Caribou - Biography
Recording as a one-man electronic visionary under the name Caribou, Daniel Victor Snaith synthesizes dream pop with programmed structure, making for a sound that is at once atmospheric and undeniably specific.
Born in 1978 in Dundas, Ontario, Canada, Snaith studied mathematics extensively, first at the University of Toronto and then at The Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London, England where he receive his PhD in Pure Mathematics. His father, Victor Snaith, is a mathematics professor at the University of Sheffield and his sister, Nina Snaith, is a reader in mathematics at the University of Bristol. Snaith has been reticent in the past to speak of his music within the parameters and language of mathematics, though he does concede that he culls inspiration from the deconstruction and restructuring of abstract and intangible thought — a theme in both his study of Pure Math and in his musical compositions.
Originally recording under the name Manitoba, Snaith came under fire for the use of the name and was presented with a lawsuit from Richard “Handsome Dick” Manitoba in 2004. Although he had released approximately ten recordings under the name Manitoba, the lawsuit claimed improper and unauthorized use of the name. Handsome Dick Manitoba is best known as the frontman for New York proto-punk band The Dictators and his more recent work with Detroit band the MC5, as well as his garage music radio show The Handsome Dick Manitoba Radio Program on Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel on Sirius XM Radio. Arguably, the two Manitoba’s have little or no cross-over fanbase or appeal. While Snaith has been quoted as saying that the lawsuit is similar to the band The Smiths suing a man named John Smith, he decided not to fight it. Snaith’s choice to concede and change his name without a fight has been attributed to both his lack of interest in the suit as well as his lack of money to proceed with it. Legend has it that Snaith officially took on the name Caribou during an LSD trip with several friends in the Canadian wilderness.
While Snaith generally records as a solo artist, live Caribou shows are a multi-media experience complete with a full band. Most recently, live shows have included Ryan Smith, Brad Weber, and Andy Lloyd. Weber is also in the experimental band Winter Equinox which is based in Dundas and Waterloo, Ontario and focuses on a post-rock sound with great attention to classical jazz musicianship. Lloyd is a member of Henri Fabergé and the Adorables, a Toronto indie rock band in which Lloyd plays under the name Janderton Beauregard. Live Caribou shows often find Snaith behind the drums, showcasing his considerable talent as a percussionist. Visually, Caribou is know for using video projections that combine both esoteric imagery and pure pop, such as clips of mid-Seventies British pop group Racey’s video for the song “Some Girls.”
Many of the recordings that Snaith had released as Manitoba have since been re-issued under the name Caribou. However, since the 2004 name change Snaith has shown significant growth as an artist and has been prolific in his releases. The first official release under the name Caribou was 2005’s EP Yeti, a three track recording that clocks in at about 15 minutes, released by Domino Recording Company. That same year, a tour CD aptly called Tour CD 2005 (City Slang) was released after the Super Furry Animals tour and a DVD called Marino was also put out. The greatest accomplishment of 2005, however, was the release of the first Caribou full-length album, The Milk of Human Kindness (Domino). The album shows a creative move for Snaith as he begins to emerge as a songwriter as well as a soundscaper. The album as a whole received a lukewarm reception, but is no less a significant turning point in Snaith’s approach to musical composition. Interestingly, the title of the album is easily noted by students of Shakespeare as a reference to the play Macbeth, though Snaith refuses to validate this theory, claiming that he simply read the phrase on the back of a milk truck.
2006 saw the re-release of two Manitoba recordings under the name Caribou on the Domino label — 2001’s Start Breaking My Heart and 2003’s Up in Flames. In 2007, the release of Caribou’s new work, Andorra (Merge), truly made music critics and fans alike take note of Snaith. Andorra drives away from the purely atmospheric tones and segments of prior recordings, and delves into a more emotionally driven narrative that is carried by an increase in vocalization and a lessening of programmed sound. The album can easily be considered dream pop or shoegaze. Andorra was released on vinyl by the Merge label with a coupon code for an MP3 download of the album, which appealed to both audio purists and conventional 21st Century listeners. Andorra went on to receive the 2008 Polaris Music Prize, one of Canada’s most prestigious music awards, for which Snaith received $20,000 CAD.
In many interviews, Snaith has cited a need he has to offer something back to the world and has taken the opportunity of donating prize money to two charities — Ecojustice, a Canadian project focused on battling climate change, and the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which funds community-based programming in AIDS-beset Sub-Saharan Africa.
Since the release of Andorra, Snaith released the EP She’s the One (2007) on Universal. The second track of the EP includes a remix of the song “She’s the One” by Hot Chip.