This past Saturday, electronic dance band Operators touched down in St. Catharines and performed at Detour Music Hall. The group, formed in 2013, features Dan Boeckner (formerly in Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs, and Divine Fits) on vocals, guitar and synths, drummer Sam Brown (formerly in New Bomb Turks and Divine Fits), and electro-wiz Devojka.
Operators will release their debut album, titled Blue Wave, this April. Produced with Graham Walsh (METZ, Alvvays, Viet Kong), the album signals a shift from the band’s usual punk vibes, into a melding of pop punk and electronic music.
The band’s front man, Boeckner, is no newbie to the music industry. Having previously been in three bands, his new endeavor with Operators is simply an extension of his musical prowess, and an indication of the forms that talent and creativity can take.
“As a musician, I never really felt that I had to be beholden to one project,” explained Boeckner. “I find that choosing one band to stick with is kind of an old school approach to music – you should be able to experiment, change, and grow. I didn’t want to stop doing that. It’s my job, just like being a doctor, engineer, or chef. If a chef owns a restaurant that shuts down, they open a new one. You take what you previously learned and bring it into new projects.”
Boeckner’s desire to focus his attention on a new, more dance central project, echoes his sentiments about learning and experiencing. Operators’ EP1 was a catalogue of synth driven pop songs that worked to establish the band in the electronic genre. However, the presence of Boeckner on his guitar has been a great and welcome addition to the electronic sounds of the EP, and has warranted multiple lively shows throughout the course of the group’s touring.
“The tour has been great,” said Boeckner. “We’ve mostly just toured America so far, so it’s been fun to do a Golden Horseshoe/Ontario run – all the crowds have been awesome. We played London the other night and it’s been the best crowd so far. We’ve been playing a lot of new stuff this tour and it’s always a big ask to come to a venue and say ‘we’re gonna give you a bunch of new stuff’, it makes for a really intimate experience.”
Intimacy is a feeling Boeckner believes is the most important asset to have when performing for fans.
“Performing in smaller venues gives a sense of immediacy,” explained Boeckner. “There’s this return/feedback loop of energy between you and the crowd. In larger venues, it gets lost and becomes artificial when you have to project and amplify your personality. Connecting with the audience is important when performing, and people forget that, which can be a mistake. Performing is like exercising – big venues exercise different muscles than small venues. Smaller venues are where you start and where you return – there’s a purist expression in venues with 350 people or less that you just can’t get in ones with 1000 or more.”
This idea behind touring is not lost on Boeckner or the fans. Being a veteran of the music industry, and having the opportunity to perform with bands that have achieved success has afforded Boeckner with the lessons and experience needed to understand why crowd connection is such an important part of the touring process. The sense of intimacy shared between a band and their audience is one of sheer magnitude. Bands like Operators who can connect with their audiences on a nightly basis, are the bands that deserve — and often achieve — some of the most memorable shows, and dedicated fans.
For fans of Operators, Boeckner explained that their upcoming album is a deeper, heavier listen, and that he was inspired to create the themes and elements in the album as a response to an observation of human interaction and reaction that he noted in his surroundings at the time of production.
“The vibe of our upcoming album is intense,” said Boeckner. “We recorded it with Graham Walsh, and he and I developed this loud, psychedelic sound – it’s pop music amplified with psychedelic elements. The general theme of the album developed as a result of me living in Silicon Valley during production. It’s obsessed with the idea of share overload – people’s lives are awash with information you have to sift through. You have to make hundreds of snap decisions when you’re constantly looking at a phone, it becomes like a wall of static. The record is a melancholy to that, looking at the real experience of life, a feeling that doesn’t really have a name yet.”
For more information about Operators visit their website operatorsmusic.com and their Facebook page facebook.com/theoperatorsmusic
Assistant Arts & Culture Editor