B.C.-based singer, songwriter, and “poet-rocker” Dan Bejar on jazz, doppelgängers, and the joys of driving dangerously.
1. He has rebuilt Destroyer.
Dan Bejar has recorded power-pop with The New Pornographers, art-rock with Swan Lake, and folk-rock with Hello, Blue Roses. But his solo project, Destroyer, is harder to label. Having felt he’d outdone himself as a “poet-rocker” with 2008’s Trouble in Dreams, Bejar switched gears with last year’s Kaputt, which recasts him as an ’80s-style white-soul/jazz crooner, and shifts his lyrics out of the foreground. “You can tune out and just sway and enjoy the sonics,” he says, from a tour stop in Washington, D.C. On Kaputt, horn players solo over slinky, synth-soaked jams; live, he’s playing jazz festivals with an eight-piece band. “They’re all bad-ass musicians, and they can really wail.”
2. He won’t dance, but he doesn’t mind if you do.
Lately, Bejar has been steeping himself in the work of the jazz “titans,” including Miles Davis, whose voicing, sense of space, and especially stage presence he finds inspiring. The trumpeter was known to stand with his back to the audience. “He was trying to listen, I think,” says Bejar, who concentrates by closing his eyes onstage or staring at his monitor. And though he admires the early-’80s work of Bryan Ferry and David Sylvian for its sound, he won’t borrow their style or staginess: “I’m kind of a scruffy figure. I’m also turning 40 and can’t be playing around with silly stuff like that.” That’s not to say his shows are dull—Bejar insists that he’s witnessed instances of “bona fide boogieing.”
3. People will risk themselves for his art.
The songs on Kaputt, which Bejar says evoke a sense of “remembering adventures from a distant place,” can inspire audacious feats: The video for his song “Savage Night at the Opera,” directed by David Galloway, is shot from the point of view of a motorcyclist tearing through Vancouver, his hometown. The stuntwoman, says Bejar, “was driving like a psycho. We had to shoot at dawn, because that’s when you have the least amount of cars, which is really helpful when you’re running a shitload of red lights. Thankfully no one was arrested or killed.”
4. Two Daniel Bejars are company; three’s a crowd.
Bejar is well aware of the Brooklyn-based artist Daniel Bejar, who has deliberately styled his hair like the musician and recreated some publicity photos. But the singer became disconcerted when he read about Moammar Gadhafi’s son’s posing as a millionaire playboy in Mexico called Daniel Bejar Hanan. “I looked him up on the internet, and he’s a 39-year-old man [who] actually looked a lot more like me than conceptual artist Daniel Bejar does. I thought it was extra-weird that a couple of people they arrested in his ring were Toronto-based. Was it completely accidental that they chose the name ‘Daniel Bejar’? I had a 24-hour panic attack, thinking that my days as a touring musician in the United States were officially over, but it was fine.”
Destroyer plays the Opera House (735 Queen St. E.) on June 23. 416-466-0313, torontojazz.com.