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Dan Boeckner Emerges from the Wilderness

Wolf Parade's howling indie rock virtuoso emphatically introduces himself to the world with his debut solo album, Boeckner!

by Leslie Ken Chu

Photos by Alison Green

Home is a tenuous concept for Dan Boeckner, but after 20 years of touring in bands and living in city after city, he has become more sure than ever of where he’s heading–at least musically. 

After graduating from high school in Lake Cowichan, Boeckner bounced between Victoria and Vancouver, living in punk houses and playing music. Later, in Montreal, he and Spencer Krug founded indie rock powerhouse Wolf Parade. Simultaneously, Boeckner co-fronted drum-machine-powered electro duo Handsome Furs with his then-wife Alexei Perry. After three albums—and their divorce—Handsome Furs dissolved, and Boeckner wound up crashing with Spoon’s Britt Daniel in Los Angeles, forming the hard-rock-leaning Divine Fits together. Then came Operators, a more refined spiritual successor to Handsome Furs.

Through all the miles, Boeckner has learned to get comfortable quickly. But he also never feels totally grounded, even when he returns to Lake Cowichan.

“I do have some cellular memory of being a child and a troubled teen in this small town,” Boeckner tells RANGE from New Orleans, where he’s lived for the past year. “I always go back to that town. It’s informed a lot of my writing over the years because I’ve tried to puzzle out my relationship with it. But I wouldn’t necessarily say that it was my home.”

And through all the projects Boeckner has started (and stopped), one factor has remained constant: his hopefulness. 

“You have to be realistic, but if you’re not optimistic, you will, especially right now, go crazy. I think what we’re seeing is a giant mental health crisis due to despair,” Boeckner says, pointing to the general state of the world. “I really do believe this is the way a lot of people are dealing with a feeling of despair they cannot think their way out of.”

With droughts, floods, and hurricanes, Boeckner is well aware that New Orleans sits at the spear point of climate catastrophe. “It’s a window into the future of the rest of North America, which is that no government is going to take care of you,” he says. “No one’s going to bail you out of anything. You’re going to have to adapt to extreme climate and weather.”

One longstanding wellspring of Boeckner’s hope has been science fiction. Like the genre, his music is rife with visions of post-apocalyptic futures in which denizens reckon with “poly-crisis Armageddon,” be it environmental disaster, institutional collapse, or nuclear war. But citing the works of sci-fi authors Kim Stanley Robinson and William Gibson, Boeckner says, “There is an element of hope in it and problem solving that these [crises] can potentially be overcome. The cost is going to be massive, but somehow, given hope, people will be able to figure out a way to continue on living.”

The same determination drives Boeckner’s artistic practice. In fact, he thrives off the challenge of starting projects from scratch. And with his latest project, he is taking on his greatest such challenge yet. 



After playing in bands for 20 years, Boeckner is finally proclaiming himself to the world with his debut solo album, simply titled Boeckner! (The exclamatory title is a nod to German krautrock pioneers Neu!, of which he says “You know they mean business. They’re excited about their band and their album.”)

Boeckner! draws a circle around everything he has done, dating all the way back to Wolf Parade’s 2005 debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary. “I wanted a lot of guitars,” he says. “I also wanted it to be very electronic—use everything that I’ve learned from Handsome Furs and Operators.” The album cover features Boeckner with his arms outstretched like the Vitruvian Man, literally tracing a circle in the air while displaying several gradients of himself.

It’s six days until Mardi Gras when Boeckner speaks with RANGE. “It’s fully hectic here right now. It’s fully carnival season,” he says. The festivities form a perfect backdrop for where he is in life, with a new album on the horizon that contains many upbeat moments despite its spooky, gothic atmosphere and raw, personal emotions rather than his usual fictional fare.

“I had no footing. I didn’t have a band to fall back on,” Boeckner says, reflecting on the precarity of going solo for the first time. “[Boeckner!] is a culmination of everything I’ve done. Going forward, it’s gonna be this.” He guesses Wolf Parade will record and tour in the future—“I don’t know when,” he says—“but after wandering the wilderness with a bunch of different bands, this project is sort of where I decided to make my home.”