Caribou released the quirky and equally refreshing album, Swim, in April 2010, and singles Odessa and Sun quickly amassed cult-like support, becoming the soundtracks to summer and finding love in eccentric disco sets from Ibiza, to Asia, the US and all over Europe; sending Dan packing for a rigorous tour schedule too. However, Dan Snaith, the man behind the carefully crafted electronic epidemic, hasn’t fallen into sudden success- his career spans a decade, with a musicality that moves fluidly between folktronica, shoegaze, krautrock, and 1960s psychadelic pop. His first ‘Dj’ inspired album, combining his Indie influences with chilled electronica; Swim made a second splash in October when it was released again. The Remix album features intricate and ultimate remixes by Motor City Drum Ensemble, James Holden, Fuck Buttons, DJ Koze, Ikonika and Junior Boys- a clear insight into the respect his work has earned. Holly Jade dragged Dan into the deep end to indulge his creative tick.
Check out live & Dj sets from the Caribou on Pulse
Pulse: Your album Swim came out earlier this year and it seems as if overnight ‘Caribou’ was on everyone’s lips world wide - how has it been watching your music garner something of a ‘cult-like’ appreciation? Caribou: It's been pretty crazy actually, obviously with my perspective we've been on tour and seeing the shows get bigger and crazier, we've had so many amazing concerts... and traveling from places so far apart from Seoul, South Korea to Bogotá, Colombia, it's been amazing!
You grew up in a very mathematical home and studied it yourself - how does your ‘number logic’ and your ‘creative side’ play together when it comes to making music? Well I guess music is an intuitive, emotional thing for me. It's not a logical thing but I suppose there's always some degree with the production side of things and engineering, the more technical side of things. It's useful. What's key to me is communicating some important emotional thing.
These days less people consider a ‘scientific approach’ to making quality, composed music - they kind of throw bleeps and beats together and hope for the best. How did you come to it (electronic music) and what made you want to create your own? I started making music this way because it was cheap. When I was a teenager I always wanted to record music and it was only when I was 16 that I discovered electronic music and I realized that you could buy a couple pieces of equipment at a pawn shop for $100 and it all of a sudden became possible. It wasn't so much about anything else really, just a way in.
"The important thing for me is communicating the excitement and emotional qualities of making music rather than spending too long perfecting every single sound..."
Your live sets have a strong visual element - how important is it for you to bring in the imagery with your audio, and how does this add dimension to your shows and ‘instigate’ the audience? It's always been important for me but not something that I feel a natural ability in. All the kind of things like visuals on stage which are done by our guitarist Ryan Smith, the artwork for the albums and music videos are good opportunities to collaborate with people who are kinda more traditionally included I guess. And as far as our live shows go, we just want it to be immerse and thoughtful. Interestingly, this time around, it's the first time it's been incorporated in the show, Ryan's playing all the visuals, live factor on a series of web fixtures so it's kinda performed just like any other instrument on stage.
How was it moving from Canada to London, England and what were some of the biggest changes you came across in terms of how these different cities function- from a social and lifestyle aspect? I moved to London, England to study but my family immigrated from the UK and my grandparents lived in the UK so I spent a fair amount of time there growing up. It's somewhere while not being home that felt like an easy place to move to. Canada and the UK obviously share various similarities. I always felt like it was the next step, I wanted to move to a more challenging place. Things are more difficult there, it's expensive and challenging in a number of different ways and I like that about it too, and it's filled with excitement.
Your original band name was Manitoba but you had to change it - whereas bands often lose their identity when forced to change their name; do you think this was a catalyst to Caribou’s success? I really look back at everything kind-of being annoyingly irrelevant. I guess I wanted a name that kind-of expressed something about me personally, especially at that point when I started making instrumental music- so switching from one name to another. The thing that worried me at the time was that things had just started to go so well; I was worried that it would all evaporate with the change of name. It helped but it definitely didn't hurt at all, and it was such a long time ago now.
