Sebastien Grainger, one half of the now-defunct Canadian dance-punk duo Death From Above 1979, is many things, but a great parallel parker is not one of them. In fact, the 29-year-old doesn't have a driver's license. "I had a driving lesson this morning at 10 a.m.," Grainger says, laughing, via telephone from Toronto. "I always lived in cities and I never found driving necessary. I still managed to get around. I wasn't interested in cars when I was a teenager. It's preparation for being a father. That's what triggered it. It was like, ‘How am I gonna drive my wife to the hospital when she's pregnant?'" Grainger is getting a bit ahead of himself—he's not married (though he is engaged) and his wife-to-be isn't pregnant—but he likes to be prepared. Driving isn't the only great new adventure he's tackling these days: This past fall, he released his first solo album, Sebastien Grainger and the Mountains, a 12-track collection with song titles such as "Love Can Be So Mean" and "I Hate My Friends."
"I'm 100 percent satisfied," he says of the new album. "And there's no reason I shouldn't be. I did most of it myself, without any outside pressures. I realized this wasn't a band record. It was my record, and I had to take control of that and make decisions. I didn't want to compromise. I know a lot of people who put out records they aren't happy with. Sometimes it's label pressure, or sometimes it's bad collaboration. Also, a lot of times, artists will obsess over their work, listen to it too much and start not liking it. I tried to avoid doing that. I was conscious of those traps, which I've fallen into in the past." "Those traps" refers to the breakup of DFA 1979, which occurred in 2006 due to artistic differences. (Grainger sang and played drums; Jesse F. Keeler played bass and synths and did backing vocals. Today, the two are not on speaking terms.)
"When I was in Death From Above, if anything, I stagnated as a songwriter and a musician," he explains. "There was a creative period in that band for a few years, but the last two years we might have written one riff. At the end, it felt more damaging to me musically than anything else."
This time, he won't be making the same mistakes, and to keep things light, he'll just refer to the sunglasses tattoo on his arm. (His others include "1979," a sailboat and a tugboat—one symbolizing leisure and the other symbolizing the work you have to put in to actually enjoy things—and his fiancée's name written three times on his chest.) "The sunglasses remind me to relax and not get worked up about stuff," he says. "It's a be cool tattoo. I'll do my best not to disappoint anybody with this album and tour, but at the same time I'll try to have as much fun as possible. If people aren't into that, they need to lighten their lives."