Q&A with Britt Daniel of Spoon
On the back of a series of always good, usually great albums, beginning with Telephono in 1995, Spoon has become one of the most respected and beloved bands in indie rock -- or really just rock, period, no qualifier needed.
Having just released Transference, arguably his band's best album to date, frontman/guitarist Britt Daniel took some time to chat with us in advance of Spoon's show tonight and tomorrow night at the Ogden Theatre about everything from how producing the disc without outside producers affected the sound to the odd experience of being named Metacritic's Artist of the Decade.
Westword: This is the first album you've produced yourself -- how was that different, and how did it contribute to the end product?
Britt Daniel: We've been co-producers on every album but the first one, but this is the first one we've done without any outside heavies at all.
We ended up using a lot of what, on other records, would have been demos; we ended up just using that stuff as part of the record. Either, some stuff we built on top of the demos, some songs we just actually just put out the demo. I think that lends a more sort of spontaneous feel to the record, maybe a little more humane, a little more shades of humanity, little mistakes.
A lot of the singing on those songs is like me singing it when I was actually writing the part, you know. When that happens there's a way you sing under those circumstances that you'll never be able to do again.
WW: Each record seems to have a unique aesthetic that is always connected yet distinct from the last record --which is rare, BTW. Is that a conscious decision, or more of a natural progression?
BD: I think it's just been the natural progression, you know. I'd love to at some point say, "Okay, we're going to do a R&B record," and then go do it, and do it really well. Or let's go do a falling asleep record.
But usually the way it works is just we're kind of desperate for songs that are good enough to go on a record, and we're just working for those ten, eleven twelve songs, of whatever the sort of style may be. I guess what I'm saying is it hasn't really been a thought out as all that, its just kind of happened.
WW: Transference seems like a reaction in some way to GaGaGaGaGa's slickness or accessibility. Is there any truth to that?
BD: That might have been an unconscious reaction. I think a lot of what you're hearing is the type of songs that were written. Some of it might be the production, there's a million chords in "The Underdog," and it's a very well constructed pop song, so is "Cherry Bomb," you know? On this record, it's sort of more about getting on one good thing and sticking with it, or getting in a groove and sticking with it and kind of the quality of it being expressed in the intensity, that kind of repetitive intensity. Songs like that aren't normally radio charters.
WW: This album seems to have polarized fans to some degree as well - many are saying it's the best yet or in years, others finding it inaccessible. Thoughts?
BD: I would guess that means we're doing something right. You know, at a certain point we've made so many records I don't think there's any way you can go on trying to top them. You can't think about topping them, you just have to think about making a different type of record, just allowing a different type of record to happen.
When that happens there are going to be certain people that aren't going to be along for the ride. I mean, I know it's good, you know it's good, but it's not my mom's favorite Spoon record.
A lot of my friends that maybe wouldn't comment at all, that on previous records hadn't commented at all, have said they really like the sound of this one, it's really up their alley. And then I've also heard through the grapevine of people [who don't get it]. It has to happen.
WW: You were recently named Metacritic's artist of the decade. Any thoughts on that?
BD: Yeah, we're pretty good. I don't know what to say. I guess it's an honor. We've been asked about it quite a bit, in almost every interview it seems to come up. I remember when I first read about it thinking, "Oh, that's interesting." I looked at it for about fifteen seconds.
I wouldn't have guessed it was something that would be brought up so often. I guess that means we're doing something right. It's better than being the Bloodhound Gang. If under any score system we're scoring better than Bob Dylan it's either a crazy score system, or we should be flattered.
WW: It's been almost fifteen years since Telephono, which makes you one of the longest-running acts that's still relevant rock/indie rock. Is there a perspective that comes with that?
BD: I don't know. One thing we decided several years ago, was that it has to be fun or else we don't want to do it. I know that when we started out there were a lot of things that weren't fun, that we just did because we thought we should.
I remember maybe around the Girls Can Tell, Kill the Moonlight time, I just said, "You know I've been thinking about this, and this is supposed to be the greatest job in the world, and in some ways it already is, but I just don't think we should do these things we find so painful anymore. We should just do what's fun."
Not that any part of being a band is really actually painful, but there are parts of it that make you feel a little creepy, that can make you feel creepy if you don't mind what you're doing. I was just watching The Hurt Locker the other night; now that's a hard job. I've got nothing to complain about.
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