Caribou's Dan Snaith makes electronic music that is often danceable, but the Canadian artist recently got in some hot water when he spoke his mind on the cultural phenomenon known as EDM.
"I refered to it as the 'EDM-barfplosion,'" he laughingly explains. "I said that it just often felt formulaic to me. It just seems purely functional, of getting the drop to be as big as humanly possible. But there's obviously an appetite for it. Look how huge it's become. It's captured some kind of cultural moment."
"It's great that this music exists as it serves a musical function which is allowing teenagers to rebel and do drugs and behave badly," Snaith continues, "which is an important social function of music."
In light of the casualties at dance music festivals across North America this past summer, Snaith isn't surprised the media quickly regressed to covering electronic music like they did during the late-90s rave scene.
"I remember when I first moved to Toronto in 97/98," Snaith says. "That's when ecstasy hit big time. There were these huge raves all the time and the big conversation in the media was like 'People are dying. This is a terrible thing. People are out of control etc etc. Electronic music must be the devil.'"
But then, he says, things just petered out as they so often do and attention turned elsewhere.
"Until EDM happened in America, electronic music was no longer in the media at all," Snaith says of the calm before the current storm. "It was bubbling underneath so nobody paid attention to it. In the UK and Europe there were also deaths at the festivals but the summer festival thing and dance music as a cultural phenomenon is so ingrained in the mainstream [there] that it wasn't pounced on. In America, it's a new phenomenon so it seems people are wary of it immediately and they need that THING that's causing the problem.”
Though Snaith has played many of the fests in question worldwide, he finds he has little in common with the music that’s currently in the driver's seat.
"I don't want to invalidate that music, it's just not relevant to me," he says.
"The thing that I love about dance music is the ability for a smaller club to be a space where music can be surprising. There’s a lot of dance music made for more esoteric spaces and that’s what I found interesting when I was making some of the stuff on this new record."
Interview continues after slideshow
That new record, "Our Love," is certainly surprising. Snaith continues in the tradition of subverting musical styles that has defined his catalog since 2001's "Start Breaking My Heart." Over the course of his career he has mined the fields of electronic, psychedelic, krautrock, pop and R&B, searching for nuggets of pure gold.
"There's a lot of interesting people bending the rules," he explains. "I think over the last five or six years the most interesting music that I've heard is not so much from the world of bands and guitars but from the electronic world, broadly speaking, whether that means dance music, R&B, or 'electronic' music.”
Slow jams are not something that Snaith’s Caribou moniker is synonymous with but that's exactly what he's produced with stand out track "Second Chance." In keeping with his genre-bending tactics, he produces woozy R&B that makes one imagine Beyonce raised on My Bloody Valentine rather than Marvin Gaye.
"The primary idea was what if I take an R&B song with no beat or sub-bass," he explains. "What happens if I delete it entirely? What if I detune a synthesizer like My Bloody Valentine detuned guitars? I bet not a lot of R&B producers are thinking of that exact thing. I've always relied on that as a really broad base to the kind of things I'm interested in. Interesting ideas regardless of what genres they're from."
"Our Love" also stands as Snaith's most personal record yet. People speak of how electronic music can be cold and unapproachable but this is certainly not something that he has taken to heart.
"Sometimes when I look back at my earlier records I'm proud of them in a number of ways but sometimes I think 'why was I trying so hard to sound like this' or reference this thing from the past," he says. "Why wasn't I trying to be make it more personal? To find my own little piece of musical territory, to start getting my personal life in to the music and make the sound identifiably my own. That was really the focus."