Dan Boeckner Opens Up About the Origins of Operators and the Road to 'EP1'

BY Chris BiltonPublished Aug 15, 2014

This month, as a surprise gift to mid-summer playlists everywhere, Operators released their debut EP through Last Gang Records. Much like the band's coming-out shows at this spring's CMW festival, the five-song offering from Dan Boeckner's latest project was preceded by little warning and zero online teaser trailers.

It's been almost exactly a year since Boeckner first gave some indication about what he was up to with Operators, and only a few months since curious listeners got a chance to see them in person (or at least through shaky YouTube clips). While the lack of a marketing rollout is somewhat unconventional, there was a precedent for putting their live foot first — and doing so in T.O.

"Every band I've been in, our debut shows in Toronto have always been with Dan [Burke], at either the Comfort Zone or the Silver Dollar. I thought three nights might be a little excessive for a new band, but [Dan] was right. People showed up and, as far as I can tell, had a good time," Boeckner tells Exclaim! "I felt like we really had something to prove when we got up there."

Though the band's synth-pop sound is somewhat removed from his initial suggestion of a Fugazi and Sonic Youth vibe, it represents a logical next chapter in the founding member of Wolf Parade's winning streak of side-projects. Operators' EP 1 marries the refined songwriting heard on A Thing Called Divine Fits (the debut album from Boeckner's collaboration with Spoon bandleader Britt Daniel) with the dancey beats and electro aesthetic of his now-defunct duo Handsome Furs.

"I had written all the music for Handsome Furs on this late '90s rave box — basically made so that British teenagers could make acid house tunes in their basements without having to buy any of the expensive vintage gear," Boeckner explains. "My programming skills have gotten better as time went on, so I got really excited about not using the Korg Electra [for the follow-up to Sound Kapital]. And, of course, the band broke up. But after Divine Fits settled into touring, I revisited the idea [and realized that] I really want to do this. I love playing this kind of music and I didn't want to stop doing it because Handsome Furs aren't a band anymore."

Working on this new music in a former fruit-canning warehouse near his current home base of San Jose ("It's Steinbeck country"), he teamed up with Divine Fits drummer Sam Brown and keyboardist/singer Devojka to flesh out the tunes.

"Once we decided to kick things forward, we really started writing at a rapid pace," he says. "I think it's the most fruitful creative period I've ever had in my life."

From there, it was only a matter of spending a couple of months at Montreal's Hotel2Tango recording 15 tracks, filing two failed applications for FACTOR grants (Boeckner has since served on a FACTOR jury to get a better insight into the problems he sees with what he considers an otherwise important institution), and playing a handful of well-received shows before Last Gang agreed to put out the first taste of Operators. Boeckner says future releases will either be a full-length, or more EPs, which will then be collected.

"To me, [Last Gang] was a no brainer because of [bands on their roster like] Crystal Castles and Egyptrixx," he says of the partnership. "And then this Future Islands tour fell into place and we just thought, yeah it's time: we need to put music out."

As previously reported, Operators are currently on the road with Future Islands, and you can see all their upcoming dates below.

Tour dates:

08/15 Boise, ID - Egyptian Theatre*
08/16 Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge*
08/18 Sacramento, CA - Harlow's*
08/19 Fresno, CA - Star Palace at Warnors Theatre*
08/20 Los Angeles, CA - The Fonda Theatre*
08/21 Los Angeles, CA - The Fonda Theatre*
08/22 San Diego, CA - Irenic*
08/24 Phoenix, AZ - The Crescent ballroom
08/25 Tucson, AZ - 191 Toole*
08/27 Denver, CO - Gothic Theatre*
08/28 Omaha, NE - The Waiting Room*
08/29 Des Moines, IA - Wooly's*
08/30 Chicago, IL - Schuba's^
08/31 Columbus, OH - The Big Bang*
09/02 Montreal, QC - La Tulipe*
09/03 South Burlington, VT - Higher Ground Ballroom*
09/04 Portland, ME - Port City Music Hall*
09/07 Toronto, ON - Horseshoe Tavern
09/13 Hamilton, ON - James Street North Supercrawl
10/23 Halifix, NS - The Marquee Club

* with Future Islands
^ with Tweens

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