You have a rigorous tour schedule taking you round Europe and the UK until the end of the year. Your UK tour sees you playing several gigs with Four Tet - that’s quite an interesting aural experience, how will the show go down? Kieran from Four Tet is the guy who helped me get my music released in the first place. He's like a musical brother and one of my closest friends. It's frustratingly rare that we've played together in the past few years. We've released albums on alternate years so he's been on tour when I've been at home. This time around the time and dates have been naturally related so it's awesome that we get to do shows together and all the shows we've done together have been amazing!
How did you and Kieran (Four Tet) initially meet? I was in the UK working there over the summer, this was really before I released any music, and I just went up to him at the festival he just played and said hello. It was actually him and the guy from his band, Rick, playing a board game called Abalone (a mathematical style board game) and I guess I knew immediately that I had to hang with them.
Have you any plans to collaborate musically with Kieran? Generally we always are, despite the fact that he plays on my album or vice-versa, we do have a significant impact on each other's music. It would be great to actually record music together. We always seem to be so crazy busy working on the next thing, I don't know when. I think it's almost the inevitability of it happening than it seems to be anything that needs to be done urgently. We recorded the live album; Caribou Vibration Ensemble at ATP NY (All Tomorrow's Parties) last year and he was part of that band as well as 15 of our closest musical friends. Just getting to play at those concerts together and have the recording of that is a great thing that we were able to do.
You mentioned some inspiration for your Andorra album came from James Holden. He’s one of these ‘electronic composers’ many musicians artfully appreciate - what fascinates you about his production style/ work? I think he genuinely is unique, he's amazingly technically gifted…the ability he has to produce music, and how he produces all the frequencies and his ability to mix, his ability to use synthesizers is absolutely astounding! Often as a musician all I know is how to make this music fragment, with James' music I don't even know where the drift stops. His music is the first in a while where I don't know how it's made. He has such a unique way of using synthesizers and whatever that it fascinates me. Also he has such a production gift for melody, harmony and all those things.
You seem like a bit of a gadget boy- what are some of your favourite toys in the studio? I'm really not actually, I'm total wide-eyed when it comes to technology. All the stuff that I use I don't really know how to use it properly. A lot of my friends are that way inclined. My style is kinda to tinker around with things and not really have the patience to figure out how they work properly but to be able to get a sound that I like as quickly as I can which for me seems to work. The important thing for me is communicating the excitement and emotional qualities of making music rather than spending too long perfecting every single sound I guess.
What inspires your intricate melodies? I think it's true for most music lovers that it's kind-of thrilling hearing music that gets the hairs of the back of your neck standing or gives you an emotional punch in the gut. It's always been really exciting to me and even more exciting to me is starting with nothing and making that same piece of music that has the same effect on me. That's the kind of thrill that I have to have around making music.
There’s quite an involved club scene in London, but you work from outside the scene - what are your thoughts on the sustainability of club culture - and how do you think we’ll be getting our fix of electronic music in 10 years time? You're right, I've never really been 'inside' any particular scene, especially not club music, but having always been observing it, it seems to me that over the last 10 years it went from being very exciting times for dance music to not so exciting from say 5 years ago. Now again all this amazing, interesting new music is being produced, specifically in London but all over the place. A few years ago I would have written off club music, you know, it seemed its time had passed. I guess it's such a resilient genre to be broadly reinterpreted. A couple of years ago I wouldn't have expected so much exciting dance music to be made right now- it has the ability to reenact itself and continue to be interesting.
A song for a rainy day? New track on James Blake's Ep (Klavierwerke), I think it's the 1st track, not positive- space and piano sounding noises...
3 things to think about whilst holding your breath under water? At some point David Blaine when he set the world record on Oprah. I think it was 14 mins so that's definitely something to think about, to want to break the world record. To hold your breath for 14 mins or 17 mins, I can't remember, but some ridiculously long period of time. Maybe what you're going to eat for dinner that night. I'm in a particularly hungry mood right now so… And another perspective on making music and swimming is when you're holding your breath you are not paying attention to the sounds of your body operating so much so you are paying attention to other sounds around you.
3 Books to read? 2666 by Roberto Bolano, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace and Labyrinth - World of Froud.
3 Pop culture guilty pleasures? Pop-trance music, water parks and Halls Mentho-lyptus.