Dan Bejar may be one the purest musicians we have. The 43-year-old known as Destroyer has released 11 studio albums over the last 20 years. His sound has evolved from singer-songwriter indie rock to bouncy elevator-esque jazz and brilliant baroque pop. In 2011, he reached new heights both critically and commercially with the album Kaputt. Success continued on last year's Poison Season. So seeing him launch an 18-date solo tour after excelling as the frontman of an eight-piece band seemed like an unusual step. But after chatting with Bejar, Orlando Weekly learned that he doesn't worry too much about safe career moves. He only cares for music.
Orlando Weekly: You're known for being a sonic chameleon of sorts. From album to album, your sound changes. Is it the same thing with your live show? Do you want to start with a clean slate?
Dan Bejar: It depends. I've been working with a pretty big band the last few years. And that band will usually tour around an album, and usually the album is kind of the focus. On a tour like this, where it's just me and I'm not really promoting something, it's kind of the opposite. You know? There're probably a couple hundred songs this time [for] me to pull from, as insane as that sounds. In this case, I'll try to play a bunch of new songs that no one's really heard. I've barely heard them.
Does it feel easier or harder to play solo? Is there more pressure? Less pressure?
I feel sick to my stomach even thinking about it right now. When Destroyer normally plays, there are eight of us. And a lot of times they go off with a song and I just have to crouch down and listen to what they're doing. There are no such remedies when it's just me and a guitar up there. But the fact that it puts me on edge just thinking about it ... there's probably something good about that.
Is it a different kind of connection with the audience?
I feel like in some ways I feel more in control, I guess. Because the whole thing kind of lives or dies by how I'm singing that night. It's also a burden. But it's more intense for me maybe – in some ways – to have everything stripped down just to the words. When I feel like the band is raging that can be incredibly intense too, just for different reasons. You know? They're very different.
So with production-heavy songs like [Poison Season standout] "Girl in a Sling," are you going to attempt solo versions?
Sometimes I like warping songs into doing strange things that they weren't supposed to do. But other times, the fact that I can't quite picture it is enough for me to not try to play a song. And I've played those songs a lot, so the fact that I'm maybe being forced to play songs that I wouldn't normally play is a good thing. It's one of the reasons I do a tour like this. ... Poison Season was mostly written on piano, and the record before that, Kaputt, was mostly written by laying down synth pads, so in my mind it's hard to extract an acoustic guitar performance out of that. I don't know. Maybe I'll try.
You push yourself with your music. Do you like making yourself uncomfortable? Is that when your best work comes out?
Sometimes. Yeah. I don't know. I could be really wrong about that theory. Because you usually, you have to feel pretty relaxed to be good. And I think once I get on stage, if it's just me, I settle down a bit. It's more just like the before. So it's just not a style of performance I've done as much, so it's just more of a new thing. It's an old thing because that's how I started over 20 years ago, but it's a new thing in that in the last 10 years I've only done like a handful of solo tours.