A New Wave of Operators in Electro

Operators Set Out to Reverse the Digital Production of Electronic Music

As an ex-band member of the likes of Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs and Divine Fits, Dan Boeckner knows a thing or two about indie rock.

But nearly 10 years after releasing his first EP with Wolf Parade, the Canadian guitarist and singer-songwriter decided it was time for a change—physically and musically.

“In 2012, I started thinking of writing these new songs. I took a different musical and life direction. I moved out to L.A., I rented a commercial space and put a studio in it,” said Boeckner.

“Then [Handsome Furs] broke up, but we edged in creating music towards house music and stretched out arrangement dance music.”

The band’s break-up did not shatter Boeckner’s passion for music. Using this opportunity in his favour, he collected all his ideas for what was supposed to be a new album and scrapped them for a new project.

“To make this project work, I had all the ideas, but I needed to put together the equipment that I needed to make it happen. At that time, every day I was working on the songs and their arrangements to make them come to life,” said Boeckner.

Teaming himself up with Divine Fits drummer Sam Brown and synth expert Devojka, Operators was born.

“We chose Operators because it just sounded cool,” Boeckner explained.

“I don’t think a lot of bands think, ‘Well, what represents us at our heart?’” he continued. “You have a band and you write songs first, you play and it solidifies and then you look at your name and you’re like, ‘Shit!’”

Though the name itself may not carry much of a meaning, the band’s music and writing process certainly does in the eyes of its members. Boeckner and his bandmates are setting out to reverse the Internet-centricity and digital-heavy production of music today.

“We have this big revelation about being surveilled, but we would rather Instagram photos of our food, dogs and go to malls. A lot of these facts and events have seeped into my writing.”
— Dan Boeckner, Operators band member

“I think this band is sort of a small movement going towards not having laptops or videos or USB,” he continued. “We produce our music using a bunch of old drum machines, with synthesizers and analog sequencers.”

The musical process is, unsurprisingly, an organic one.

“I’ll set up a kick drum pattern and put in and modify single-note bass notes, and move it until I get something pleasing,” Boeckner explains. “When I have a melody that I like, transpose that to the keyboard for another vocal melody. My pattern is drum, bass and vocals—if within an hour I don’t come up with something, I’ll move on and get back to it later.

“When I’m done, I give my raw structure to Sam and Devojka, they come in and put it together in a way that is better than what I came up with. Within a day, we have a song,” he concluded.

Operators released their debut EP, EP1, on August 5. Don’t expect them to be publishing much of their work on the web, however—in a day and age where few people take the time to listen to records from front to back, and where illegal downloads are rampant, the band hopes to attempt a revival of listening to music à l’ancienne.

The songs featured on the EP were inspired by recent events that created turmoil around the world.

“The songs were written during a same time period. They have a link with myself, living in California at the time when Edward Snowden started leaking content from the NSA,” Boeckner explained.

“Every morning I had a ritual, which was get coffee and read news about NSA document leaks. What surprised me was that few people cared about it, even though [we are living] in a democratic environment,” he continued.

“We have this big revelation about being surveilled, but we would rather Instagram photos of our food, dogs and go to malls. A lot of these facts and events have seeped into my writing.”

Late ’90s electronic music heavily influenced the EP’s sound as well.

“I exposed myself to these new bands that I hadn’t [previously] while listening to punk rock. Now I’m into small-label electronic music who set an emphasis on drums and bass,” said Boeckner.

Heading to Montreal in less than a week, he expressed enthusiasm in returning to the city.

“Montreal has such a great music scene. […] I believe it’s venues like Casa Del Popolo and Sala Rosa that saved the artistic scene for promoting young talents,” he said.

FUTURE ISLANDS + OPERATORS // Sept. 2 // Metropolis (59 Ste. Catherine St. E.) // 7:30 p.m. // $20 door, $18 advance