When David Berman returned as Purple Mountains last year, it was his first release in over a decade. And in the months surrounding that album, we learned a bit about all his other attempts to return to music, other approaches and collaborations he tried out before eventually arriving at the masterpiece we know now. At one point Jeff Tweedy was going to produce new Berman music; at another he teamed up with Black Mountain. And one other scrapped session we know of was with Dan Bejar, who Berman had reached out to online, since he liked Destroyer and heard Bejar was a Silver Jews fan.
In a new interview with Pitchfork, Dan Bejar gives a little tour of his version of Vancouver, mostly within the context of discussing and promoting his forthcoming Destroyer album Have We Met. One of those stops is the studio where Bejar, Stephen Malkmus, and Berman convened in 2017 to record what would’ve been Berman’s comeback. In the course of revisiting those memories, Bejar also sheds a little more light on what those sessions were like.
We already knew there had been difficulties with these sessions since Berman himself spoke about struggling with lyrics at the time. Bejar claims the tone of it was quite a bit different than what we eventually heard on Purple Mountains. “There were lots of really wild lines that would have fit in more with ’90s Berman — just blasting images, more manic, which was actually the state he was in,” Bejar told Pitchfork. “But I think he wanted to do something different. So a lot of those amazing pieces of writing didn’t get used.”
It sounds as if this project would’ve been a lot different aesthetically, too. Using a band with some Destroyer members, the group cut improvised music in the studio. Bejar describes it as being “incredibly loud and brittle and dry and compressed, with this Serge Gainsbourg-style voice of god over whatever is happening beneath.”
That sounds pretty intriguing, and even more so when Bejar mentions that there’s an album’s worth of this music that’s in a nearly complete state of mixing. Apparently it’s up to Drag City whether this stuff ever sees the light of day, but Bejar concludes by saying, “I don’t know if he would have wanted the world to hear it.” Before his death last summer, Berman had spoken about these sessions and the idea of returning to complete his work there. Presumably, he never wound up doing that.
The rest of the interview is also worth checking out if you’re excited for Have We Met. It’s a thorough dive into another great new Destroyer album, and you get a whole sequence with Bejar fruitlessly looking for green socks and saying things like “I hate museums.” You can read the whole thing over at Pitchfork.