Caribou Interview


Written by Jimmy Asquith
14 Monday 14th June 2010
Casting your ears towards today’s music hype chatter you’d be forgiven for thinking that every other artist out of the closet was a distorted, dream-pop sensation. We’ve all heard the term chill-wave thrown around – and, like the term or not, it helps group together the dreamboats making it – but what about embracing a more epic club sound? Daniel Snaith is one man not shying away from its influence. Known currently as Caribou, and previously as Manitoba, he’s currently storming around his native Canada with a van full of hardware and software (i.e. the other band members) promoting his fifth long-player, Swim.
And that’s the big surprise for any recent newcomer to Caribou, there are another four slabs of organic tinkering to be explored. If you had already drawn the musical similarities between this guy and Four Tet then you won’t be surprised to learn that Kieran was the one who helped get the pre-Caribou Snaith his first release.
Apart from the live feel of much of his output it’s the strength of the electronics that are truly astounding. Powerful, spectral washes of synth are pierced by screeching, squealing micro-sounds all bound around clunking, clopping rhythms evoking early Hot Chip.
With Snaith and his live band braving the desolate Canadian landscape, continuing on what is his homecoming tour, we decided to throw him a line and try to learn a little more about the man himself.
How did things start about as Manitoba [Caribou’s original artist name]?
I was making music by myself at home messing around. Then I came to London to work for a summer and met Kieran Hebden, Four Tet, and passed him a bunch of tracks I’d been working on. He passed that on to Leaf, and it’s just been growing from there ever since.
Is it correct that you had to change your name because a guy in the US threatened to sue you?
Yeah this guy called “Handsome Dick” Manitoba in a band called The Dictators, who we didn’t even know existed, hired a private investigator to come and observe me at the shows, which, if you have a list of public gigs on your website, means it isn’t too hard to track you down. So it was a very surreal moment.
You’ve been living in London for a while now; do you think this has had any impact on your sound as a whole?
Almost ten years. I think though maybe this album is the first that has had a musical impact, ‘cause there’s so much exciting club music in the UK at the moment. I mean, like, five years ago I think the UK was a complete musical wasteland in my opinion. But it seems like now there’s lots of exciting things going on.
Do you think that your background in maths [Snaith originally came to London to study a PhD in Mathematics] has helped you to delve into the technicalities of music more?
Actually the short answer is no. I mean, I’m just not a technical person at all. I think people have the wrong idea about mathematics, that it’s like computer science or accounting. But most mathematicians I know are just useless in practical or technical situations. They mainly have an abstract take on things. I mean, I’m only just slowly learning to change a guitar string after 10-15 years making music.
Does your organic sound derive from live recordings or some pretty deft sampling?
Most of the instruments tend to be like one-note samples then played on the piano keyboard. For example one note might have some texture and warmth, like if it’s an acoustic recording, I always want to kind of have that analogue sound, to hear the space that things were recorded in.
Apparently your new album Swim refers to you recently re-learning said activity.
Well we had a swimming pool when I was growing up, and I could kind of get from one spot to the next but was always really clumsy at it. So over the last year it’s been about learning how to do it so that it was enjoyable or graceful. In terms of the music I suppose I just wanted to make something that was liquid or fluid, with all the parts of the track washing around like waves.

Caribou play at Heaven, London on June 16. 

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