A one-man indie rock whirlwind, Dan Bejar has put out more records than many fans have spent years on this earth.
Since releasing his first album back in 1996, the Vancouver-based singer-songwriter has had a hand in almost 30 albums and EPs, either operating under his Destroyer solo moniker, playing with The New Pornographers or indulging in any number of side projects. In 2011, Kaputt saw Destroyer deservedly achieve international success, while last year’s Brill Bruisers saw The New Pornographers break the top 20 in America for the second time in a row. This summer sees the release of Poison Season, the 10th Destroyer full-length and the ever-prolific Bejar’s second release of 2015.
1996: Creating Destroyer and releasing We’ll Build Them a Golden Bridge
I just lived in a big house with a bunch of people, we all did music in some way, so it felt like the most normal thing in the world. I didn’t have much else going on. I’ve always been a massive music fan and I’ve always done a lot of writing. I guess at some point that writing just collided with a four-track and a guitar. It felt like a pretty natural way for me to work, holing up by myself with a four-track instead of trying to like, put a band together. I think that by the time the first record came out though, I was completely uninterested in what was on it. I was pretty much immersed at that point in what I guess you would call classic rock.
1999: Starting The New Pornographers and playing in an indie-rock supergroup
At the time when we started the band it was pretty much just a conversation amongst friends in a bar. You know, Carl [Newman] was always the de facto leader – he’s a bit older than me, he’d played in a couple of different bands, he’d been doing it much longer – then John [Collins] recorded the early New Pornographers stuff and played a big part of it as well. I didn’t really know the language of the recording studio so I was definitely just along for the ride. I always knew it was going to be much more of a rigid thing, you know? Destroyer’s always been a bit looser as far as the playing goes and the songs themselves; the Pornographers have always been much faster and like, driving.
2002: Signing to Merge, releasing This Night and confounding the critics
I think that was kind of my most fearless era; maybe 2001-2004. I was getting lumped in with a certain indie pop crowd which I had kind of lost interest in. The sound was very much in-your-face but at the same time kind of ghostly. Plus we all made a conscious decision not to practice too much before going into the studio, so it was pretty loose. I don’t know if it’s what [Merge] signed up for but that wasn’t my concern at the time – it was just stuff I wanted to do and I did it – I didn’t really think of Destroyer as a commercial entity at all.
"2001-2004 was my most fearless era. I was getting lumped in with a certain indie pop crowd which I had kind of lost interest in"
2011: Releasing Kaputt and accidentally hitting the mainstream
In North America it was a bit more gradual – I’d done this record called Destroyer’s Rubies [in 2006] and that was kind of a more relaxed, less self-conscious presentation of what Destroyer is all about and that did quite a bit better than all the records that had come before it. My life isn’t too drastically changed. The big difference was that we finally found a bit of an audience in Europe. It’s hard to be too transformed on record number nine when you’re 40 years old though. In a lot of ways you’re etched in stone at that point. If maybe it had come out 15 years earlier it might have changed the way I approach music but it’s too little, too late as far as I’m concerned. I feel like it’s a record that did well but it’s not really going to chart what I do from here on in – I have no qualms turning my back on it, 100%.
2015: Recording Poison Season, the 10th Destroyer record
In 2012 I played a lot of shows and I played with this one line-up of the band that felt really good to me. I was singing really well on stage in a way that might have been a first; I got it into my head that it was something I really wanted to capture. So we went to a really fancy studio for the first time, all piled in, played the songs and walked out. Most of the record was done in that way. The other thing is, I’ve always thought about orchestral arrangements and string arrangements and the obvious thing Kaputt did was give me a budget to try and pull off this widescreen version of the songs. In a lot of ways it’s a much darker record than Kaputt song-wise, but sonically the spectrum is kind of way more blown-out.
Destroyer’s new album Poison Season is out on 28 August via Merge Records. Catch Destroyer on tour:
30 October – London – Islington Assembly Hall
31 October – Brighton – The Haunt
01 November – Leeds – Brudenell Social Club
02 November – Bristol – Colston Hall
30 December – London – Islington Assembly Hall