Dan Deacon Builds an Army

Jovial Baltimore titan Dan Deacon has made his name with a glowing green skull, a ratty Fred Flintstone T-shirt and a joyous one-man electronic arsenal combining pulverizing volume, deft rhythmic complexity and childlike elation—like Steve Reich scoring Looney Tunes. His daffy and thunderous 2007 breakthrough, the great-for-parties/terrible-for-hangovers Spiderman of the Rings, is a trip, but his one-man-band live shows are truly unforgettable, sort of a mass orgy of amped-up frivolity, goosed on by strobe lights, pounding beats, goofy between-song banter that often lasts longer than the songs themselves, and various other distractions (dance contests, etc.), all led by Deacon from his spot on the venue's floor, right in the middle of the action.

But now Deacon's decided to mix things up: On this tour, his show will boast a 15-man live backing ensemble. Together, they'll focus on tracks from his new record, Bromst, a slightly sweeter, calmer, more thoughtful affair—still great at parties, but much better for hangovers. Before Deacon launched his tour earlier this month, we caught up with him to find out what to expect.

So what inspired you to put together this, like, orchestra?

When I got out of school, I moved to Baltimore. I didn't really know any performers, and it was a lot easier to tour as a solo artist and focus on electronic music, and that's sort of what I did, I guess, for a few years. Around the time I was writing Spiderman of the Rings, I started writing Bromst... I didn't want it to be another just exclusively electronic album—I wanted it to have predominantly live percussion. I wanted it to be sort of like what I used to do, mixed with what I was doing at the time. And here we are...

Does that change, then, your live shows?

I'm not sure. I've been playing the songs for a while now—a lot of the material that I do during those activities is from this album. But I'm wondering how it's gonna change now that it's with the band. As much as you can blast synthetic drums through a PA, there's nothing as powerful as real drums. I think that's gonna definitely change the temperament of the room.

I don't want to just close the book on my old show. I want it to be more of an organic erosion from that, have it grow and come back and fade away. I don't want it to just be like I'm done with that.

What I like about your shows is that you more or less force people to enjoy themselves, which, as you know, is pretty rare at indie-rock concerts these days. Do you think you're having a positive effect on the concert-going masses?

I hope so. It seems to be affecting the electronic music more. I remember when I played with Diplo—he was saying he'd just played with Girl Talk, and he thought it was crazy that so many people were up onstage, then he played with me and was like, "I can't believe you played on the floor." And the last time he played in Baltimore, he had people up onstage and he was down on the floor. Obviously, that happens constantly in the underground, but I feel like a lot of bands, when they get larger, forget about how they used to always play on the floor and how there was no stage. Hopefully, I'm doing something positive. I try to. Who knows? Maybe I'm just a narcissist.

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Rob Harvilla
Contact: Rob Harvilla