Photo: Robb D. Cohen / Retna
Dan Bejar’s got it good. When he’s not chopping it up with the cream of the Vancouver music scene — in addition to recording with the New Pornographers, he makes records with members of Frog Eyes and Wolf Parade as Swan Lake, and his lady friend Sydney Vermont as Hello, Blue Roses — Bejar is Destroyer, the deceptively badass nom de plume of his primary musical outlet. Since the mid-nineties, Bejar’s been releasing progressively ambitious indie-pop records, which owe as much to free-associating emcee Cam’ron as seventies-era Dylan for their cheeky, cryptic wordplay. Destroyer’s latest, Trouble in Dreams, was released yesterday on Merge Records. Vulture caught up with Bejar during the brief downtime between South by Southwest and his upcoming national tour.
Is recording with Destroyer a lot different from recording with your other bands? Do you have to check your ego a lot?
My ego is pretty much checked already. With the New Pornographers, it’s a different thing. I just give Carl the songs.
You’re like a songwriting mercenary?
A songwriting headhunter … on Challengers, I was a bit more hands-on in the studio, which I think paid off. But my ego gets checked left and right. There’s a part of this one song [on Trouble in Dreams] called “My Favourite Year” — everyone who’s heard it unanimously, um, despises it? The people who recorded it but never played on it say, “I hate this part of this song!” It’s a pretty obvious part of the song to hate.
Which part is it?
The song is kind of divided in half by this one part that breaks down into what sounds like a phoned-in version of my voice, a ratty electrical guitar, and I’m kind of cackling this line, “Beware the company you reside in.” And it’s not very sonorous. It’s not pleasing to the ears. But I kind of just went with it. It followed some obscene logic in my head as to how that song had to go to work. But when I just played it for people, I just felt like I was sabotaging a song. It’s been said that every time I sing a song I’m sabotaging a perfectly good song.
The supergroup tag obviously gets applied to a lot of your projects, so I thought it’d fun to have you dream up a theoretical supergroup. You wouldn’t have to be in the band…
I could be like an impresario?
[Laughs.] Yeah, I don’t know … I’d get Miles Davis and Richard Harris together. I think it would just be those two with a bunch of MIDI triggers.
You mention 1993 in “My Favourite Year.” What happened in ’93?
That song feels like it has a really personal feeling to it, but it’s nothing specific. I can’t say that 1993 has any real significance other than, you know, I was 20 years old, gearing up to drop out of school and be completely aimless and fucked up. It was a pivotal time.
I think Destroyer is a great name for any band, but particularly in this case because it’s the exact opposite of this nuanced thing that you do. Was it a calculated decision, or did you just like the name?
I was actually so out of it I didn’t know that there was a Kiss record called Destroyer because I didn’t know anything about Kiss. I still don’t know anything about them. I just thought it was a cool rock-and-roll name, and I was kind of blown away that it hadn’t been taken already. I was like, “I have to use this because it’s so weird that no one’s used it before.”
Is there any good action in Canada we’re missing?
No, man. Canadian politics, it’s a washout … I’m more into municipal politics these days. Vancouver is getting the Olympics for 2010.
[Laughs.] Well, it tends to change the city forever when they get these big events. It seems like slowly but surely no one I know is gonna be able to afford to live in this city anymore. It’s gonna be interesting to see where people go, what people do. We have a pretty formidable homeless and street drug problem in Vancouver, and I can’t quite figure out what they’re gonna do about it when these millions of people invade the city to watch ski-jumping. —Amos Barshad