Death From Above (formerly Death From Above 1979) have speant nearly more time together as a band since their reuniting in 2011 than they did during their initial incarnation in 2001. The Toronto-formed dance/punk duo set the world on fire briefly with their caustic and sexy ruckus only to implode on the cusp of major success.
Drummer/vocalist Sebastien Grainger and bassist Jesse Keeler are touring behind their second album since their reunion. Outrage is Now! finds the pair finding a cohesive balance between Keeler’s sludge-monster bass lines and Grainger’s dance drumming.
The Alt spoke to Grainger earlier this month about the record and the band’s second go before their stop at Upstate Concert Hall on Oct. 23.
DK: There seems to be less dance on this record than the last and much more of a head-down, almost metal vibe. How did that come about?
SG: “This record is a culmination of about a year of writing. We oscillated between a couple different approaches– Jesse was really keen on using Ride the Lightning as inspiration. I’m not a metal guy so I found that to be a pretty daunting order. We had a bunch of songs written in that mode and I wasn’t necessarily stoked on making a whole record on that type of material. But once we had a stack of songs came all directions things really started to come together. I didn’t want it to sound like metal because I don’t really know how to write that way so I approached those songs kind of sideways. “Nomad” is the most classic metal tune on the record. On “Moonlight I approached the vocal like Scott Walker.
DK: You were labeled a dance/rock band in the early aughts. That scene has died. Did you ever see yourself as part of it?
SG: “That label came from outside but our starting point was we are a dance band in the sense that AC/DC is a dance band. The term ‘dance”’ can be used pretty liberally. We play music that makes people move physically.”
DK: The title and lyrics on this record indicate to me that you feel separate from the zeitgeist of the moment–the partisanship, the protests and everything else. That seems like a pretty brave thing to admit these days, in some ways.
SG: “A lot of the record is observational, it’s not condoning anything specifically. I have to sit outside the insanity, sit on the fence see what’s happening and tell it like I see it. The lyrics for me on this record are so interpretable. A song I wrote six months ago could mean a different thing to me now and that was the goal–lyrics that could be viewed a bunch of different ways.”
DK: After your reunion do you find yourself looking to tour or work with any other bands specifically? Who do you consider your peers?
SG: “We’ve never really known. And that kind of feeling continues. When we started in Toronto, we came out of this punk hardcore scene and we were playing spazzy weirdo art music. We didn’t really fit in that scene so we didn’t spend a lot of time there. The next thing we did was play with big rock bands with lights and smoke machines and god forbid we didn’t fit in there either. We had to carve our own little niche. I was really anxious when we came back that people remembered us as one thing but we were actually another thing. All we can really ask for at any given time is that some people get it. We’ve never been a one-sound kind of band. We’ve never felt like that fraternity with other bands in rock music. We’ve seen some bands–see them play together, do tours together–they have a bond or link and for whatever reason maybe were just assholes, we haven’t had that.”
DK: The new album has a number of extremely strong songs that I imagine could blow up for the band. “Caught Up” would do extremely well on radio. Do you have input into which songs are released as singles? Do you care about that sort of decision making?
SG: “We have people at our label who are really good at that kind of thing. We’re not interested in that flash in the pan type of moment. We worked hard on a this for a couple years and we want to play it for a couple years –18 months, whatever it ends up being. The concept of a record is that it’s exactly what the word is– it’s a record of time and art and that record is going to exist forever, or as long as we don’t have a solar flare. We’re happy to finally have it out there.”
DK: The music industry has changed drastically since your first record. So much music is consumed digitally now but there are those who are dedicated to collecting physical media. How do you want fans to consume your work?
SG: “I run a little record label and everything, every single record we sell comes through me so I have a relationship with everyone. The economy for DFA is totally different though. For that project, every single time sell record feels good. That band is playing a couple of shows driving between two cities sold 3 or 4 records then we’ve paid for gas and it feels like “This is amazing!” In a sense, that activity has kind of remotivated me in a way. I feel so connected to everyone listening to the music. With DFA it’s almost an abstract thing– streaming, downloads, vinyl, CDs pirating–I don’t dare tell anyone how to appreciate our music. I suppose I’d say ‘Come to a show. Buy a shit,’ but that is not available to every fan. So as long as people are excited by our music that’s what it’s all about communicating.”