“I don’t really have any specific intentions of making an album worth of rock music under the Destroyer name any time in the near future,” Dan Bejar admits. “That’s not where my interest lie right now.” He pauses for a moment, speaking slowly and softly and deliberately—a stark contrast to his musical delivery, which is forceful and often rushed, a sometimes-desperate attempt to squeeze far more words into a stanza than any single line ought reasonably hold. “That being said,” he continues a moment later, “I’ve said a million things in the past that have turned out to be wrong—or lies. So, who knows?”
Earlier in the month, Merge released a new record by Bejar’s Destroyer—an EP called Bay of Pigs. An odd record in many respects, pressed onto 12-inch vinyl, the record contains two tracks, one on each side. The self-titled A-side stretches for 13 minutes plus, a downright opus for songwriter whose sensibilities seem far more inclined toward pop and folk songs—a fact certainly not lost on anyone more familiar with the artist’s part-time gig as a member of Carl Newman’s New Pornographers.
Bejar calls the title track “ambient disco.” The former part of that compound genre note is immediately clear. The singer, who’s struggled so valiantly in the past to squeeze every last note of lyrical acrobatics into a three-minute rock song, has finally given himself plenty of room to stretch his words. The first sentence of the song occurs somewhere just before the two minute mark, and Bejar seems to relish the opportunity to drag out that first word “so” for as long as he sees fit. By its end, the singer has finished a first-person account of the ‘61 invasion of Cuba—or maybe not. “I was 20 years old in 1992,” the narrator announces matter of factly. No clearer is the music, with crests in electronic beats and crashes into atmospheric fuzz.
The song’s counterpart, “Ravers,” a comparably brisk sub-seven minute number will perhaps prove more familiar to Destroyer fans, but only slightly so. “The B-side is kind of a stripped down analog synth based version of an older Destroyer song that I tried to play with ambience and atmospherics,” explains Bejar. There were traces of it in the past, for those who picked up the vinyl version of 2006’s Destroyer’s Rubies, which devoted an entire side to more primitive electronic noodlings. For Bejar, the computer noise of Bay of Pigs points the way forward toward the next step in his evolution as a songwriter.
“If I play a Destroyer song on an acoustic song and sing along, it sounds like a folk song or a pop song, and that’s not what this is about,” Bejar explains. “The solo shows that I’ve been playing this year have just been me with an acoustic guitar playing a variety of songs from the eight Destroyer albums, and maybe a couple of other songs on top of that. The show in New York won’t have anything to do with that, really. I won’t be playing guitar.”
Bay of Pigs, it seems, offers the strongest hint at what Bejar will be doing. “In way that might have some overlap with what [long-time Destroyer collaborator Scott Morgan] and I will try and do at the New York show, though it’s quite different to it demands a certain vocal approach.” It also demands that Bejar, relatively new to this world of computerized music perform the show sans instrument.
As far as the performance is concerned, Bejar seems far more confident in what he won’t do than what he will.
“So what exactly will we be hearing?” I ask, simply.
“I’m not going to say,” Bejar laughs. “We’ve tried a few different things—some old, some new, and we’ll see what ends up on stage.”