In 2021, Death From Above 1979 (DFA), Sebastien Grainger (vocals, drums) and Jesse F. Keeler (bass, keys, synths) will mark 20 years as one of the most exciting and influential combos to shake up the rock-‘n’-roll landscape since the turn of the last millennium with their new album, Is 4 Lovers, out March 26.
DFA has never sounded more assuredly like itself than it does on Is 4 Lovers. With Grainger’s distinctive drums and Keeler’s deft bass playing, DFA revels in the joy of unfettered creative freedom on their perfect-for-the-moment fourth LP.
The pair locked themselves away for several weeks in a single room in a basement in Los Angeles’s Highland Park to see what would happen and eventually emerged with the purest distillation yet of the power, precision and nuanced personality at the heart of DFA’s unique and influential vision. This time around, the overriding credo driving the two-decade-long musical partnership was simply to have fun.
“I really love that kind of Daniel Lanois style of one room, where the control room is the whole studio,” says Grainger. “And because we decided to do it ourselves I thought there was no other way to do it than to just get a room, put all the equipment in it and be able to make a whole record within four walls.”
“There was nobody else. There was no one other than us directing the ship,” affirms Keeler. “On the last two records, we had a third voice both times to get it done. And this one we just made alone. So if it sounds more like us it’s probably just because it’s our ideas with no one to answer to but each other, really. And we’re too agreeable. Something would have to be so far out of the wheelhouse for either of us to say anything.”
Part of the fun of the album is unpacking all of its unexpected discoveries with unmistakably DFA-esque cuts - like the first single “One+One” and the searing anti-tech screed “Totally Wiped Out”. Listen for a giddily outraged two-part suite taking down the “NYC Power Elite”, separating the unintentional A and B side of the album, a world-weary anti-war anthem “No War” and, in the opening track “Modern Guy,” a cyber-metal riff-monster.
“For me, ‘Mean Streets’ is what pulls it together because it’s the bridge between everything,” says Keeler. “It’s beautiful, there’s a fuckin’ choir of people singing on it and it’s this piano riff that I wrote in a very sad, lonely moment in my life on one of my children’s guitars and then translated it to piano. And then from the furthest, soft reaches it becomes the hardest, fastest moment on the record – the most Bad Brains we’ve ever been.”
Is 4 Lovers – which hits all the marks from metal and hardcore to glam and disco to electro-pop and piano balladry – will surprise you.
About Death From Above 1979 (DFA)
Death From Above 1979 (DFA), the boundary pushing musical alliance created by Sebastien Grainger and Jesse F. Keeler, roared out of Toronto with the uncompromising one-two punch of 2002’s fuzz-bomb EP Heads Up and 2004’s epochal debut album You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, complete with a North American arena tour with Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age, before deciding mid-tour to part ways due to the strain of constantly touring.
Almost a decade later, the rekindled DFA fireworks lit stages around the world a blaze - amassing a posse of fans so passionate they incited a genuine, barricade-smashing riot at Austin’s Beauty Bar at the 2011 South by Southwest festival. Playing Lollapalooza, Coachella, Glastonbury, Reading / Leeds, Osheaga, Lowlands and more, DFA continued to take the world by storm. Their second album, The Physical World (2014) took a No. 3 spot on the Canadian Billboard album chart and peaked at No. 28 on the U.S. Hot 200, not to mention No. 3 and No. 7 shots on Billboard’s Top Alternative and Top Rock registries, respectively. TV appearances around their first two albums on iconic late-night shows including David Letterman, Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon showed a whole new audience the DFA live goods.
Arriving at No. 20 on the Canadian Billboard album chart, DFA’s scorching 2017 outing, Outrage! Is Now prompted Pitchfork to remark that “Death From Above now sounds more vital than ever.” With three smashing albums to their name, the duo drummed up an easy 10 million views before going silent once more, to the dismay of fans.
Now, in 2021, DFA is back with Is 4 Lovers - once again creating a new sound and reimagining the format they created more than 20 years ago.