Progressive rock is a rare beast. Everyone can name you some Pink Floyd or King Crimson songs, but aside from a few acts, you won’t find many prog bands on tour in this day and age—except for Bend Sinister. Over 13 years, the four-piece band has put out an array of records that have concepts deep enough to keep you questioning your existance for hours, while still being pop enough to play at a party and rock n’ roll enough to blast out of your Harley. It’s like if Yes!, The Fray, and Foo Fighters all had a child. Somehow.
We gave Bend Sinister frontman Dan Moxon a call to talk about their upcoming record Animals, 70’s cop dramas, and why Franz Kafka should join the band.
LotusLand: Hey there Dan. Why don’t you introduce yourself to the lovely people?
Dan Moxon: Sure. My name is Dan Moxon, and I play in the band Bend Sinister.
LL: So what’s going on with Bend Sinister right now?
DM: We’ve got a new record coming out about March 11th called Animals, so we’ve just sort of been getting ready to release that. We just released a video for one of the songs, called “Teacher,” and we go on the road in about a week to play South by Southwest and then head back through Canada for about a month long tour.
LL: That sounds crazy rad. You guys are known for a very anthemic sound. What can we expect from Animals? Is it gonna be different?
DM: Hmmm, it’s a fairly similar sound I would say! We usually like to have a balance of more poppy songs and then some more rock and roll style stuff, so I’d say it’s pretty close to our regular style.
LL: When I think of the word “Animals” I think of two things: Furry critters and the album by Pink Floyd. Were either of these things involved in the album’s creation?
DM: [Laughter.] Ohhh! Well I do love Pink Floyd, but that wasn’t really a reason for calling this record Animals. It was more just a reference to songs on the record and just sort of thinking about how we like to consider ourselves, humans, as being more intellectual or whatnot, at the end of the day everyone is just sort of an animal and has an animal’s nature.
LL: You guys are known for a pretty sweet concept album—do you think there is any inspiration, as far as the band goes, from Pink Floyd?
DM: Well I do love their songwriting. But I don’t think there’s a direct connection aside from the fact that they’re a band that I’ve really appreciated in the past.
LL: You said you were about to play SXSW, which you played last year. What’s it like?
DM: It’s a really interesting show down there. It’s certainly overwhelming—the number of musicians and people that are gathering. It’s definitely insane to think that there are like 100 venues down like 1 or 2 streets. You walk through a sea of people, and it’s just like the town is one giant music festival. It’s definitely an amazing experience to be there because you can just sort of walk into any other bar and just see music from all over the world, one after another, from like 10 in the morning until like 4 at night. It’s pretty great.
You have a film degree from SFU. What are some of your recent film projects?
DM: I’m working on a film project right now with a director called Carl Vasi, who I’ve worked with on a few films a few years ago. It’s sort of a 70’s cop drama/comedy feature film. I usually have something on the go whenever we’re not on tour, so when I work from home I usually have some kind of film project on the go. Some of it’s more commercial work, and a lot of it is more indie films and stuff like that.
LL: Having worked in film, do you have a favourite music video?
DM: A favourite video… well, I grew up in the sort of 90s era when music videos were on TV a lot more. But now it seems like it’s a lot more low-budget or more interesting conceptual ideas. I knew I always like Spike Jonze’s stuff, which I know is a pretty classic response, but I really liked some of his crazy videos like the Billy Coola video, or some of the White Stripes stuff where they use the stop-motion. It’s amazing.
LL: “The Hardest Button to Button?”
DM: That’s the one.
LL: On to some serious business: The name “Bend Sinister” comes from a novel by Vladimir Nobokov. What are some other literary influences on the band?
DM: Well, one of the initial members of the band who later left and became a novelist was really big into all the literary references and stuff, and coined the name “Bend Sinister” for the band. And he was still in the band when we did “Stories of Brothers, Tales of Lovers,” which is a Charles Dickens-ish reference. So I guess lately we haven’t been using as many books or narratives or fictions for influence, but again, part of your influence is always what sort of books you read. But I’m a lot more casual with my reading—not nearly as well read as Jon was. I know what I’m reading right now is a book on the geographical history of Vancouver, which isn’t really something I’d put into a song.
LL: You could write a sick tune about Robert Oppenheimer.
DM: Yeah! [Laughter.]
LL: What’s interesting about Jon is that “Bend Sinister” also means to put a slash through your family crest. Since he left the band, is he now a Band Sinister?
DM: Totally, I guess anyone who left the band could be a Band or Bend Sinister. There’s been a few members come and go throughout the years, and it’s just sort of been one of those things where we’ve kept the name the same and tried to keep the band moving with the same sound.
LL: If Bend Sinister had a crest, what would it be?
DM: That’s interesting you ask that! Because we have an early record—you can find the picture on our bandcamp—and it was the EP with the song “Time Breaks Down” on it, and we actually had an artist design a crest for Bend sinister for the artwork on that record. And it’s still sort of relevant today. I think there was a fox on there because that was our tour animal, and there was an hourglass with some thyme and sand that had broken through, and there were ruined cities and some various things like that. You can check it out.
LL: So the crest is literally time breaking down?
DM: [Laughter.] Pretty much! I mean, that was partially due to the Bend Sinister EP having the main song be “Time Breaks Down.”
LL: On the subject of writers: You’re driving down to SXSW, and all of a sudden a writer joins your band. It can be any writer, living or dead. Who would you want it to be?
DM: Ohhh that’s a good one. How about Kafka? I feel he would be neat. You could write some really interesting songs with him for sure.
LL: I can just see him crying while playing the keyboard.
LL: Most bands, when picking their names, go through about 20,000 bad ones. What was the worst name you had or considered before you settled on Bend Sinister?
DM: Well one name that I thought was really cool at the time because i was going through a really heavy David Bowie “Space Odyssey” phase would be—and I’m so glad we didn’t name the band this—“Halo for Space Boy.” [Laughter] Pretty darn cheesy.
LL: That’s like “Sharkboy and Lavagirl” but better. Anything you wanna say to the fans out there?
DM: Just if you wanna pre-order our album you can go to our Pledge Music page and you can pre-order the record and the vinyl, or just check it out! I’m sure it will be streaming online the week we are releasing the album. And just look out for Animals on March 11th!
LL: Will do. Thank Dan, and keep it real. Like a… seal.