Fri, Apr 22, 2016 - Page 11 News List

Live Wire: The great unintended

By Joe Henley  /  Contributing reporter

Dan Bejar, the man behind indie phenomenon Destroyer, has made a career of making improbable transitions of genre.

Photo courtesy of Highnote Asia

“I have no idea about the man Dan Bejar.”

Reading through the lines of an e-mail interview with Vancouver-based singer/songwriter Dan Bejar is a master class in the inner workings of the occidental pop/rock psyche.

Famous first as a member of The New Pornographers, then with his own far more prolific invention, Destroyer (which actually predates TNP), Bejar is something of an enigma in the indie world. That fluid sort of stylist who seems to move so seamlessly between genres you can’t tell if he’s being intentionally ironic, deliberately obtuse, unconventionally brilliant or some combination of all three.

Nearing his mid-forties, Bejar is now 11 albums and four EPs deep into a Destroyer catalog that spans 20 years. As is the norm, on the latest record, Poison Season, the man has a lot on his mind, many deep-seeded notions to mull vulnerably and poetically over.

The album is rich in death and religious imagery, lush with that awkward introverted weirdness Bejar and his similarly smart and odd cohorts have used to help shape the image of indie itself.

“I was in some strange room in my mind for these songs that I don’t wholly recognize from other Destroyer songs,” he tells the Taipei Times of putting the record together. “Something sinister, globally oppressive, and written in character, yet still more intimate-sounding than the last few records.”

That whatever follows a Destroyer record will be a departure from what came prior is about the only semblance of predictability that exists in Bejar’s world.

Kaputt, precursor to Poison Season, was widely hailed as the band’s most pop album to date. It’s only natural Bejar felt the need to go in a darker direction on his latest exploration—one in which classical balladry finds itself fused with a muted yet no less prescient ‘70s classic rock vibration.

It’s a seemingly strange combination, one which begs the question of common ground.

“Not sure there is much common ground,” he answers, “which is why Poison Season is kind of a weird record. I will say that in the ‘70s, which is the decade I feel closest to when it comes to rock music or pop music, diverse and heady arrangements where not considered exotic things. Nor were grand gestures, melancholic melodic lines, or defeatist lyrics.”

Talk to Bejar long enough, be it in person or in the virtual world, and it’s not long before the conversation trips over his conflicted views of pop music via the vile indie antipode of careerism.

It’s the struggle that seems to define him — the artist’s artist who can’t help but make accidental pop music, no matter how hard the superego might rail against it.

Case in point: Bejar simultaneously feeling most comfortable within the decadent, overblown strains of ‘70s classic rock, albeit reigning it in with indie’s translucent chains, while appearing nearly ready to toss it out the proverbial window.

“I’m almost willing to throw away any attachment I have or have ever had to American radio music. Almost willing to throw out Bob Dylan and Marvin Gaye and other things that I’ve carried around so close to my heart for years now. Just to be rid of the whole damn thing. Almost. But this would be acting on principle, and I’m not very good at that.”

It’s that raw honesty that has attracted legions of fans to Bejar’s work. He’s succeeded, again, deliberately or otherwise, in drawing in the sort of supporters who will poke and prod at the viscera of his body of work and pick it apart down to the last note and syllable.

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