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Divine new project for Britt Daniels and Divine Fits

He hasn't left Spoon, but spinoff band needs more songs before Chicago concert

Mark Caro

5:27 PM EDT, October 23, 2012

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Britt Daniel hasn't said goodbye to his old band, Spoon, but he also doesn't consider his new one, Divine Fits, to be a side project.

Divine Fits, which plays Thursday at Logan Square Auditorium, finds the 41-year-old singer-songwriter-guitarist/bassist teamed up with the newly defunct Wolf Parade's singer-songwriter-guitarist/bassist Dan Boeckner plus drummer Sam Brown (New Bomb Turks) and keyboardist Alex Fischel to take Spoon's spare, taut rock into groovier, more '80s-synths-textured territory on the recently released debut album "A Thing Called Divine Fits."

Daniel has moved around a fair amount, starting Spoon in the early '90s while living in Austin, Tex., spending three months in Chicago with a girlfriend, relocating to Portland, Ore., for a while and now calling Los Angeles his home. While visiting his current girlfriend in Houston, Daniel discussed what it's like to maintain two bands, to share the spotlight with another songwriter and to write in different cities.

Q. Does it feel strange to be touring with a different set of musicians?

A. It's not strange. It's just a little different. It's fun, and I really like playing with this band. There's nothing negative about it. It's a good experience.

Q. Do you feel like Divine Fits is an equal band to Spoon?

A. I don't know how to compare it in terms of equal or more or less. When Dan and I talked about doing something together, we never talked about just making a record. We always talked about starting a band, you know? A band that's going to go on indefinitely. So it's the real deal for me. That said I played a few shows with Spoon this year, and I had such a great time being with those guys again. We played some shows in the middle of the Divine Fits album recording, and it was pretty cool to come back to those Spoon songs that I hadn't played in a while and just remember how much I like them. That's one of the cool things about being a musician is that you get to live with those (songs). If you're a comedian, you've got to write a new set every six months, and nobody wants to hear that joke again.

Q. What was the impulse of having two bands instead of one?

A. It really was about Dan. It was because Dan was a good friend, and I just really liked him personally; I loved hanging out with him, and I loved the records that he made, I love his voice, and probably more than anything, other than us being good friends, I loved watching him on stage. It kind of kept crossing my mind that it would be a blast to be in a band with him and that we probably would work really well together. It felt like we had a similar take on a lot of things. So when he mentioned to me over the phone that Wolf Parade was dying down, I just immediately said, "Well, then we need to start a band," and just threw it out there.

Q. Do you like being the frontman at some points but at other points being off to the side playing bass or guitar?

A. Yeah, I love that. I love singing, and I love writing songs, but it's kind of cool to not be the only guy that's doing that on stage. One of my favorite (things about) doing music is just adding to something that somebody who is great has started.

Q. Do you tend to prefer bands that have one guy as the main guy or two or more singer-songwriters?

A. There's great examples of both, but I do think that people feed off of each other and get better because of each other. (In the Clash) Joe Strummer by himself wouldn't have been as great, Mick Jones by himself wouldn't have been as great. They were feeding off each other, and they taught each other how to get better and get better. I just feel like it brought about a rapid transformation in their writing and the quality of the songs. I've always wanted to be in a situation like that. That's why I wanted to be in a band with another songwriter.

Q. Is this transforming your songwriting?

A. (Laughs.) Probably not yet. But that would be the ideal.

Q. First albums are often about figuring stuff out. Do you have the impulse to record another Divine Fits album?

A. Yeah, we do want to. We're about to go out on tour again, and we've only got an hour's worth of songs, so we're trying to come up with some more tunes right now so that we have a little bit longer set.

Q. If you're coming up with something, do you think "This is a Divine Fits song" or "This sounds more like a Spoon song"?

A. Well, right now I'm trying to write for Divine Fits because we need some songs, so that's kind of what I'm doing. But there are some songs that are kind of halfway written or mostly written that I thought should be a Spoon song. And why is that? Because, let me see, I kind of made a list the other day. (pause) OK. Yeah….Well, it's because we've worked on all these songs together, but we never finished them. One of them was a jam that was so good that we're going to turn it into a song. One of them was a song we worked up for (the 2007 album) "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" that we never put out. One of them was a song that we worked on for (the 2010 album) "Transference" that we never finished. One of them that we haven't done before has a lot of piano, and it's sort of R&B-ish, so I thought maybe that would be a good Spoon song. We don't really have much piano in this new band. It's more synths.

Q. Conceptually do you feel like a certain type of song goes in one place or the other?

A. Really, I could probably make any of them work in either band. They're not that drastically different. We need some more Divine Fits songs right this moment because we're about to go out on tour, so that's what I'm thinking about. Anything that I come up with today or tomorrow is going to be a Divine Fits song.

Q. How much does where you're living inform the music you're making?

A. I think it can. A lot of what it is is are you motivated to write in a certain place or not? I love Portland so much and I miss it, and I've been back a few times since I moved away, and immediately it hits me why it's so great. But when I was there, I got to a point where I was not wanting to write because it was rainy every day, and I would just want to drink, you know? I would say time for me to work; hold on, I just want to go have a beer. And then I went and spent a month down in L.A., and I was really motivated to write. It's not like I'm working outside. I can work inside while it's raining, but there's something about it.

Q. Did you write much when you were living in Chicago?

A. I did write a few songs there. The start of "Anything You Want" (from 2001's "Girls Can Tell") was written there and a bunch of songs. "Stay Don't Go" (from 2002's "Kill the Moonlight"), I started that there. It's funny because at the time, it felt like a very unproductive summer in terms of songwriting, but later, a lot of little kernels that were just little fragments turned into really great songs.

Q. Was "Chicago At Night" from before you were here?

A. That was written before Spoon even. That came from that Liz Phair lyric (from "Stratford-On-Guy"): "I was flying into Chicago at night." I think I was just riffing on that, and then I turned it into a song.

Q. As you move forward, do you see yourself having a Jack White-like array of bands and projects?

A. Well, maybe. These two (bands) are going to be going. He puts out records real fast, and I admire that about him. I doubt we'll be on that schedule of a record a year (laughs). Yeah, I'm going to do both of these things for sure because I really believe in both bands. I really believe in this new thing. I think it's something pretty special, and you can really tell it when we're on stage.

Q. Has there been any jealous-girlfriend syndrome from guys in Spoon?

A. Um, not that they've mentioned. (Laughs) They are all real busy.

mcaro@tribune.com

Twitter @MarkCaro

Divine Fits
When
: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie Ave.
Tickets: $20 (general admission); ticketweb.com