Familiar faces form new tunes in Divine Fits

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Photo courttesy of Nasty Little Man. 

It’s been almost three years since Austin’s hometown heroes, Spoon, released their last record, Transference, leaving many of their fans asking what frontman Britt Daniel was up to. The answer is a thing called Divine Fits.

Divine Fits is made up of Daniel, Dan Boeckner of Handsome Furs and Wolf Parade, and Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks. Boeckner and Daniel met at a Handsome Furs show and cultivated a mutually awe-inspired friendship, each a fan of the other’s work and talent. A golden opportunity arose in the form of the breakup of Handsome Furs and hiatus of Wolf Parade.

“I met Dan in 2007,” Daniel said. “We’re buddies and we were talking on the phone, and he mentioned Wolf Parade was winding down, so I said, ‘We should start a band.’ So we did.”

Thus Divine Fits was born. Their debut album, A Thing Called Divine Fits, was recorded over the last year and released in August 2012 to great acclaim. The album had already been recorded by the time the band played their first show in July 2012. To keep word of the project under wraps, they were billed under the name “Hot Skull.” “We had to figure out how to play the recorded songs live,” Daniel said while laughing. “A song like ‘My Love is Real’ is a studio creation. We had to make it playable for a live show.”

A Thing Called Divine Fits opens with the aforementioned “My Love is Real,” a song with minimalist synth-pop hooks and equally minimalist lyrics. “My love is real/until it stops,” Boeckner sings with painful austerity. The record continues as a marriage between Boeckner’s electronic tendencies and Daniel’s garage rock sensibility.

The two split songwriting and vocal duties roughly fifty-fifty. Each has his distinctions: Boeckner’s songs are darkly hypnotic and full of electronic elements, while Daniel’s songs have a laid-back coolness and groove. Even with these stylistic contrasts, the album is cohesive without being repetitive. 

A creeping sense of gloom underlies the record in tracks like “For Your Heart” and “Shivers,” a cover of late-’70s new wave band Boys Next Door. This gloom seeps into both the lyrics and the music. On “For Your Heart,” Brown lays down a mesmerizing drum beat while Boeckner delivers sheer desperation in his vocals: “So come on please believe me/Give me white give me no feelings/I would stand outside your door/I’m your man.”

Overall, the album is not a show-stopping hit. Gems like “For Your Heart” and “Would That Not Be Nice” float in a sea of not-so-catchy mediocrity. As a whole, the record’s sound is new wave, although Daniel said that there was no intention behind it.

“We specifically tried not to talk about any musical direction,” Daniel said. “I only remember Dan saying, ‘Oh we could do that or we could do this,’ and we went from there. It felt natural.”

A Thing Called Divine Fits sounds just as natural as Daniel claims it was to create. The album flows from one song to the next and has a genuine quality, avoiding the label of an “indie supergroup” or a mere vanity project for artists that are well known by their own accord.

As for the rest of the year, Daniel has a simple wish: “Just to keep playing shows. We haven’t gone on a proper tour yet.”