The Exponential Curve Of Caribou - The Reykjavik Grapevine

The Exponential Curve Of Caribou

The Exponential Curve Of Caribou

Published May 20, 2011

With five albums under his belt, Dan Snaith’s sound continues to approach a plane of infinite possibilities. From the club-inspired ‘Swim’ to the psychedelic ‘The Milk of Human Kindness,’ there is no doubt Dan, who goes by the moniker Caribou, has found his muse in the chameleon; it’s simply impossible to know what kind of music he will produce next. With the persistence of the band’s drummer Brad Weber, a true ‘Iceland-o-phile,’ Caribou will finally be gracing us with their presence this weekend. We caught up with Dan for a short interview before the concert to pick his ever-evolving musical and mathematical mind.
You’re known for changing your sound with every record. Is this something you do intentionally or does it happen naturally?
I don’t think I could summon enough enthusiasm to make the same record over again. While I was making my second album, at first I thought: “Okay, I should make this one like the first one because people seemed to like that”. But that felt so retrograde. For me, it’s just natural that music evolves. Now I’ve gotten to the point where I consciously want to change with each album and I like that people expect something different from me every time.
Do you get bored easily with the songs that you write? Is that why you change your sound often?
I’ve never gotten tired of playing any song live. Some bands don’t want to play their older songs, but I’m always consumed with the moment during live shows, so it’s always this different, changing experience. But the most exciting part about music for me is always generating the ideas in the first place. Then there’s this long process of tweaking things and getting all the sonic particulars in place, which is okay, but that’s not the exciting part about making music, not for me at least.
How do you feel about ‘Swim’, your latest album, compared to your others?
It’s definitely my favourite of all of them. I feel like it’s a comprehensive collection of what I’ve done musically so far. And since ‘Swim’ was released a year ago, our experience playing live has completely changed. Before this album, we never had people dancing at shows, because it wasn’t really that kind of music. Now, everyone dances. Being able to see some sort of physical response from people feeds our excitement when performing live. It changes the way the songs develop as we’re playing them.  We’ve incorporated its electronic elements into a properly spontaneous live show, rather than somebody just pushing buttons on a laptop.
It’s been about a year since its release, have you written any new stuff since then?
Just ideas. It’s not like I sit down and write ten tracks and those are the ones that go on the album. It’s a very gradual process of figuring out the different sonic directions I can go in. My ideas build up over time rather than occur all together. So I’ve started in some sense, but I couldn’t play you a song that’s going to be on the next album. I’ve only recorded bits and pieces.
Have you been to Iceland before?
I’ve been in the airport for about an hour on the way to the UK from Canada. But our drummer Brad Weber is a massive Iceland-o-phile. He’s visited many, many times. He’s constantly like, when can we do a show in Iceland? But somehow it just never worked out until now. Even this time it was a trade off because we’ll end up only having 24 hours in the country. Though it’s a shame, we all really want to play in Iceland so we rearranged our schedule to make sure that we could this time. And we don’t sleep very much, so we’ll do as much as we can in that little bit of time.
Well you won’t have too much trouble not sleeping in Iceland because we’ve already got almost 24 hours of light here.
Yeah exactly. That will help. I think this trip will be more about meeting people there, rather than getting out into the natural environments. That will have to wait till next time.
Do you listen to any Icelandic musicians?
One of the reasons I’ve wanted to come to Iceland for the last five or six years was because we did a tour with Mugison in Japan in 2005. We had such an awesome time. His music is so great. Ever since then, I’ve followed Icelandic music. I like Sin Fang a lot too. We were excited when we heard he was going to be playing with us at the show Sunday night.
I read that you have a PhD in mathematics from Imperial College London. Do you have two separate brains, one for math and another for music?
I’ve been making my own music since I was a teenager. In fact, my first album, ‘Start Breaking My Heart’, came out when I was an undergraduate student. And I was still doing my PhD when my next few albums came out. It all just happened gradually. I probably would have chosen to do music in the first place if I could have somehow known beforehand that I would be able support myself doing it. Making music is more of an intuitive, emotional process for me. But mathematics was something that I really enjoyed too, so it wasn’t like I wanted to escape from it as soon as I had the chance. I think mathematics is more musical than people realise. The mathematics you do as a PhD student are completely different than the arithmetic you do in high school. The higher levels of mathematics are much more creative, intuitive, and artistic. In that sense, the things that I like about mathematics parallel what I like about music.

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