To most people, the dual passions of Dan Snaith would seem to be at odds.
He's the mastermind behind Caribou, whose new album, Swim, combines the kaleidoscopic, psychedelic pop explorations of his 2007 breakout, Andorra, with a more electronic, beat-driven sound that's as much about getting feet moving as heads spinning. And in his spare time, Snaith earned a Ph.D. in math from Imperial College London.
So he plays music — an art form built on creativity and emotion. Yet he also has been a mathematician, someone who deals with formulas and theories. "Mathematicians are some of the most passionate, most emotionally intense people you'll ever meet," the Canadian says from his home in London. "People think of them as being like accountants or something, but they're a bunch of (expletive) lunatics! The most fascinating characters I've ever met are mathematicians."
Beyond mathematicians and rockers being similarly eccentric, Snaith, 32, says, the processes behind them are more similar than people might think.
"Music has an emotional punch. It's being unpredictable and spontaneous. But those are some of the things I loved about mathematics," he says.
Snaith's music has changed over the course of a decade. His earliest recordings (when he went by the name Manitoba before a lawsuit forced a change) were minimalist electronic compositions, but with each successive album he expanded his sound, reaching a creative and commercial peak with the lush, vibrant Andorra.
For the follow-up, Swim, Snaith says he was influenced by his increasingly frequent DJ gigs in which he embraced dance music. He composed a set of songs specifically for those DJ sets, tunes he never thought would find their way onto a proper album.
"This isn't Caribou music; it's just over here," he says he originally thought of those songs. But eventually he had a change of heart.
"I think maybe I was fooling myself into believing that at the time," he says. "And then everything just kind of mixed together nicely. (The song) Sun, for example, it totally fits on the album. But a month before the album was finished I thought, 'Well, I really like that track, I wish I could put it on the album, but it doesn't make sense. And then I realized that the album was living in this place that it did make sense."