FEATURE: Destroyer’s Battle Hymns for the Republics

The northeastern edge of Vancouver is populated with the homeless and addicted, men and women ambling down the street, sunken in doorways, or laying on the steps of buildings‚ bodies palsied from years of dependence, faces so marred with the pain of whatever demons they’ve been fighting that no one seems to be of any age in particular. It’s a community that seems hopelessly lost and equally fascinating in its extremity, one begging the wide-eyed question, What happened here? Daniel Bejar, the principle mind behind the band Destroyer, makes this edge of the city his home and lives quietly in a strange beige house on a street called Princess Avenue. There is a gallery near his place that features the work of new artists every month; at the end of last year, the installation was a 15-foot silhouette of the grim reaper painted with the phrase, “Enjoy the Wait.” Opposite the gallery is the clinic where many of the area’s men and women line up for emergency food and shelter.

Bejar’s house itself is a ramshackle place that has the dusty, exhilarating air of a sunken ship: pieces of walls are missing and reveal torn wallpaper from years ago, the crowded basement stores (among other things) the rusted remains of a very well stocked toolshop and old black and white photographs of the Chinese family that lived in the house some years ago. A few of the rooms upstairs are given over completely to the storage of chairs and boxes, donated furniture, mic stands and‚ buried somewhere in the back of all of it‚ Bejar’s piano. It’s not readily apparent how one would actually get close enough to play it. In some places, the floors are linoleum and in others they are hardwood. Bejar has a cat, and feeds her something called, “Chicken Soup For The Cat Lover’s Soul” but other than that‚ and a few empty glass Gerolsteiner water bottles near the door‚ his is a largely unglamorous affair.

Despite all that, Destroyer‚ and for the purposes of this story‚ Bejar, makes dizzying, complex, spirit-rousing, bellicose and very precisely thought-about music that a lot of people have enjoyed calling glam rock but most people just call rock, though Bejar would probably shy away of getting specific about what exactly he makes. This spring, Bejar is releasing his seventh album, Destroyer’s Rubies. “For the most part, it’s kind of ambling‚ like more or less held-together afternoon rock,” he says. “But I’m sure the band will hate that description.”

In the last several years, most people who have known the name Daniel Bejar have associated it with supermusical explosion the New Pornographers, a band he co-founded with frontman/guitarist AC Newman and synth player Blaine Thurier. Though the Pornographers’ latest album, Twin Cinema, features a few songs written by Bejar, they are old ones resurrected from the last decade‚ and while Bejar toured with and opened for the Pornographers recently, he says with a certain amount of finality, “It’s not gonna happen again, that was a one-off.” And, more importantly he says, “[The New Pornographers make] music I like, but you just have to listen to the last two records I’ve done and their last two records to realize the trajectory of the aesthetics are different and getting farther apart as the years go by.”

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POSTED January 18, 2011 5:00PM IN FEATURES TAGS: , , ,

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