Dan Boeckner is trying to respond to the question, “How many bands are you in right now?”
It’s a trick query, but considering the indie renaissance man’s relentless writing, recording and touring schedule across an ever-changing list of projects, it needs to be asked.
“I’m in two right now,” says Boeckner, during a load-in break for a radio appearance at WFUV, 90.7 FM in New York City. “But Divine Fits is kind of in hibernation mode, so three.
He pauses. “I guess.”
Besides the dormant Divine Fits, which Boeckner shares with Spoon’s Britt Daniel, the two things dividing his time right now are the re-united Wolf Parade – with whom he’s doing a series of shows throughout the summer and fall of 2016 – and Operators, the reason why he’s hovering around a Brooklyn radio studio at the moment.
“When I was working shitty jobs, all I could really dream of was having enough time to do music all the time. I get to do that now.”
“I think my time will be split between the two, maybe a bit more for Wolf Parade, but nearly 50-50 until November,” says Boeckner of his Operators-Wolf Parade work-work balance.
Operators – formed after Boeckner’s band Handsome Furs, with ex-wife Alexei Perry, dissolved along with their marriage – also features Macedonian keyboardist Devojka, drummer Sam Brown (New Bomb Turks) and bassist Dustin Hawthorne (Hot Hot Heat) making propulsive, new wave-inspired dance rock. The band’s first album Blue Wave came out April 1, 2016, and Boeckner says all his past bands are reflected on it.
“With the Operators stuff, it’s really a culmination of a lot of tools I’ve learned to develop in both those bands, Handsome Furs and Wolf Parade,” he explains. “It’s really an extension of Handsome Furs in a lot of ways. In retrospect, I regret that I couldn’t just call this band ‘Handsome Furs,’ but… you know. Life doesn’t work that way.”
Much of Blue Wave was inspired by Boeckner’s time spent living on the “have-nots” side of Silicon Valley, consuming dystopian Phillip K. Dick novels. This has informed Blue Wave’s songs with an ugly, Blade Runner-inspired, retro-futurist edge. Indeed, echoes of New Order (the bounding “Cold Light”), The Clash’s dance punk (“Evil”), and a very direct nod to Laura Branigan’s “Self Control” (“Space Needle”) inhabit Blue Wave‘s synth-heavy new new-wave.
“I lived in this suburb that was not reaping the benefits of the incredible growth and wealth that’s concentrated in Silicon Valley,” says Boeckner. “And that’s a dissociative, strange feeling I tried to convey.”
In the end, though, it always comes back to the music. It’s why Boeckner’s in at least two-and-a-half bands right now.
“When I graduated from high school, all I really wanted to do was play in a band,” says Boeckner. “Not just play in a band, but specifically write songs and perform them for people.
“I still feel a sense of awe that I have to show up somewhere and be at ‘work.’ When I was working shitty jobs, all I could really dream of was having enough time to do music all the time. I get to do that now, and I’ve done it for the last 10 years. So if I don’t take advantage of that, and if I lose sight of that, then I’m kind of an asshole.”