right?

I think it was just about trying to find the songs that we all liked, you know. The songs came first more than any discussion about sound or anything like that.

The Divine Fits album sounds so egoless. It’s like the right combination of all of your bands and the vocals are pretty much shared 50/50. You guys seem to have found a happy medium for everybody pretty quickly on the album.

Yeah, well, we’re all adults, we get along. I remember a couple of weeks into the record getting and thinking “wow, this is really cool ‘cos when one of us doesn’t like an idea we actually just bring it up“. Which is really the way you have to be to be creative. You have to allow for different personalities to breathe.

You guys sort of had a boot camp to get this album across the line. You had Dan to your place to work it out there, as far as I know.

That’s right. He stayed with me for four or five months or so, and he was doing a lot of writing upstairs, I was doing a lot of writing downstairs, and then we’d meet up a few hours later.

At what point did Nick Launay come into the picture as producer?

We started working with him at the beginning of March. I’d had a lot of his records but never taken notice of his name before and Win Butler of Arcade Fire suggested him to Dan. Once I took a look at the records he’s worked on in the last five, ten years, actually going back, the first record he ever did was a Public Image record when he was 19, so the guy has a pedigree.

He’s also a diverse producer. In Australia he’s probably known for doing things like Grinderman but he also did that last Yeah Yeah Yeahs record, so he’s kind of had hands on in a number of different styles of music.

I think the last five or six Nick Cave records in addition to Grinderman records. He’s made a lot of music that we’re really into, and from the beginning he was really into the idea of doing it. I kinda had this feeling “Well, I don’t know this guy“, and when you to try to hook up with a producer you don’t know either there’s a scheduling thing or a personality thing or sometimes it’s just a bit weird trying to force that together, but he took right to it and wanted to do it from the beginning.

You know you’ve also given yourselves honorary Australian citizen status by covering Boys Next Door’s “Shivers”. Is that a track that’s not that well known in America? Obviously you guys were fans.

It’s not known at all. I always thought Nick Cave’s first band was Birthday Party. I just didn’t even know about Boys Next Door, and the last time I was in Australia a good friend in Sydney played me that song, and I loved it and thought it would be one that I could sing well. You know, ‘cos lots of times there’s these great songs that are amazing songs but you just don’t wanna cover them for whatever reason — they’re too well known or don’t fit in your range or you just can’t do anything with them and this one seemed like something I could something with.

Interestingly with “Shivers”, you haven’t done the ‘spi-yi-yi-ine’ vocals…

That wasn’t my thing, yeah. That’s an example. It doesn’t fit my personality or the way I wanna sing, so I didn‘t wanna do that part.

You’re also about to head out on a whole lot more touring as Divine Fits, so does this mean you’re really seeing this through well until the new year? Are you thinking about Spoon stuff or is that really on the back burner?

We’re doing Divine Fits well until the new year. I’m thinking we’ll be this until the end of next Summer. We really enjoy playing together so we’re going to do a lot more.

Interview broadcast on Static on 27/09/12. Static can be heard on Sydney’s 2SER (107.3 FM) and via the Internet (www.2ser.com) every Thursday evening (AEST).