Death From Above 1979’s Sebastien Granger on ‘Date Nights’ + Possible Jack White Collaboration
Ten years between albums is a long time to let pass if you're a band trying to maintain a fanbase. However, that gap between records caused Death From Above 1979's legend to grow. The duo, consisting of singer/drummer Sebastien Grainger and bassist Jesse Keeler, released The Physical World in 2014 and embarked on an extensive tour last fall, a significant endeavor since reuniting in 2011.
Grainger spoke with us last week in Detroit while supporting Incubus and Deftones on the road. The singer talked about how DFA1979's first major tour since getting back together went, how they hooked up with Jack White's Third Man Records and more.
Death From Above 1979 fans have been excited to see you live ever since you announced The Physical World last year. Can you tell how wild your fans get while you're on tour?
It's crazier now than it's ever been. That type of excitement is the only time in my life that I experience it. There's nothing else in my life where people get that excited. What I do on stage is a whole other feeling. I hope part of that energy is translated. I remember being part of the audience and it's very exciting.
Is touring with Jesse easier now that you're older and it's been nine years since the initial breakup?
The last time we did a support tour like this, with trucks and buses and massive crew, we toured with Nine Inch Nails and Queens [of the Stone Age] almost exactly 10 years ago. This is only day one but so far it seems the logistics of the whole thing are very similar. It feels familiar in that sense. This tour we're doing now is the longest we've ever done, five weeks out with no breaks.
Does that bode well not having to wait another decade for a new DFA album?
We're not worn out if that's the question and we can definitely be in the same room together. We were having dinner last night and Jesse commented that his wife told him anytime that Jesse and I have dinner together it's like a romantic candlelit dinner. That's like the nature of a two-piece, you're always on a date. So we're still having candlelit dinners.
There was a documentary released last year, Life After Death From Above 1979, that chronicled a lot about the band, pre- and post-breakup. Were you nervous about the public seeing what took place behind the scenes?
No. I don't think there's anything to be embarrassed about. There was way heavier stuff in earlier edits. Really personal stuff which was cool but kind of didn't fit in at a certain point.
You had to cancel four shows in the U.S. because your new work visas weren't going to kick in that early. We were all bummed to know that included Nashville, where you were going to record the show directly to acetate with Third Man Records. Are those plans still in the works?
We're going to make it up. I don't know if we can make up those shows until next year, but the Third Man thing we're trying to figure out a way to do it after this is done.
How did you and Third Man even hook up?
To be honest, I don't exactly know who instigated it. Whoever runs the show there [Third Man Records] that's not Jack White, was really excited about us doing a live to acetate. They have backup contingencies but you are cutting a record live. That's something we probably wouldn't have done before because we're so self-critical, but we've been knocking the shows out of the park recently. We're like, "F--- it, let's just do it," you know? If it's great it's great, if it's good it's good, and if it's okay it's okay. People used to put out records constantly and we're in this age where it's more possible than ever to make music all the time. We're trying to be a little bit more liberal.
Naturally we need to ask if this would lead to a collaboration with Jack White.
Jack White was on a short list of producers we wanted to work with on the last record, but the thing we wanted to achieve on that record was why we went to Dave Sardy instead. I don't think we were ready at the time because we were still kind of reconnecting dynamically and musically. I think we needed a little bit of a more controlled environment for the first record back, but I think it would've been cool.
I'm not an obsessive Jack White or White Stripes fan, but I remember the White Stripes being a band that I learned about from a girl in art school from Detroit. They were a local band for a long time and certainly we have an affinity for a two-piece.
The music video for "Virgins" is awesome, trippy, creepy and everything in between. Did you have an idea on what the video would be like when you wrote the song?
No. I had some ideas. I always want the videos to be literally what the lyrics are because that's a good enough story. We weren't even going to use "Virgins" as a single. My wife, who made the documentary, had a concept for a music video and she loves the song. She said we would be stupid to not put the song out as a single. She pushed it along the whole way with the concept and everything.
After watching the "Virgins" video, we hope you and Jesse make cameos as cops in the next Super Troopers.
It wasn't the second I put the uniform on ... it was the second I drank that terrible coffee when I was like, "I'm a cop." I just got the posture and it was right away.