Caribou Talks the Surprising Hip-Hop Influence on Our Love

Dan Snaith, master of melancholic club music, opens up about ‘Our Love,’ his first Caribou record in four years.

September 11, 2014

Dan Snaith is sitting on a couch on the first floor of Manhattan's Ace Hotel, unfazed. He was supposed to have a room by now, but the hotel mixed something up, so he'll be meeting with journalists in the busy lobby. A different type of person might be ticked off, but Snaith, who lives in London and releases sentimental electronic music as Caribou, appears chill. He's smiling wide behind large, thin-framed dad glasses and is eager to chat about Our Love, his first album under the Caribou alias since 2010's fluid, career-making Swim. In the years since, he's released a record of screwy, hastily-made DJ music as Daphni, had a daughter, and put together a new, richly textured full-length that—like Swim before itfeels equally rooted in the escapist haze of all-night dance parties and the emotional complexity of the real world. Below, Snaith opens up about the surprising hip-hop influence on Our Love and how becoming a father has made his music more personal.  

In the past, you’ve said you enjoy exploring and recreating sounds you heard and liked. How much did you do that on Our Love? That was more of something I did in the past. I would hear a Zombies record and think “that was fucking awesome, I want to make a Zombies record,” and it became a frustration of mine, that my music was too referential. The people whose music I love, from the past, that wasn’t their mindset at all. They were trying to make something that was forward and something that was their own thing. That’s what I want to do now; I want to make records that sound like me, and sound like they came out now.

But were you listening to anything different while writing and recording it? I was listening to more contemporary R&B and hip-hop production. I got into the contemporary prevailing sound, which is like this two-dimensional, glassy, woozy kind of thing. I became really excited by those sounds, even though you hear them everywhere. I tried to spend a lot of time making tracks at the beginning with really pristine digital synths. I have a lot of admiration for the people who pull that off because I find it really hard to make music that has depth and emotional resonance with those kinds of thin, transparent sounds. There’s a short song called “Dive” on the album that’s in that mode, and I thought the album was going to be a lot of that—like synth, digital-sounding tracks. In the end, warmer textures snuck in. But that was definitely something I was thinking about a lot.

How do you think these new songs will go over in the club? My favorite thing in a club is when someone plays something unexpected that isn’t purely functional. I really love melancholy club music; it can be really euphoric but it’s also capturing the nitty gritty details of the person’s life who made it. With Swim, I didn’t expect “Sun” to be a club track at all. I thought it was, like, a psych-rock jam and it just started getting played in clubs. There were so many remixes [last time]. People didn’t ask me, they just took the track and chopped it up and did their own remix. When I was just starting and wasn’t so confident in my work, so I would be like, "Hey, hands off my music! You can’t touch that, it’s mine, it’s finished!” Now, if someone uses the instrumental from the track and raps over it, or somebody makes it into like a fucking EDM track, that’s fine. It's all exciting for me.

"That’s what I want to do now. I want to make records that sound like me."
Caribou"Can't Do Without You (Extended Mix)"

Have ever produced for a rapper before? No, I haven’t. Growing up, hip-hop was a huge part of my taste. It always felt like something untouchable for me, cause the first time you try to make a hip-hop beat, it’s so hard to do well. There are only a few elements, and you have to just fucking nail it. For example, I released a record by Chaz Bundick under his Les Sins alias, and the instrumental was used by Rome Fortune. I remember thinking, “That is fucking wicked.” So if something like that happens, that’s awesome, but it’s not the mode that the album is in.

What mode is it really in, then? Well, there’s a few reasons it’s called Our Love, and one of them was the response to Swim, which was so amazing. It kind of refers to the love I felt from the people when we were playing at festivals, and the want to make something that feels generous and loving. I wanted to make it a direct transmission from me to the person hearing it, not this kind of reverb-y, miasmic, cloudy-sounding thing, like Swim, which was kind of floating around all the time. I know people aren’t going to buy it, that’s just the reality, so in some ways I think of it like when you make a gift for somebody, you know what I mean?

Was the actual, physical recording process similar to Swim? The recording process in some sense is always the same for me: in the basement of my house, I've got a little studio with a bunch of machines, and I do everything there. The one thing that was different, and that made the record a bit more personal, was having a daughter. I used to be such a workaholic, and I would close the door in the studio and be there for 12 hours; I’d disappear. Now, just with the mechanics of family life, I do a couple days work, and then I take my daughter to the park, meet up with some friends, then I come back and she has a nap and I’d work for another hour. My life is  much more integrated into making music. And I think that’s something that made it a much more overtly emotional record, like, I’m not closing the doors anymore. 

Caribou Talks the Surprising Hip-Hop Influence on Our Love