Interview: Caribou

A few years ago you may have known him as Manitoba, well, that was before a strange legal dispute brought about the Caribou moniker. The name isn’t the only thing that’s changed about Dan Snaith’s bedroom produced and Polaris-winning act though. First caught within the psychedelic prism of the sun-kissed 60s, Caribou’s records have progressively veered towards deep house territory, culminating in the gutsy and cerebral club-friendly craft that was his latest LP, Swim, released last year. So how could we resist when the ex-mathematician and endearingly geeky Dan decided to add it all up for us?

Text Hidzir Junaini
Interview courtesy of Heineken

The situation with your name change from Manitoba to Caribou was a strange one…
Yeah, I was sued by this punk singer called Handsome Dick Manitoba. He sent a P.I. to one of my gigs in LA. The promoter came to me and said that there was somebody at the door who knew my brother. I didn’t have a brother but I went to see who it was anyway. That’s how I got served with the court summons. It made no sense but I figured it’d be too expensive to fight it, so I just picked a new name and moved on.

So why name yourself after a moose?
See the most frustrating thing was that this dude was American and I’m Canadian, and he’s forcing me to change my name from this Canadian province. Felt like I let my country down (laughs). So with the new name, it’s the native Canadian word for reindeer basically, and it had the same kind of hometown connection.

And then there’s the fact that you have a Ph.D. in Mathematics, so why jump into music?
I was always doing both my whole life. While I did my Math PhD in London I was already recording. It just sort of took off after I met Four Tet who helped get my music released in the first place. It was so much fun that I knew immediately that if the music thing happened, that’s what I really wanted to do.

Besides longtime loves of math and music, what are your current obsessions?
I recently started swimming a lot. I was so bad that my wife bought me swimming lessons!

Oh, is that why you latest album is called Swim?
Yes! I found that whenever I was swimming lengths, it was just a good subconscious headspace to develop music in my head. Not only does it help me think about the music I’d been writing, it’s also a great sonic environment that informed the aesthetic of the album, which was the liquid-y sound. That flow, it surrounds you throughout the album, with the pitch just constantly wavering up and down.

Your early stuff was very rooted in experimental pop while your later albums appear to embrace dance music. Could you explain the progression?
I’ve always been interested in lots and lots of different things. I’m interested in the ideas behind different genres so I tend to move around a lot, from pop to techno for example. The important thing though is that everything I do still sounds like me, regardless of what genre I do and that it all links back to what I’ve done in the past.

Do you have goals to accomplish for Caribou in the future?
I’ve never had any goals or any plans, and that’s worked out so well! The one goal I want to stick to is to always do what feels right to me. I don’t make music to fit in with a trend or because it’s the right time. I almost don’t have a choice when I sit down to make music because it’s only whatever’s that exciting me that can get me stimulated to write. If I just follow that, I think that’s a pretty good plan.

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