Published Nov 26, 2013Sebastien Grainger is known for his pummelling drumming with Death From Above 1979, as well as his work with rock band the Mountains. So his recent move to more pop-oriented material on his recently released solo album, Yours to Discover, came as a bit of a shock to fans.
"It's more aligned with the kind of music I listen to on a daily basis," Grainger tells Exclaim!, noting that he spends a lot of time digging around the Internet for funk, disco and synth music. "There's so much super cool music from the '80s that's not '80s music. It's more obscure, downtown-sounding music. It's a dark, dangerous, sexy pop sound that's inspiring to me."
Grainger first started experimenting with these new sounds back in 2009 — album track "The Streets Are Still a Mess" dates back to around this period – although never in a focused way. Grainger had even started working on what he describes as "a really aggressive rock record." However, that was scrapped after he re-teamed with Jesse Keeler for Death From Above 1979's ongoing string of reunion gigs.
"I completely abandoned the idea of making a loud rock record. That idea was satiated by playing with Jesse and I didn't want to compete with my awesome band."
Still, Grainger struggled to find a way to best present his newfound sound. "I couldn't think of a way to do what I wanted to do – make Prince-inspired music."
That changed in 2011 when Grainger caught Twin Shadow's set at Osheaga in Montreal.
"I really like [his] record and seeing him replicate the record live, but do it in a sexy, tasteful way... It wasn't' a rock band, but it was still the record and still played live. That really inspired me."
And while the new sound suits Grainger surprisingly well, the album's cover gives little indication as to what's in store for listeners. The cover, and accompanying publicity photos, depict a close-up of Grainger, shirtless, smiling and covered in what appears to be red paint.
"It's an interesting way of putting yourself on a record cover but obscuring yourself in a weird way," he says.
The red paint is, in fact, Indian holy powder, purchased at a store near Grainger's Los Angeles home. "The colour is so vivid, it's surreal."
The photo was inspired by a similar pic his wife took during the video shoot for "I Hate My Friends" from Grainger's pervious album with the Mountains. "I was covered in white paint and then these teenage girls threw flour at me," he recalls. "I wanted to somehow replicate that. I found it striking."
Fittingly, this new photo session was also helmed by his wife at their home. Contrary to some Internet speculators — Grainger says someone on Facebook thought the image was a statement about indigenous cultures — there was no deeper meaning behind the photo.
"My whole M.O. is to work on instinct. When you're a solo artist you're accountable to your own tastes and impulses. I have to rely on my instincts the entire time and just trust myself."
While Yours to Discover was recently the other week on Last Gang, Grainger doubts he'll be taking his own project on the road anytime soon.
"I don't want to do a show or play live unless its really good and it takes a long time to get really good and I don't have that time right now," he says. "There's so much stuff out there and so many mediocre bands and I don't want to be a mediocre anything. Unless the circumstances were really, really good and I could get together with some people that would have the same ideas as me, I don't want to compromise. So we'll see."