Meet Destroyer, the creation of frontman Dan Bejar. You may know Bejar from his contributions in the New Pornographers as a sometimes member. He also teamed up with Spencer Krug of Wolf Parade and Carey Mercer of Frog Eyes to create the band Swan Lake.
Dancing between many different acts and experiencing a moderate level of fame, the Vancouver musician has experienced a great wave of fame from his most recent release Kaputt. I’ve had the great opportunity to see Destroyer twice within the last twelve months in very different environments. It was really exciting to see him play a sold out Toronto show at the Opera House, a warm domestic welcome.
The gig started at around 10:00pm however Destroyer had no opening support. As a part of the TD Jazz Festival, I suppose it was treated more as an individual showcase rather than a normal ticketed event. I perused the crowd to scour down Jazz Festival passes and as I suspected, few people were attending the Destroyer show because of the jazz festival, rather people were there for Bejar and company.
It was really impressive to hear “Hey, Snow White” as the encore tune. Like many of his other performances of that evening, the band wanked their way into the tune with noodling and noise, essentially nonsense. The very distinct guitar riff was eventually played and with that sign, my heart skipped a little faster because of the tune. I had mainly known the tune as a cover that the New Pornographer’s did without Bejar for the ‘Dark Was the Night’ compilation. While the main message of the tune was delivered, it sounded very different from the version I was accustomed to hearing. Without a doubt, hearing this tune made the evening for me. There’s something especially satisfying about hearing the familiar.
Destroyer has a certain oddness to them that distinguishes their efforts from other Bejar projects. While Bejar is the blood to the band’s veins, his live shows share the limelight with the other seven people on stage, it’s very evidently a shared effort. His support plays a variety of instruments such as the trumpet, saxophone, flute, and keyboards to contribute to his extremely eclectic sound. Of course, what makes Destroyer so dynamic is Bejar’s odd vocals. I remember when I first intentionally listened to Destroyer in the wake of the glowing reviews of ‘Kaputt,’ I purchased a copy of the album on vinyl. Between the glowing reviews and the gorgeous album artwork, I figured this album would be love at first listen. Sadly, it wasn’t. I found myself completely stumped by Bejar’s distinct sounding vocals.
After seeing Destroyer’s live show twice, I can see why so many artists and fans respect his work. It’s because it’s light listening.
I use the word “light” because the term “easy listening” gets lost in the sea of deceased crooners and the long catalogue of Michael Bublé albums. Bejar’s tunes, beyond the odd vocals, are genuinely pleasant, breezy tunes. The sound that Destroyer captures heavily nods to the sax heavy, smooth tunes of the ‘80s and early ‘90s, however fuses together its own original take. Other artists such as Washed Out and Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon’s side project Gayngs, both nod to the genre as well. I think what sets Bejar apart is how genuine and accessible it is, no George Michael knowledge required.
Also, it’s probably also worth checking out a New York man who shares the same name as Dan Bejar. The New Yorker embraced it to the point where he now physically resembles Bejar. Read this article for New York Bejar’s accounts of his first in-person look at Destroyer Bejar (http://www.newyorker.com/talk/2011/03/21/110321ta_talk_sanneh).