The genres of indie-rock and synth-pop often converge. But rarely do they meld as seamlessly as they do in Divine Fits. Spoon front man Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs front man Dan Boeckner and New Bomb Turks drummer Sam Brown comprise this band, which formed earlier this year. The group released a debut, the moody and melodic A Thing Called Divine Fits, on Merge Records in August to much acclaim. Now the Fits are fixin’ to play two Vegas shows over New Year’s—Dec. 30-31—at The Joint in the Hard Rock, along with Grammy-winning garage-blues duo the Black Keys. Daniel called from his home in Austin, Texas to chat with Vegas Seven.
Divine Fits performed last month on the Late Show. David Letterman offered to manage you. Was that cool?
It was cooler than cool—awesome and unexpected. We even talked with him after the show for an hour. With Spoon, I’ve played Letterman four times and never shared a word. I grew up watching him and the bands he’d bring on his show.
Your album is a neat fusion of synth-pop and roots-rock. I imagine you and Dan writing the album awash in Cure and Tom Petty CDs. Far off?
The Cure’s definitely a band we both love. The first time I met Dan, I had gone to see a Handsome Furs show based on the only song I heard up to that point—“Dumb Animals.” It sounds like an early, dark Cure single—super-intense, unabashedly moody. So, yes, we played The Cure, but I also made him listen to a lot of AC/DC.
The Fits cover Petty’s “You Got Lucky”?
Our album is 11 tracks, 40 minutes long, so we needed a few more songs for our live set. We tried a cover or two, but Dan wasn’t too jazzed on them. Then Petty came on the car radio, and I suggested we cover it. Turns out Dan had done the song live for years with the Furs.
The best bands you and I grew up listening to—Hüsker Dü, Dinosaur Jr.—had two competing songwriters. Is songcraft a competitive thing for you and Dan?
Not at all. I love trading off songs, though, and some of my favorite bands are the ones you mentioned. I’d add the Beatles, The Clash, the Rolling Stones—bands in which a couple of writers bring it together and become greater exponentially because of the other. One writer doesn’t want to let the other outdo him, but they feed off and thrive on the other’s accomplishment. That’s what Dan and I do.
The Fits’ song “My Love Is Real” only has about three chords. Was that the intent?
We went through a thing with that one, actually. It wasn’t a simple song, and as Dan was writing it he played the first three chords, then told me, “It needs another section.” I said, “Yeah, but that’s hard.” We were also working to get the album done quickly, so we added one more chord near the end.
“Baby Gets Worse” has lyrics that make you wonder who is the baby in question. It could be the speaker, his object of affection or the relationship. As a writer, do you prefer ambiguity or concreteness?
I think either can work, and they both have pitfalls. Dan knows what he’s writing about, but I don’t always ask him about a song’s meaning. Maybe that song’s about his wife, but I never inquired. Just never came up.
It seems like synth-pop is about rediscovering where songwriting might’ve gone had rock and grunge not muscled aside new wave.
I think any song—with heavy guitars or heavy synth—can survive if it has a great melody or great lyrics or both. Hopefully they’ll be the ones played on the radio years from now.
Vegas on New Year’s. Pumped?
A lot of people are going to be in Vegas for that show, so it makes sense for there to be a good crowd of music lovers present.