Death From Above 1979 make the Canadian Tuxedo a peacekeeper’s uniform

By Christine Leonard
DFA’s Sebastien Grainger reflects on Paris tragedy while prepping for co-headlining tour. Photo: Courtesy of Last Gang Records

DFA’s Sebastien Grainger reflects on Paris tragedy while prepping for co-headlining tour.
Photo: Courtesy of Last Gang Records

CALGARY — It’s not every day that Death From Above 1979 puts out a new album. In fact, 10 years elapsed between the release of You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine (2004) and the Toronto two-piece’s most recent LP The Physical World (2014). Disbanded between 2006 and 2011, guitarist/keyboardist Jesse F. Keeler and drummer/vocalist Sebastien Grainger had plenty of time to work out their individual ambitions, including Keeler’s side-project MSTRKRFT, before returning to the drawing board to draft up the adolescent fervor and streetwise charisma of The Physical World. Somewhat daunted by a spate of cancelled dates last summer, “Due to some super unsexy bureaucratic immigration/visa issues,” the pair was more determined than ever to bring their long-awaited album to the people.

“We knew we wanted to come across Canada again in support of our latest record. We also wanted to do it bigger, something a bit more exciting. So, when the opportunity came up to go out on tour with the Eagles of Death Metal, we jumped at it right away!”

Although accustomed to the unpredictable nature of stringing together an international run of live shows, the DFA (as they are affectionately called) was left speechless when, on November 13th, 2015, their potential tour mates Eagles of Death Metal were caught up in the horrific ISIL terrorist attacks on Paris’s legendary Bataclan Theatre.

“We had actually confirmed all of the dates and the venues the day before the Paris attacks. So, you can imagine the kind of absurdity and abstractness of that situation. The insanity that was that event, that is still that event, is hard to digest,” says Grainger. “It’s so much bigger than real life in a sense. When it occurred, my initial feeling was like everything was a bit futile. Like, ‘Well, what’s the point of doing this?’ was one of the emotions I went through. Because it seemed so banal. It was a rock show. And, rock and roll hasn’t been a dangerous medium for a long time. It’s very absurd that this kind of event would bring danger back to rock and roll, but in the worst sense.”

Undeterred by the lingering threat of violence, DFA and EODM remain committed to taking their rightful place onstage and giving audiences the entertainment experience of a lifetime. Sharing a mutual appreciation for the outpouring of support they’ve received from friends and fans around the globe, the two bands hope to bring peace and the joy of boogieing down to whoever needs an injection of positivity in their life. As Grainger sings on The Physical World track “Always On,” “I’ve been losin’ sleep; Just keepin’ up with what’s become; Reachin’ out for something else; When all I want is love.”

“It’s a very weird and difficult thing for me to talk about; I’m not fearful. I really don’t think there should be any concern. It didn’t change anything. I don’t think it can or should. You also can’t live your life that way. Without going into any of the feelings that the Eagles of Death Metal have about it and their experience, which is unfathomable, it’s almost too much to talk about. I hope this tour is a good experience for them, I can’t imagine it’s very easy – even on the flipside of the fallout of the whole event there’s also the high positive emotion that they experience at shows now must be overwhelming.”

Noting that Arcade Fire once issued a benediction that their fans should dress up, in formal attire or costumes, for their Reflektor arena tour, Grainger portends that an all-denim choice of attire might be the uniform that sweeps the audience at their upcoming fêtes. As he put it in DFA 1979’s official press release, “Canada, get ready for real rock and roll and wear your tuxedos.”

“I’m wearing one right now, actually. A Canadian Tuxedo dress code might not a bad idea, maybe I’ll try to tweet that out. That’d be incredible. Wow, imagine that.”

Death From Above 1979 perform alongside Eagles of Death Metal at the PNE Forum in Vancouver on April 26th, at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton on April 28th, at the Grey Eagle Casino in Calgary on April 29th, at O’Brian’s Event Centre in Saskatoon on April 30th and at the Burton Cummings Theatre in Winnipeg on May 1st.

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