Dan Boeckner has got a new lease on life. After making a name for himself through both Handsome Furs and Wolf Parade, the Canadian guitarist is now focused on only one band, Divine Fits, who he co-fronts with Spoon head honcho Britt Daniel.
The seeds for Divine Fits were sown at a Handsome Furs show Daniel attended in Portland circa 2007. "I think Britt was a fan of the first Handsome Furs record and came to the show and I've always been a fan of his stuff," Boeckner says.
"In the last year we started talking about starting a band, and it was kind of dependent on my schedule with the last Handsome Furs record, and we toured that record a lot.
"That's pretty much it; we had talked about it briefly and then he called me up and said 'Let's actually start this band and let's do it this year'. So it happened and that was that."
Boeckner's separation from wife and fellow Handsome Fur, Alexei Perry, brought on the need for change, so he headed to Los Angeles to start anew.
Sleeping at Daniel's house, the two recruited Sam Brown of Ohio garage rockers, New Bomb Turks, on drums, and more recently Alex Fischel of LA folk-rockers, Papa, on keys to complete the line-up.
The two songwriters quickly discovered they had an undeniable chemistry for penning songs together - songs that would end up on their debut album, A Thing Called Divine Fits. "In the spring of 2011, we traded a couple of songs back and forth," Boeckner says. "One of them was What Gets You Alone.
"I put some vocals on it and I think that was the first thing we worked on together and as the year went on, in October, I started flying back and forth to LA to do rehearsals and eventually I moved there permanently.
"I moved in with Britt and that's when we really started intensively writing the record." Daniel would drive his housemate to the rehearsal studio every day but fear not - Boeckner has a good excuse as to why he isn't driving at age 34.
"I don't think I can legally drive, man," he sighs. "I was playing this show with this punk band I used to be in years ago, when I was in my early 20s. We were playing with a band called the Murder City Devils. We were pretty confrontational and they were a pretty confrontational band, so the audience was kind of jazzed up. I guess I offended somebody in the audience. He threw a punch at me and I hit him with my guitar.
"We finished the song and he had gone to the bar, grabbed a glass, and came up to the front of the stage and just smashed me in the face with a highball glass, and I got a punch of glass in my eye, so my depth perception is less than perfect." Ouch.
So, at least we know Boeckner has experienced the pain required to empathise with Roland S. Howard's classic Aussie heartbreaker, Shivers. Divine Fits' cover of the song is a highlight of the album. Funnily enough, the band's debut was recorded with Nick Launay, who worked with Howard in the Birthday Party. "I'm a huge fan of Roland S. Howard, Nick Cave and basically anything either of those guys has done," Boeckner gushes. "I'd heard that song a couple of times before when I was younger, and then Britt mentioned he wanted to cover it.
"Nick Launay knows all those guys. He had met Roland and was friends with him and he's friends with Nick Cave, so when it came time to actually record it, the pressure was on."
Launay ensured Boeckner had the firepower to do Howard's guitar part justice. "Nick and I spent the whole day just putting together a pedal chain, and conceptualising the guitar part but not actually recording it," Boeckner recalls.
"Then in the evening, he was like 'Let's do it'. He turned the tape machine on and he was like 'Just do it. Just kill the guitar, just attack it as much as you can.' He turned the machine on and the first take we got it. I ended breaking the strings off the guitar, and I think that was one of the best moments of the recording for me."A Thing Called Divine Fits is out now. Divine Fits play St Jerome's Laneway Festival at the Perth Cultural Centre on February 9. Tickets from lanewayfestival.com.au.
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