Destroyer is a Canadian indie rock band from Vancouver, British Columbia fronted by singer-songwriter Dan Bejar and formed in the early to mid-1990s. Destroyer songs are characterized by abstract, poetic lyrics and idiosyncratic vocals. The band's discography draws on a variety of musical genres and Bejar's self-proclaimed "varied interests," resulting in albums that can sound markedly distinct from one another.
We'll Build Them a Golden Bridge, Destroyer's 1996 debut, is made up of sixteen lo-fi home-recordings. One reviewer suggested that the album combines Bejar's "gift for melodies" with "a concerted effort to make the recording downright inconsumable; the guitars are always out of tune, and the vocals of Fisher-Price quality. 'Static means punk / tuning is junk,' Bejar moans on one track." (Ideas for Songs, released on cassette in 1997, features songs akin to those on his first album. The cassette stemmed from a request to contribute songs for a compilation album.)
As Bejar gained popularity in Vancouver's music scene, he was joined by producer John Collins for 1998's City of Daughters, which was recorded at a proper studio.Pitchfork noted that the songs still sounded "homespun," also noting "the wordiness that would become something of a trademark is in full effect," but that "unlike much of what came later, not every line is worthy of examination."
Thief (2000) embodied "Bejar's first stab at matching his grandiose, idiosyncratic vision to a showier sound;" it was the first to feature a backing band on every track. The record's "anthemic yet understated" piano-driven ballads have characteristically enigmatic lyrics, though some reviewers interpreted them as critiques of the music industry.
Streethawk: A Seduction (2001) realized the sonic refinement started with City of Daughters. Bejar put it this way: "I don't think it gives credence to any kind of conceptualization of the records, but I hope that City of Daughters, Thief, and Streethawk will pop into some kind of a progression that ends with Streethawk." A critical success, the album (retrospectively) received a rating of 9.1/10 from Pitchfork.
The 2002 rock album This Night was a dramatic change in style, a "foil to the sleek and streamlined approach of earlier recordings." The looser, less rehearsed style was criticized as "messy and haphazard without purpose," though other critics praised the "beautiful mess of sounds" as "challenging... and a powerful, cohesive whole." In a 2006 interview (after the release of Your Blues and Destroyer's Rubies), Bejar said the album "came together pretty quickly - we probably could of used more than four or five days to mix the whole thing, but that's all hindsight. It's still my favorite Destroyer record."
Your Blues (2004) saw Destroyer take another unexpected turn, using MIDI instrumentation for almost all the backing music. Bejar coined the term "European blues" to describe its unique, theatrical sound. One reviewer pointed out that "Bejar's unusual voice sounds more confident, and higher up" in the synth-rich arrangements. In yet another twist, the EP Notorious Lightning & Other Works reworked six tracks from the record with a live band, the very thing the LP had forsaken (that band was Frog Eyes, who toured with Destroyer in support of Your Blues).
Bejar returned with a live band for 2006's Destroyer's Rubies, delivering arguably his most confident record to date. The backing band took new-found prominence and, according to Bejar, "the production seems... warm and lush and pretty focused on just making the band sound good and having everything sit well together."NOW Magazine observed, "while the sheer density of Bejar's writing can be overwhelming, Destroyer's Rubies is, on a musical level, the most 'accessible' disc he's released."
For Trouble in Dreams (2008), "there was a scary lack of ideas coming into the record," Bejar admitted. Destroyer's piano player Ted Bois took it upon himself, as an alternative to keyboard and piano accompaniment, to create all string and synth arrangements for the songs. At the time, Bejar said it was the "hardest record" to make.
After the 2009 EP Bay of Pigs, came 2011's full-length Kaputt (featuring a slightly modified "Bay of Pigs" track). Bejar cited influences such as Miles Davis and Roxy Music for his new jazz-infused, lounge music-inspired direction. In multiple interviews, Bejar variously stressed that he "sang in a completely different manner, almost unconscious of even singing, more like speaking into a vacuum, and was really happy with the results." The record entailed a number of firsts for Destroyer: first national television performance (on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon); first official music video; first female backing vocals; and the first time Bejar performed without an instrument on tour - his concentration placed solely on his singing. Kaputt was short listed for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize and was Pitchfork's second best album of 2011.
Although smaller in scale, Destroyer's fourth EP "Five Spanish Songs" continued to surprise listeners. Sung entirely in Spanish, Bejar covered songs by Sr. Chinarro (es). Bejar's own press release announcing the new songs began: "It was 2013. The English language seemed spent, despicable, not easily singable."
Bejar intends to record a new Destroyer album in 2014.
In 2002, Bejar said about the band name, "I kind of wanted to go for a rock 'n' roll name. In our own special way we're tearing shit apart, you just have to listen very carefully. Musically I knew it was never going to be a metal band, but I thought lyrically there were fangs to the music." Bejar added in 2008, "I was actually so out of it I didn't know that there was a Kiss record called Destroyer because I didn't know anything about Kiss. I still don't know anything about them. I just thought it was a cool rock-and-roll name, and I was kind of blown away that it hadn't been taken already. I was like, 'I have to use this because it's so weird that no one's used it before.'"
The ever-evolving lineup can give the impression that Destroyer is a solo project. However, Bejar has has insisted "the music is always collaborative and I think that gets lost in the weird cult of personality shit that seems to get whipped up around me." Although Bejar had claimed that the lineup from certain recording sessions would be permanent, later recording sessions and tours added and dropped musicians. Several band members have the commonality of being from the production team of JC/DC (John Collins and David Carswell).
On the EP Archer on the Beach (2010), Bejar worked with rambient composer Tim Hecker for the title track. Bejar wrote in the press release: "The reason why this has to be seen as a collaboration, rather than strictly a Destroyer release, is that, for the first time, I'm not responsible for any of the music ... aside from the vocals, the general chord progression." On the B-side, the spoken word song "Grief Point," Loscil provided the music. (Loscil also composed an extra track, "Loscil's Rubies," on the vinyl version of Destroyer's Rubies.)
American visual artist Kara Walker contributed to the lyrics for Kaputt's "Suicide Demo (For Kara Walker)." Organized by Merge, Walker sent cue cards with bits of text to Bejar in 2009.
Vancouver artist and Hello, Blue Roses partner, Sydney Vermont has provided the cover art for multiple Destroyer albums, including We'll Build Them a Golden Bridge, This Night, Your Blues and Trouble in Dreams.