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Just don't ask Dan Bejar what it means

Destroyer’s Dan Bejar may not give straight answers, but he does deliver when it comes to his own brand of intelligent pop music. By Paige Newman
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Dan Bejar of Destroyer wants you to know that there’s absolutely nothing happening in the Canadian music scene. “[It’s] never felt worse,” he told me. “The only thing that's happened is that the U.S. and the U.K. have somehow over the last couple years developed the same tastes as your average Torontonian college student, which I have to admit even I have been shocked by (not the good ‘shocked by’). I have a few friends who are doing some cool s--t, but that's about it.”

I guess all of us who have fallen in love with bands like Broken Social Scene and the Arcade Fire can basically lump it — or apply to a nice Toronto college. Here’s hoping those “friends” include Bejar’s other band, the Vancouver-based New Pornographers (Bejar is more of a studio participant that a full-fledged member of the band), one of the best pure pop acts around.

Destroyer, however, is not the New Pornographers, which makes Dan Bejar all that much more intriguing. Though still in the pop realm, the latest disc, “Destoyer’s Rubies,” is more meditative and a bit less grandiose than Destroyer’s previous record, “Your Blues.” And this is completely intentional. “Anthems wear me out,” he said, “Don't know how I ever got started in that racket.”

Bejar also doesn’t have a typical voice for pop, but his off-kilter warble adds a lack of polish to the songs that really draws you in. “My sources of inspiration were mostly Van Morrison and Bob Dylan's respective takes on Christian rock,” said Bejar. With Bejar — especially when doing an interview via e-mail — I often found myself wondering if he was joking.

It’s rather the same dilemma I found when trying to untangle Bejar’s lyrics. Bejar obviously loves words and a good turn of phrase, but he never gets too cutesy about it — it’s intriguing without ever getting too silly. In the over nine-minute-long opening song, “Rubies,” he sings, “The sketchy crowd shows me drawings, they’re alright / An alternately dim and frightful waste.” While I merely thought this was funny, he spoke of it as a “call for beauty and exposure to light.” He went on to say, “I've never tried to be funny in a song, since songs can't be funny … ”  Um, OK, next question.

“European Oils” is one of the strongest songs on the album, with its beautiful piano opening and the way Bejar adds bursts of guitar throughout. “Euro Oils has a real sense of ease that I dig,” said Bejar. “It came fast to the band, one of the earliest songs we learned.  Everything fell into place pretty easy.  The piano is arch-pomp.  Nic [Bragg’s] guitar glides around.  The psycho middles still works.  Not a lot of babble on my part, which is refreshing, aside from my now-patented Hispano-Judaic backup vocals way up in the mix.”

As for the meaning of the song, he adds, “There is a situation being described in the song, and I'm all for that ... ” All of which is to say, maybe it’s best to just make your own meanings in the songs and leave Bejar’s intentions up on the shelf, where, I get the impression, is just where he’d like them to live.

When I asked if there was anything else he’d like people to know about the band, he simply replied, “I suppose there are a few things I'd like them to know less about ... Does that count?”

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