From first act to headliner: Caribou’s ready to complete Field Day journey

Caribou. Picture: Thomas Neukum

Caribou. Picture: Thomas Neukum - Credit: Archant

Ahead of his appearance on June 6, Dan Snaith tells Alex Bellotti about his most personal record yet, possible collaborations and the secrets of a great festival show.

Considering the extraordinary success Dan Snaith has enjoyed since Caribou’s breakthrough record, Swim, in 2010, Field Day represents a rarity if only because it’s a gig he can walk home from.

Over the course of his 15 year career – which has also seen him record under the names Manitoba and Daphni – the Stoke Newington resident has become a leading pioneer of dance and electronic music alongside contemporaries such as his friend Kieran Hebden, aka. Four Tet.

Injecting an infectious dose of warmth and humanity into genres many often associate with computerised detachment, the Canadian’s most recent record, last year’s Our Love, topped countless ‘end of year’ lists by music critics, who were bowled over by songs including Can’t Do Without You and Your Love Will Set You Free.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Snaith says of the reaction. “The whole album was a response to the previous album being adopted by a wider audience and this record was about trying to reach out and make a connection with new bands, old bands and anyone who was going to hear it.

“Songs like Can’t Do Without You – specifically when I was making it, I was thinking, ‘I’d love to play this song in a headline slot at a summer festival.’ I guess it affects the music you make when you think you might be playing it to a bigger audience.”

The headline slot at Field Day is a special one for Snaith. He recalls playing its first year in 2007, when “we were maybe even the very first act, we were way down the bill on one of the stages at about two in the afternoon”.

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His relationship with the festival’s organisers, Eat Your Own Ears, extends to when they booked his first London show as Manitoba (before a lawsuit threat forced him to change his name to Caribou). Back then, he had just received a doctorate in mathematics from Imperial College London and while his songs still bore many hallmarks of Caribou, they were much less personal and direct than the music he’s made since.

“I’ve been releasing music now for 15 years now and it’s been a process of becoming more comfortable with the idea that people are listening to it. It’s so funny – within a couple of months of an album coming out, I get people tweeting me saying, ‘When’s the next one coming out?’ It’s really lovely that there are people waiting to hear what’s coming next and that’s what made me most excited.”

What’s in store for his set on June 6? Snaith admits a collaboration with Owen Pallett is likely – the equally pioneering violinist contributed to Our Love and is also playing earlier in the day.

While he records every album by himself, for live performances Caribou exists as a band with Ryan Smith, Brad Weber and John Schmersal on instrument duties. Having played over a thousand shows since the project’s conception, Snaith is well verses in what makes a great live show and suggests a festival slot is all about feeding into the crowd’s own momentum, rather than trying to control it themselves.

“At first when I was making music, I wanted to be in control of everything – I wanted people to interpret the music exactly how I intended them to, read a lyric exactly the way that I meant it. The more that I talk to people, the more I understand that that’s just a fiction, it’s impossible to do, it’s naïve and actually undesirable.

“The thing that makes it good is that it fits into people’s lives in a way that’s meaningful to them. Part of playing live is that same thing – we go up there and we have our own take on it and build the momentum as much as we can, but also enjoy the fact that there could be a bunch of 18-year-old totally f***ed off their heads and then at the back there could be two 70-year-olds on folding chairs.

“I love that – I love that people are having diverse experiences and Field Day’s definitely a good one for that.”