Demolition man

Destroyer’s Daniel Bejar takes a surprisingly constructive approach to rock

Daniel Bejar has always followed his own musical path. His customary vehicle
is Destroyer, an ever-changing group made up of like-minded musical vagabonds
who, despite their aggressive band name, prefer their melodies to be on
beautiful, melancholy, eclectic side. But most people are more aware of Bejar
because of his work on the New Pornographers’ debut Mass
Romantic—just as it was starting to take off, however, the Vancouver
native fled the spotlight and only appeared briefly on the
Pornographers’ follow-up disc, Electric Version. Destroyer’s
latest disc, Your Blues, was created with the production duo JC/DC (John
Collins and Dave Carswell), whom Bejar worked with on the first three
Destroyer records, City of Daughters, Thief and Streethawk: A Seduction.
“They’re old hat when it comes to what I’m doing,”
Bejar says, “and they’re also really great musicians, so I knew I
could get them to play stuff I couldn’t play. They’re really into
the nitty-gritty of the computer, which was central to recording this
record.” When Destroyer recorded their earlier releases, it was more of
an actual band that required a full studio for all the members to let loose
in and make a lot of noise. But for Your Blues, Bejar wanted to focus on
orchestrating an album around his voice and using more delicate
instrumentation—most of the tracks were recorded in an apartment with
the help of a computer. “[That method is] definitely pretty practical
these days,” he says, “especially for editing and arranging,
which there was a lot of on this one.” The songs are spotlight
Bejar’s darkly evocative lyrics and his distinctive voice (reminiscent
of Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie), with acoustic guitars, strings and horns adding
to the dreamy feel. “The vocals are ridiculously up-front,” he
says. “It’s perhaps the most obviously lyrically-based record
I’ve done. In some spots it seems downright a cappella.” Fans
coming out to see Destroyer will get a much different version of those songs,
however. Normally, Bejar tours with whomever appeared on the album; this
time, though, he gave Victoria alt-rockers Frog Eyes and their full rhythm
section and loud electric guitars free rein to be his Destroyer. “[Frog
Eyes frontman Carey Mercer] just created these new workings out of
them,” says Bejar. “It sounds along the lines of nothing like the
album, just to give people fair warning.” On his previous record, This
Night, Bejar received some of his harshest criticisms from fans who felt
he’d wandered too far away from the band’s original direction.
But that sense of aimlessness was actually deliberate. “I kind of
envisioned This Night as a long meandering walk—getting lost in the
forest,” Bejar says. “There was a certain reaction against This
Night and what people saw as a step away from my forte, which was writing
good pop songs. They thought it was kind of bloated and tuneless and too long
and kind of indulgent and just like a bunch of sounds thrown up against the
wall, not really turning into anything. In that sense, maybe it could have
done better—but I still really like it. It’s probably my
favourite record I’ve done. With [Your Blues], some people seem to be
saying it’s a return to form, but it doesn’t really matter.
There’s always gonna be people who like one thing you’ve done
better than the other.” V Destroyer With Frog Eyes and the Pink
Mountaintops • Sidetrack Café • Mon, Apr 25

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