The recently released Five Spanish Songs EP is a record made up of covers of tunes by Sr. Chinarro, Destroyer mastermind Dan Bejar’s favourite Spanish band. It represents a considerable shift from the luscious, saxophone laden Kaputt, both in its earthy, acoustic textures and the fact that, well, there’s no English being sung on the thing. Nonetheless, it’s a remarkable success, one that sounds unmistakably like a Destroyer record whilst not really sounding like other Destroyer records. That’s pretty classy.
Ahead of a rare solo acoustic set at London’s Bush Hall on Monday 2nd December, Dan Bejar was kind enough to answer some questions about language, his admiration for Sr. Chinarro, and why the hell he’s not going to let us have any new Destroyer music at all for an entire sodding year.
So… why an EP of songs in Spanish?
Antonio Luque (of Sr. Chinarro) is one of my favourite songwriters in any language, and I’ve always enjoyed singing along to his songs, which isn’t something I normally do at all when I listen to music. I’ve always liked singing in Spanish so I thought I should try it, and it just so happens that most of my favourite Spanish songs are written by this guy. It’s weird.
As a non-Spanish speaker, most of the lyrical content of the EP is lost on me. From the way the songs are put together however, you and St. Chinarro seem to share some common ground. What was it that drew you to his music, and his lyrics?
Lyrically, I think he’s a really complicated writer. Not something I understand easily, and not using language you would normally find in Spanish-language songs. It is a taciturn version of “lyrical”, the poetry is dense, especially the older stuff.
Were you tempted to translate the songs in to English?
I never thought of trying to translate the songs, even for a lyric sheet. But his phrasing and melodic turns have always held huge sway with me, and we’re talking for, like, 20 years now.
Kaputt arguably gave Destroyer the most attention you’ve had yet. Did you deliberately want the next thing you put out to be something that wasn’t on the quite the same scale?
I wanted to relax in the studio, and not be filled with my standard anxiety and pacing around the mixing room. I also wanted to record something really fast. Just go in for 2 weeks with no preconceived of notion of even what songs you would record, let alone how to do them. The last Destroyer record was such a deliberate and prolonged affair, I just needed to get back into the studio but without that kind of weight to the proceedings.
You’ve said before that a record like Destroyer’s Rubies was intended to sound like a band playing in a room, whilst Kaputt was the opposite of that sound. Five Spanish Songs feels in many places like it could be a band in a room again. What was behind the decision?
My goal was to also make more typical classic-rock treatments for the songs. His own versions are way less straightforward. Any band feeling is complete illusion, by the way. I was flexing some ideas I’ve had kicking around for a while now, specifically the songs “Del Monton” and “Babieca” were treatments that I thought I could inflict on a Destroyer song. Not sure if I will. Everything else was really off-the-cuff.
What made you choose to not play live again until 2015, and what do you plan to do in the meantime? An answer of “I’ll be making another album” would very much suffice.
If I don’t come out of 2014 with a proper Destroyer full-length in the bag, it means I’ve truly lost it.