Is 4 Lovers

Death from Above 1979

Is 4 Lovers

After 20 years of having their heads fused together in their signature double-noggin logo, Death From Above 1979’s Sebastien Grainger and Jesse Keeler can now say they officially share the same brain. As the Toronto-bred duo explain to Apple Music, the decision to self-produce their fourth album, Is 4 Lovers, wasn’t so much driven by a desire to get back to the DIY conditions that spawned their debut 2004 disco-metal classic You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine. Rather, it was an attempt to apply all the studio knowledge they’ve accumulated in the interim working with A-list producers like Dave Sardy (on 2014’s The Physical World) and Eric Valentine (2017’s Outrage! Is Now) and use it to elevate Grainger and Keeler’s long-standing psychic connection into a full-on mind-meld.
“Ever since our first record, we wanted to try to do a record ourselves again, because it's where we come from,” says Keeler, the bass-playing/synth-freaking yin to Sebastien Grainger’s singing/drumming yang. “When we lived together years ago, I remember Sebastien's dad came over and saw all our gear and was like, 'You guys have more gear than The Beatles did to make Abbey Road—where's my Abbey Road?' I think about that all the time. Sonic Youth have said that once an idea leaves your head, that's when the compromising starts. We've spent the last two records having to use words to explain and sort of argue for whatever the musical idea was. And now it's just our musical ideas, without having to argue for them.” Here, Keeler and Grainger provide their track-by-track explanation for why DFA truly is for lovers.
Modern Guy Sebastien Grainger: “When we're in the studio, I treat Jesse like he’s oil, like a precious resource—his insane tone and his insane ideas. I was trying to draw things out of him, just subtly, that I knew would inspire me later to write a cool song. And once those things started coming out, we wrote the first track, 'Modern Guy.' It instantly validated our decision to do this album ourselves where on day two, we're already writing a metal Beatles version of 'Reelin' in the Years' by Steely Dan.”
One + One SG: “This is like a sequel to [2004’s] 'Romantic Rights'—not consciously, but after finishing it and looking back, I was like, 'Oh, yeah.' There is a cheeky nod to You're a Woman, I'm a Machine in the way I played the drums. And obviously, there’s the ‘romantic’ lyric connection. In 'Romantic Rights,' I say, 'I don't need you, I want you,' because I thought that was a powerful thing to say when I was 23. But after being in a relationship for 15 years and seeing the way I am without that person if I'm away from her for too long, I do find myself saying, ‘I need you.’ And then when you have a kid, it’s like having a conversation with the future—the self kind of fades away a little bit, in the most natural way.”
Free Animal SG: “'Free Animal' was basically describing the life of an artist/freelancer who doesn't have a boss and doesn't have a job. And now, thanks to the pandemic, no one will have a boss or a job by the time the record comes out. It's really a song about being a free person.” Jesse Keeler: “It's like when Thoreau wrote in Civil Disobedience that being in a prison cell was the most free he's ever been, and how the walls meant nothing.” SG: “Not to bring this conversation from Thoreau to fuckin' DFA 1979, but, for example, the constraints of being a two-piece creatively are actually very freeing. There's an endless amount of creativity that you can have, especially within a constraint—because totally unrestrained, unbridled creativity is too vast and intimidating.”
N.Y.C. Power Elite Part I SG: “My wife [filmmaker Eva Michon] was asked by this woman in New York to make a reality-show documentary about her career shift from corporate fashion baron to corporate internet-retail baron. She was privy to this world that not a lot of people get to peek into. So I painted a caricature of this person who believes that because of the rewards they've garnered, that they are, in fact, better, morally and ethically, than the rest of us. And they feel like they can tell the rest of us how to be. Meanwhile, they're creating an alternate civilization on the coast of New Zealand where none of us will ever go.”
N.Y.C. Power Elite Part II SG: “Part II was written for an old aunt that passed away. I spoke to her a lot in the last year of her life, and she had such a succinct perspective on her demise, and she was so open and nothing was sugar-coated. She was totally crippled with arthritis and she was blind, but she would still go downstairs to the basement to do the laundry. And my theory was that she was hoping to maybe fall down the stairs, because she was just in so much pain and just done with living.”
Totally Wiped Out SG: “I have a very good friend, Lukas Geronimas, who's an artist from Toronto but lives in LA, and he's a surf bum, and I asked him for all the surfer lingo: 'Listen, I'm writing a song about internet porn addiction. I'm writing a song about drowning in the technological world. Can you send me a bunch of cool surf lingo?' And he sent me this list of, like, 200 weird things that surfers said. Just like Brian Wilson never had a fucking surfboard, I used a surfer to write a surf song. Oh, and the scream on the song is Jordan Blilie from Blood Brothers.”
Glass Homes SG: “The idea for this started with the first line: ‘We're all born into other people's stuff.’ It sounds like a throwaway line, but I was thinking about the fact I was about to have a kid. She's born and all of a sudden she's surrounded by all her parents' physical crap. We all were born surrounded by other people's lives. And then I extrapolate from there to the second line, ‘Maybe your politics suck/Face it, everyone's messed up.’ If you're staunch, whatever your perspective is, the other person is the enemy, you know? And then you go to the other side, and you look at things from that side, and they have the same view of your side. So everyone thinks everyone's wrong and evil, but it's a false dichotomy, and it's a fallacy.” JK: “It's probably the most visible in America, because every other country has more than two real political parties. And as Canadians, we're so inundated by their media that I think we sometimes forget that we don't have that issue—like, we really do have options. Or in India, there are so many political parties, and their voter turnout just destroys that of every other country, because they actually appreciate it. But in the US, everything is so binary, it's inhuman.”
Love Letter SG: “Our first record was all about interpersonal relationships—friends and girlfriends and mothers and fathers—and while I wasn't consciously returning to that, I wanted to write a love song. I wanted to write a love letter to my wife, because I never have. How am I still married? I have no idea! So I needed to write a love letter, and it was so difficult for me to do, because everything sounded cheesy or forced or corny. So this song is literally about how it's really hard to write a love letter. But then, in the end, here's your love letter. You can't seal it with a kiss, because it's a song, it's ethereal, it doesn't exist. But you can't lose it, because it'll always exist.”
Mean Streets JK: “I wrote the piano part on my child's guitar, figured it out on piano, showed the piano part to Sebastien, who wrote the bass part. Then, when we got together, I got Seb to play the piano, and then I played the drums. When it comes time to play that song live, either of us could just walk back and forth and do it, because we both played everything on the song.”
No War JK: "This song makes a little bit of sense with Outrage! Is Now, because that album cover was based on a poster for [John Lennon and Yoko Ono's] 'War Is Over (If You Want It).' It’s rooted in the idea that wars originate in misunderstandings that come from dumb perspectives. One of the keys to ending all this nonsense is getting rid of the heroes and being critical of things from the past. Like, ‘Hey, that was great!’ ‘Really? Well, how great was it?’ All that stuff starts with a mindset that can be led around by the nose. We have to start letting that stuff go if we want things to get better.”

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