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A Thing Called Divine Fits Part 2

More Q&A with Spoon's Britt Daniel

By Austin Powell, 3:18PM, Thu. Aug. 23, 2012

Divine Fits in Austin, July 2012
Divine Fits in Austin, July 2012
photo by John Anderson

Before Divine Fits, the last time Britt Daniel appeared in a band outside of Spoon was with Golden Millennium, a drunken glam-rock tribute act that started as a one-night stand in late 1999.

“It’s funny you mention that,” says Daniel from Los Angeles. “It’s something that gets brought up every now and then, more often than I ever would have expected for a band that I did two shows with.

“It was definitely a joke project. My friend Travis Higdon asked, ‘Do you want to play a show doing all glam covers.’ I said, ‘Sure.’ Then it became one more show, and then he ended up putting out a seven-inch. I think that made it somewhat official.”

Daniel is clearly more invested in Divine Fits, his new project with Handsome Furs’ Dan Boeckner, yet the principle’s the same: it’s exhilarating to not only get off the beaten path, but to do so from the passenger side. Here's some of what didn't make it into this issue's Q&A with Daniel.

Austin Chronicle: Why was the time right for Divine Fits?

Britt Daniel: I don’t know. It seemed like something I really wanted to do. I was talking to Dan on the phone last February. He’s a friend and when I’d seen his shows, I always thought he was amazing. I loved his records.

When we talked, he mentioned that Wolf Parade was just about done. I immediately said that we should start a band then. I was just throwing it out there, not really expecting anything. It’d been something in the back of my mind for a while. As soon as he said that, I thought it needed to be brought up. He was into the idea.

AC: Around the time of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, you mentioned having several solo songs set aside, “Telephone My Heart” and “New York Kiss.” Did you rework any of that material for Divine Fits?

BD: This is all new. We did try “New York Kiss,” and I think we might try it again, but at the time when we were trying to settle on songs for the record, it wasn’t really there as much as the other ones.

AC: Was there anything Dan, as a contemporary songwriter, helped you realize about your own material?

BD: It was mostly coming up with angles. There weren’t any moments where I was like, ‘Oh, I just realized I’ve been making all of my songs too short.’ But the number of ideas he came up with where we’re dropping the drums here or saying, “The intro to this song should be like this,” totally added different textures. Those are the kind of ideas he had in spades.

AC: How does Sam Brown fit into all of this?

BD: Sam I met through [local producer] Mike McCarthy. I was recording a couple of demos by myself last summer, and I sent them to Mike. I said, “I could probably use a real drummer on this.” He said, “I know this guy Sam Brown.” So we got him to come down from Ohio.

He’s a real instinctual player. He plays things a little bit differently based on his mood, which is cool. Then we found out we had actually been on a tour together. The very first tour I was on, which was Spoon opening for Guided by Voices on the Under the Stars tour, he was in another band that was opening, V-3.

AC: With Spoon's Transference, you reportedly spent several months with the recordings in Portland. Were you forced to let go more in this situation?

BD: We were all in the studio together at the same time. We all did some tinkering for sure. I think we planned on it being a five-week process, and that five weeks turned into eight or nine. So, the weeks that we kept on were about fixing things.

Most times with records, you get the songs to a certain point, then you go away and come back to them with ways to make them better. Sometimes you need another round of that. We needed a second round of that here. But Spoon has always been like that, too.

AC: You’ve always been a music historian. I remember seeing your reviews in the KVRX library. Do you still study the craft of songwriting?

BD: I do. I get off on it. What I get off on, I surround myself with and spend a lot of time with. And then I become a student of it. The Rolling Stones did the same thing with blues records, and the Beatles with R&B.

I think trying for some understanding of what’s come before you – a deep understanding – it helps you learn some of those lessons. If you only listened to the radio these days, you might not get inspired. I’m not saying that everything on the radio is bad. There are a couple of stations here in L.A. that play like non-stop hip-hop that are just kind of insane, but it helps.

If you want to make something great, it helps to be inspired by something great.

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