Dan Snaith has been an acclaimed electronic musician for more than a decade, but it was only recently that he realized he could make people dance. “It dawned on me gradually,” says Snaith, better known as Caribou. On a quiet afternoon in July, he’s in a spacious Manhattan hotel suite to talk about his upcoming album, Our Love. Due out in October, it’s his boldest step yet toward the world of dance music: 10 deep grooves that hit with a physicality his heady psychedelic jams once only hinted at.
The change, he says, started with Caribou’s previous release, 2010’s Swim. “I thought Swim was a really weird record,” Snaith says. “I had gotten used to the idea that most of the people who came up and talked to me after a show would remind me of myself – music obsessives. But after we toured for Swim, people would tell me stories of how they were 17, and they went to Ibiza on their summer holiday, and they danced on the terrace to ‘Sun.’ That was like, ‘Wait a minute, that’s totally not like my life! That’s amazing.'”
By 2012, Caribou’s four-person live incarnation was touring with Radiohead and looking out at festival crowds like they’d never seen before. Snaith thinks back to their July 2012 set at Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival: “We’re nestled in a mountain pass, and the sun’s going down as we’re playing, and there’s 10,000 people with their hands in the air. It was really affirming, and really energizing.”
After Caribou’s shows with Radiohead, Snaith would book DJ sets at local clubs, often bringing along his friend Thom Yorke. “I talk to Thom enough to know that he really loves DJing,” Snaith says. “He’s not, like, just finishing a show and that’s it, back to the hotel. So I’d say, ‘Hey, Thom, do you want to come play some music at these clubs?’ That was really fun, just showing up with him.”
Snaith had been an avid DJ in his college days in his native Ontario, but he’d drifted away from the club scene as Caribou took off. “In the mid-2000s, when I was making more psychedelic-sounding music, nobody wanted to book me to DJ,” he says. “Swim gave me a way back into playing lots of clubs all over the place.” Then, in October of 2012, nine of the new dance-oriented tracks that he began working into his sets were released as Jiaolong, Snaith’s first album under the name Daphni.
When he got to work on Our Love in early 2013, recording in the basement of his home in North London, he pushed himself to find a sound that would reach those new crowds. “The whole initial impulse was to make something for everybody to listen to,” Snaith says. “And that’s such a shift for me.” The new album was also profoundly influenced by the birth of his first child, a daughter, in August 2011. “There’s more of me in the music than there ever has been, for sure. It used to be that I closed the doors, and the only thing that ended up in the music was whatever was spontaneously generated there and then. Now it’s much more typical that I’ll get to work for a couple hours on something, then I’ll take my daughter to a museum with some friends of ours. Everything is happening all at the same time and bottled up together. And I think that’s good.”
Our Love, he says, is full of the complex feelings that come with parenthood. “Everything in love – with a partner or with a child or with your family or with your friends – all those things are complicated,” says Snaith, who has been married for 13 years. “I’m reluctant to say the obligatory, ‘It was amazing, it changed my life, it was the most wonderful thing.’ I mean, it was wonderful. But it was also difficult. I hadn’t had those experiences before, the frustrations of having somebody that is not responding rationally or even understanding what you’re saying. One of the main things I took away from it was that the most important thing is just being there in each other’s presence. There are a lot of times where my daughter and I are just, like, sitting on the floor with a Lego or something, and that’s the important thing.”
Our Love‘s lead single, “Can’t Do Without You” – or, as Snaith’s daughter calls it, “Bob Can’t Do It” – is typical of the album’s emotional subtlety. “It’s one line, repeated, ‘Can’t do without you,'” he says. “I think people will take that song a number of different ways, which I like about it. People will take it as a very face-value declaration of connection or whatever – but the fact that this sentiment is repeated over and over in this cross-eyed, obsessive fashion to me refers more to actual dependency.
“It’s far removed from the kind of love that people put in pop songs a lot of time: the idealized, Disney-like, fall in love and then it’s forever,” Snaith adds. “That’s just such a fiction. It’s so not anybody’s experience. Everything is compromise and complication. The whole tone is a celebration of that. I don’t want the Disney version! The thing that makes life interesting is how textured it is. That’s the point.”