Caribou interview

Time Out delves into the dorky past of Dan Snaith


Caribou, aka Dan Snaith, is coming to the end of touring last year’s liquid-lovely LP Swim. As he signs off, we delve into his dark and dorky past.

He’s had a brush with the law.
I did end up in a cell when I was 16 because me and my friends tried to urinate in some guy’s pool. We’d heard he had that chemical in it that makes the water turn red. We hadn’t even got out the offending organs: we were trying to climb over a fence and we got chased out by a guy with a hockey stick – quintessentially Canadian. The getaway car that we spent all our teen years in: that was the one time it didn’t start. When we came clean and told the cops what we were doing, they were like, ‘You idiots, that’s a myth.’

Caribou used to be called Manitoba till he got sued by some punk singer with the same name. That was a bit of a buzzkill.
We were in LA playing a little bar but it was the first time we’d done a headline show in America, so we were excited and having a good time, just being a bunch of goofy idiots. This guy came to the front door who said he knew my brother. I was like, ‘I don’t have a brother,’ but I went anyway and it was this kinda chubby dude wearing LA Lakers shorts and high-tops, and he was like, ‘You’ve been served.’ He’d been hired as a private investigator. I was having such a good day till that point!

His name frequently attracts the attentions of conservationists.
As with lots of other mammals, their habitat is endangered in Canada. At one show, we’d given some conservationists the okay months before to come and hand out caribou-related literature. Then in the middle of the show, there were all these strobes going off in an old theatre in Montreal, and silhouetted at the back, towering above everybody was this caribou, like this head and antlers. I was like what the hell? They’d come dressed up as seven or eight caribou. I’d totally forgot this was happening, so for me it was like, ‘It’s time to meet my maker!’

He has a PhD in mathematics, which he doesn’t use.
Everyone thinks I’m some kind of research mathematician. But really that’s a lie. I haven’t done any since my PhD.

He and his wife like to geek out.
I’m finishing off Roberto Bolaño’s massive novel 2666. My wife and I have been reading it to each other, which is like the most wholesome and amazing thing ever except about 400 pages of it is about hundreds and hundreds of rapes and murders on the American-Mexican border. It’s like a catalogue of the worst atrocities you can imagine. Whenever we describe this to people, they’re like, ‘Perverts!’.

He was pretty serious about music from an early age.
In my teens I bartered away five years of receiving Christmas and birthday presents to get a particular synthesizer. It was this cheesy synth called a Korg Wavestation. If you picture a guy with a ponytail and a tie-dye shirt making music for a PBS programme, that was me.

This isolation did stunt him and his peers’ dress sense. In his early teens he played basketball and volleyball, and his folks like to recall one moment…
They came to see us play a team from Toronto or a big city – typical youths of their generation, but then our team came out. We had huge mullets, headbands and socks up to our knees. We looked like some leftover delinquents from the ’70s. Yeah, I had a mullet. I had a mullet deep into the ’90s. If I wasn’t losing my hair, I’d probably still have it!

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