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Interview: Britt Daniel from Divine Fits

Words by Scenewave Australia - Published on January 23, 2013

Divine Fits are an amalgamation of Britt Daniel from Spoon, Dan Boeckner from Handsome Furs and Wolf Parade, and Sam Brown from New Bomb Turks. On their debut record, A Thing Called Divine Fits, they crush the stereotype of a typical ‘supergroup’, by providing a unique selection of excellent rock songs, which sounds like a quintessential blend of Daniel’s and Boeckner’s songwriting styles. They’re a little like an 80s Spoon if you can picture that, something that the Donnie Darko soundtrack could easily have tapped into.

Divine Fits are en route to Australia, after snatching up a spot on the bill for Laneway Festival 2013. We were able to catch up with Britt Daniel for a quick chat on his upcoming tour, his favourite songs to cover, the Hottest 100 and more.

Which artists are you looking forward to catching up with at Laneway? Do you know the lineup of each festival or just go with the flow?

I don’t know. Maybe Bat for Lashes, I need to look at the big list… I sort of go with the flow. What about you guys?

We’re very keen for Mercury Prize winners, Alt-J among others. Have you heard their stuff?

No not yet, I’ll have to check them out.

Do you have pre-gig ritual that you swear by?

Well you’ve really got to time when you eat, that’s very important. I like to eat around 3 hours before we play, that way you can settle, rest a bit and usually have a drink or two before you go on stage.

Sort of like that rule where you can’t eat just before you go for a swim at the beach?

It’s a little like that yeah. You don’t wanna be digesting while you’re up there.

So strictly no food on stage for the Divine Fits? How about a cherry from the album cover?

I took a banana on stage once when I was feeling kind of ill. Yeah I’m not sure how much sustenance a cherry would provide but yeah, it’s maybe worth a shot.

You recorded “Shivers”, a cover of Australian act Boys Next Door. Do you have some special connection to Australia and do you love playing in Australia?

I do love playing in Australia, it’s my favourite place to tour outside of the States. I’ve been there four times and I always have a fantastic time. I love the people, I love the country. But the last time I was down there, a friend of mine in Sydney played me “Shivers” and I’d never heard it before. I always thought that Nick Cave’s first band was The Birthday Party. I just love the song and maybe I don’t know a year later or so, when we were trying to come up with songs for this band, we had several that we wrote ourselves, and we thought, you know, it’s something you do when you’re in a young band, you end up playing a lot of covers because you don’t have many songs yet. That was one that I thought that we could do, because it’s not that well known, especially in the states, and I thought we could change it a little bit to make it our own.

We see that in addition to “Shivers”, you also cover Frank Ocean’s “Lost”.  What is it particularly about this song that made you want to cover it? 

Well, before I’d even heard it, it was described to me as an R&B Spoon song. It did sound a lot like the way that I might arrange a pop song so yeah, I just love the tune and maybe a couple months after that my girlfriend said, you know you guys should really play this one. And I thought ‘noooo that’s silly’. But then I thought some more and we started playing it and it kinda works.

When you’re down here will you be doing “Lost” for Like A Version for triple J?

I suggested it but, somebody at Like A Version denied it, they said that someone else had done it recently or something.

Have any other songs been considered?

We had a number but I don’t know where along the line we were denied, but we are having to come up with some more suggestions. In our live show, we play a Tom Petty song, and a Rolling Stones song. I’m not sure which one we’re going to play on the radio yet, though.

Dan Broeckner says that he recorded “What Gets You Alone” in his kitchen, where’s the strangest place you’ve laid down a track?

Umm, I’ve done a lot of recordings in bedrooms that have ended up being on records. Sometimes the bathroom sounds good.

Do you ever feel that people won’t judge the Divine Fits for what they are, and instead of what the members have done? Does that worry you?

I’m not worried. There’s always some degree of chatter and non-essential talk going on about any band, but I think eventually they’ll know you sound like what the record sounds like and that’s the most important thing. I think this band, live and on record, can really hold its own.

What’s your favourite tune to play live?

Probably “Shivers”.

Are you aware of triple J’s Hottest 100 in Australia? What would you like to see win? Which track on the album would you like voters to vote for?

Uhh, I’m not aware of it… but they should vote for “Would That Not Be Nice”, that’s the single from our record. The Frank Ocean record came out last year… that Walkmen record was pretty darn good, yeah, anything from those two.

Favourite band in the world to party with?

I’d say the Divine Fits are my favourite band in the world to party with. We have a good time.

I’ve heard of nights recording and drinking bottles of vodka?

Yeahhh right. We were rehearsing in this Little Armenia neighbourhood in Los Angeles and they had lots of specialty vodkas there. Dan is really into that. He had some fables, man, because he was going through some serious shit when we were laying down that record. So he had plenty of reasons to drink vodka.

First song you learned on guitar?

I learned guitar from a Beatles songbook and there’s this song called “I Need You”. It’s not a very good song, but it was very simple, with chords that I could play. I think it’s a George Harrison song from Help. That sticks out as the first song I learned on guitar.

Ever had guitar lessons? If so how old were you when you stopped?

I just used the songbook, and you know I’m not a finesse player at all, I can bash things out, I can play some chords, but really bass guitar is my better instrument.

Is there an age where you see yourself stopping making music? 

Well no I don’t see that. (pause.) Haha nah that’s never going to happen. I don’t know what else I would do with my life.

First band you saw live?

The Bee Gees. I still love the Bee Gees. I was 7 when I saw them I think. They’ve got some great songs.

Would you cover the Bee Gees with Divine Fits?

Sure, well I did a solo show where I played a couple of Bee Gees songs. I can’t remember I think I played “Holiday”, and something else. They’ve got a lot of great, well written songs. I’d love to cover one of their songs, if I could convince the band to.

What music do you put on for a road trip?

AC/DC or Led Zeppelin.

First record you ever bought? 

First album was Thriller. Before that I was into those 45” singles, and I remember seeing Thriller had so many hits on it that it would be more economical for me to just buy the album.

What was it like scoring Stranger Than Fiction?

It was fun. I’d never done anything like that before and luckily I had the music supervisor for the film, who sort of showed me how to do it and we wrote all the songs together. It was a blast, we did it really fast, and it was very free form. It’s a lot easier for me to just write instrumental music quickly, rather than having to put words to it, that opens up a whole can of worms.

Are you hanging around at the festival or going off somewhere else?

We go to Hawaii after the tour, but come and say hey in Brisbane and we could grab a beer.

Divine Fits are playing at 8:40pm at the Eat Your Own Ears stage next Friday at Laneway Festival.

Tickets are on sale for $120 and are available here!

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