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Dada Plan Are Holding a Camera Phone Up to Society

What is it about technology that bothers Dada Plan so much?

Photo via Dada Plan's Soundcloud

“We have been in touch with Apple,” explains Dada Plan saxophonist Dave Biddle dryly. “They are offering a series of sponsorships and promotional plans. The possibilities are opening up, and I think with this new Apple contract, you could see a whole new Dada Plan.” He’s being sarcastic, of course, because Dada Plan is the least likely band in the entire world to sign a sponsorship deal with Apple. The Vancouver five-piece's philosophy emphasizes a mistrust of the internet—in particular social media—and its promotional materials are frequently branded with a “no cell phones” logo.


Internet technology was a central theme of 2014s debut A Plan Is Free, an album that mixed futurist-psychedelia with roots-jazz and employed an unusual instrumental setup of guitar, drum machine, synth, congas, and upright bass. Now, just six months later, the group already has a new full-length album that touches on many of the same musical and lyrical ideas: The Madness Hides. These similarities become clear within a matter of seconds, as the opening title track begins with frontman Malcolm Biddle (Dave’s brother) singing, “Reward yourself by checking your emails / No new messages.” Elsewhere, “Helpless” refers to online comments sections as humanity’s lowest point, while “The History of Mirrors” mocks Instagram users with its lyric, “But if you need to click and shift / To give yourself a little lift / Just pick a filter and reveal to yourself that being yourself is rigged.” The line gives way to a freaky instrumental break in which a cyclical sax figure is overlaid with the atonal recorder you remember from elementary school.

The band’s technophobia reaches satirical levels at times, as evidenced by their official website, which is designed to be purposefully broken and frustrating to navigate while a disembodied voice reads out to you. But what is it about technology that bothers Dada Plan so much? “It’s not even technology, really,” reflects Malcolm while sipping tea with his brother in Vancouver’s Our Town Cafe. “It’s more the way people pick up these bad habits with technology. Or just observing the [social media] profile culture where people aren’t present,” Dave adds. Given the band’s mistrust of the digital realm, it’s fitting that they self-recorded The Madness Hides using an analogue eight-track in their Vancouver studio space. The results are a massive departure from the peppy indie rock Malcolm used to play as a member of the local bands Sun Wizard and Capitol 6. But despite the group’s against-the-grain aesthetic, Dave pipes up to admit that he owns a smartphone. “I have an iPhone, but only to spread my peanut butter on my toast in the morning,” he deadpans. “It barely works, it’s got so much peanut butter in the charging mechanism.”


Noisey: The Madness Hides sounds jazzier and more experimental than the last album, which was more psych-pop.
Malcolm Biddle: Totally. It’s true. The writing is more jazzy, and the fact that there’s so much improvisation. We’d be like, ‘Try to record a part over this section here.’ We’d get something that wasn’t even in the right key, but it sounds great. Because of the eight-track, we didn’t really have a way of trying a million takes and then picking the one we liked. It was kind of like, ‘Let’s not go over that, cause that sounded really good.’

What is the “madness” referred to in the title?
Malcolm: The madness isn’t just a crazy person. In this [online] “profile” culture, all your eccentricities are so easy to hide. If people meet and communicate through a profile that they’ve set up, and that’s the only thing that people see from them—and they might not even think about looking perfect—but anything they don’t want people to see, even just because it’s boring, is hidden. That was the idea. You can hide your madness now. What does that mean? Is it bottled up, or is that fine?

So you can curate your own image through what you choose to share online.
Malcolm: Exactly. And you might be hiding some things that you’re embarrassed about, but you might accidentally be hiding some things that are really interesting—what actually makes art and culture tick—by curating your life right away. It’s not overly dystopian, it’s just a thought.


Continued below.

Some people hide their madness and some people let it out in comments sections, which is what the song “Helpless” is about. That rings pretty true.
Malcolm: That was something that I really wanted to include in a lyric.
Dave Biddle: That just goes to show—when they’re anonymous, the madness comes out, but when you’re building your ego, that’s when you hide the madness.
Malcolm: It’s interesting too, because they’re both online. It’s not necessarily that the internet is the devil—it’s the profile culture.
Dave: It’s just an extension of ego and the culture of a public, proper persona. It’s very Victorian, which is very Vancouver—you hold in the things inside of you that aren’t quite right. That don’t quite fit your accepted norms. But those are your freedoms, and when you hold your freedoms in, or your individuality, they mash together into a ball of madness. And they come out in some racist comment on YouTube.

Do you own an iPhone?
Malcolm: No, but I’ve got an iPod touch thing, so I can write emails through that while I’m away on tour. So that’s pretty handy. I find that’s a good way of dealing with it, because I can only use it when I have wireless internet, so I’m not walking down the street looking at it. I have to consciously sit down and say, ‘OK, I have to reply to Alex because we’re trying to set up an interview.’ So I’ll sit here and say ‘Yes, I can make it. OK good.’ It’s kind of useless anywhere else. It’s usually at home or at my studio. So it’s there. I wouldn’t not have one [an iPhone], either. It’s not about the product as much as the habit.

Photo via Flickr user Steve Louie

You put out the last album on vinyl, VHS and floppy disc. What’s the plan for this one?
Malcolm: This one’s just LPs, just a short run of vinyl. I don’t even think we’re going to put the record up online or anything like that. I don’t know yet, so I shouldn’t say. There’s so much music that’s accessible and that’s a great thing. That’s not part of the ethos. But sometimes I think, well, the world doesn’t really need more music they can listen to off their laptop speakers. If there’s a video attached then they can interact with it and watch it. I listen to music with headphones on an iPod, so there’s definitely a reason to have digital. But I don’t know—maybe for some stuff, you can’t get it on the internet. And it’s not the end of the world. If some people can’t get it, then they’ll live, and so will I, so fuck it. [laughs] It’s about the art and end product that we made and what we wanted to make. If people really want it, the email address is on the record, so they can email me and I’ll send them the MP3s.

Alex Hudson is a writer based in Vancouver. Follow him on Twitter - @chippedhip