"I wanted to emphasise the eccentricities and idiosyncrasies in the music" - Dan Snaith talks Caribou's new LP Suddenly
Every project Canadian electro-whizz Dan Snaith undertakes is marked by its ambition, but, in the case of his latest offering under his Caribou moniker, it's turned right up to 11.
It has been six years since the last full-length effort from that project, and while Snaith has put out a couple of long-players under the name Daphni in the last couple of years, fans were beginning to wonder if his Caribou guise had been put to rest for good.
Luckily, that's not the case.
His new album, which hmv have named Album of the Month, is Suddenly and we spoke to Snaith about making the record, how he slimmed down a playlist of 900 songs for the album and why this is an LP inspired by life's unexpected events...
It’s been six years since the last Caribou record, have you been collecting songs for the project during that period?
"Yes! Some of the tracks on this new album were there in some early form in 2015. Songs quite often are like puzzles to me, I find a few pieces that fit together and then get stuck. I have to leave them and keep returning to them every few months to see if I can find any more pieces that fit, whether that's a verse to go with a chorus or vice versa."
"Listening back to the tracks now, you don't hear that, they should sound effortless but with most of the tracks, there was a lot of banging my head against them trying to will them to completion."
When did you know that you had enough tracks for a new Caribou record?
"I finished it at the end of August 2019 and I didn't really know I was headed towards finishing it until maybe June of that year. In some sense the problem was that I had way too many tracks. I've got a playlist on my computer with over 900 draft ideas and snippets of tracks."
"So many albums could have been the end result of that, but most of them would have been terrible. The process of trying to find the best one out of all those unfinished ideas is disorienting and confusing most of the time."
Did you have a goal in mind of how you wanted the album to sound? How did you want to move on from Our Love?
"I wanted it to be more full of surprise. I wanted to emphasise the eccentricities and idiosyncrasies in the music. I love melody and so I realised I didn't need to worry about making tracks that had hooks and melodies, that would take care of itself. I could focus more on thinking about the frame those songs were going to be situated in and making that be interesting and different and surprising."
Does the album have a theme?
"Perhaps the biggest difference between this record and my previous ones is that there's a lyrical theme that runs through the album. The last five years of my life has been shaped by unexpected - and often difficult and tragic - events that have come out of the blue and rocked my family and my wife's family."
"Over and over again we have both ended up in the position of supporting and comforting the people that we love that we're closest to. These stories are there in the lyrics of almost every song. When I listened back to the album when it was finished, that's what I heard. It's a kind of attempt at reassurance in the face of difficult circumstances."
Which song on the album took the longest to get right?
"The track 'You and I' was half a song for a very, very long time. The first thing you hear in the song, in the instrumental intro before the verse, that was there right from the beginning of the recording sessions - sometime in 2015. I kept coming back to it because it was so familiar-sounding and emotionally potent. But I knew that I didn't want the whole song to unfold in that same familiar mood because it felt like something I'd done before."
"I was aware that I wanted the chorus to be some kind of a switch, but it took me forever to find out what that switch should be. I'm happy with how it turned out though. I love how unexpected that switch from verse to chorus is, but that after a few listens your ear starts to make sense of it and anticipate it."
And which came together most quickly?
"'Never Come Back' was finished in a day or two. But the main ideas were all there in less than an hour. It was one of those rare instances where as soon as I landed on the key ingredients, I could hear how the whole song should unfold in my head. It was just a question of getting out of the way and not over-complicating it."
When did you decide on Suddenly for the album title? Were any other titles in contention?
"My daughter, who was then two years old, just about to turn three, came up with it. All the music and everything was done and the record label was chasing me for an album title which needed to be chosen by 'YESTERDAY!' My daughter had just learned the word 'suddenly' and, as toddlers often do i think, was using it all the time to kind of test out what it means and also to show us all how grown up she was."
"My wife was the one who heard here saying it and suggested it be the album title. It's crazy in retrospect that from such a seemingly random way of choosing it, the album title now seems like such a great fit for both the sudden shifts in the music and the sudden changes in my life that inspired the theme of the album."
What are your plans to take the album out live? How is your festival season looking?
"We are going to be very busy touring all over this year, which I'm very very excited about. We're in the UK on tour in early April and then doing several festivals - Green Man, All Points East and some others that I am not able to mention at this point!"
"I'm so excited to be playing again because it's been years and years since we played. I decided a couple of years ago that we weren't going to play again until there was new music to play so it's been a while since we've played anywhere!"
You’ve got seven records now, how will you decide what makes your live set?
"That's a question we're tackling at the moment. We'll definitely be playing lots from the new record, but also plenty of old favourites. I hope that we'll play a somewhat different show from night to night now that there are enough songs to switch it up a bit. But, don't worry, we'll play the favourites every night..."