An ac­ri­mo­nious breakup, a gang as­sault, a di­vided world — noth­ing can keep Death From Above from crash­ing into each other

Sharp - - ON THE RECORD - By Alex Nino Ghe­ciu

FACE SCRAP­ING THE PAVE­MENT, wind get­ting stomped out of him, Se­bastien Grainger could see the end cred­its rolling.

He couldn’t tell how many peo­ple had jumped him or what they wanted. All the singer/drum­mer knew was on this night — last Hal­loween, while he was on tour in Dal­las — a nasty, anony­mous mob was show­ing him a side of hu­man­ity he wished he wasn’t privy to. “They just beat me un­til I sub­mit­ted,” he says. “I ba­si­cally thought I was go­ing to die.”

Death From Above — al­most. For­tu­nately, Grainger’s band name didn’t turn trag­i­cally prophetic that night. He lived, his as­sailants — a group of se­rial mug­gers — were ar­rested, his wounds healed. But he still bears scars. “I’m just sad about it,” he says. “The in­sane part was the kids who did it, they were hav­ing a good time. So, that’s the world we’re all try­ing to move through.”

It’s safe to say Grainger’s been feel­ing dis­il­lu­sioned. Out­raged, even. And as overused as that word may be in our zeit­geist, it’s in the ti­tle of Death From Above’s third al­bum, Out­rage! Is Now. With the same di­nosaur-in-a-china-shop in­ten­sity they’re fa­mous for, Grainger and bassist/key­boardist Jesse F. Keeler have col­lided once again, this time birthing a hooky, scuzzy, scathing in­dict­ment of nasty, anony­mous mobs ev­ery­where — on the streets (the track “Moon­light” re­counts his as­sault) and on In­ter­net com­ment boards. It’s a dan­cepunk dec­la­ra­tion of out­rage over many things: so­cial me­dia ad­dic­tion, our ca­pac­ity for cru­elty, even the Age of Out­rage it­self.

Which, even Grainger ad­mits, can be a bit con­fus­ing. “There’s a lot of out­rage in the world — some of it is well-di­rected, some of it isn’t,” he ex­plains. “The things some peo­ple are mad about are what out­rage me. We’re de­hu­man­iz­ing each other over the slight­est dif­fer­ences of opin­ion.”

Not that Death From Above are im­mune to dis­agree­ments them­selves. It was in the mid-aughts, just as their rau­cous de­but You’re A Woman, I’m A Ma­chine was start­ing to blow up in­ter­na­tion­ally, that the Toronto duo im­ploded. Be­tween in­dus­try pres­sures and a grow­ing ha­tred for one an­other, says Grainger, “We just didn’t en­joy it any­more.”

But then some­thing weird hap­pened: Death From Above, de­spite Grainger and Keeler quit­ting, kept blow­ing up. Their fan base kept mul­ti­ply­ing, new bands kept crib­bing their sound (see: Royal Blood, DZ Deathrays), and their logo es­sen­tially be­came de­i­fied. So much so that by the time the duo in­evitably re­united in 2011, the pres­sure to live up to their own folk­lore was im­mense. The re­sult: 2014’s The Phys­i­cal World, a come­back record that sounds like it’s try­ing real hard to be a come­back record.

Thank­fully, the band keeps the self-mythol­o­giz­ing to a min­i­mum nowa­days. “This time around, it’s just pure ex­pres­sion,” says Grainger. “I’m not even think­ing about the band as a con­cept.” Whereas their last ef­fort re­lied on grandiose nar­ra­tive arcs and obli­ga­to­rily hard-charg­ing rhythms, Out­rage! Is Now is im­me­di­ate and loose. Su­per Mario-es­que elec­tro-stomps (“Never Swim Alone”), gar­gan­tuan stoner gal­lops (“No­mad”), and ser­rated grooves (“Caught Up”) meet head-on in an au­ral car pile-up closer re­sem­bling the wild aban­don of DFA past.

Of course, now aged 38 and 40, Grainger and Keeler still aren’t quite the reck­less scal­ly­wags they once were. “I used to want to start fights at bars be­cause I felt in­vin­ci­ble,” Grainger re­calls. “And then the world squashes you and you’re forced to fight back. You re­al­ize it’s never easy, so you learn to pick your bat­tles.”

Pre­sum­ably, said bat­tles are no longer with each other. “We’re hav­ing fun mak­ing this noise to­gether now,” he ad­mits. “That’s all that’s im­por­tant.” And if these two can get along, well, maybe there’s hope for us all.

NOW WITH LESS 1979 The duo chose to leave the suf­fix out of their name this year. “We were hav­ing a few drinks and de­cided to just drop it and see what hap­pens,” says Grainger.

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