We spoke with Spoon’s charismatic frontman, Britt Daniel.
Spoon are one of the greatest modern rock bands out there. Still sounding as fresh as they ever did, the band are returning to Europe in support of their latest LP ‘Hot Thoughts‘, a record which sizzles with emotion and musicianship and glimmers with apt homages to David Bowie.
It’s also probably the most courageous and innovative work of their career. This is saying something, since their last album (2014’s “They Want My Soul”) did much to light a fire under the band. Spoon are on something of a roll, wouldn’t you say? This is the perfect time to see them – with fresh songs and rediscovered energy.
Their kitchen sink approach to music making really works. There’s something for everyone – classic rock songwriting, dancey bass-and-drums post-punk, experimental electronics and even some reggae. They’re a formidable live band, having honed their stagecraft over the course of 20 years.
Spoon is all ’80s pizzazz with ’90s self-effacing lyrics, stretching into a long career that still allows anonymity. They aren’t, and never will be, the top-selling indie darlings of the year. But those who dig music – and music’s glorious wormy quality – find heaven with Spoon.
Ahead of their show at Funkhaus on June 8th, we got a chance to talk with singer Britt Daniel. Hot off the back of a conversation with a Berlin musician on how difficult it is to be a musician in Berlin, we were curious to hear about what Britt had to say about his experiences in Spoon’s home of Austin, Texas.
Many musicians in Berlin are drawn to the city for the low rents and access to affordable rehearsal and writing space. It’s a precarious ecosystem that’s become more and more under threat. What’s it like in Austin?
Well, it’s becoming much more difficult to be a ‘working musician’ in Austin. A lot of my friends are musicians and talk about leaving. It’s becoming a very expensive city to live in, especially on a musician’s budget. There are definitely cheap places to rent and set up your equipment – but that’s not the problem. The problem is the rent.
Spoon rehearse and record in Austin – we’re kind of set up because our drummer owns a studio. When I’m writing, I go to my place in LA. It’s a little house where I make noise. It’s a little more difficult in Austin – I try to help out with the cause in Austin by raising awareness of the burden that is being placed on musicians via the rents and money they’re getting paid for gigs. I don’t know if the musician’s struggle is considered by anyone really.
A lot of it has to do with the number of venues that support original live music. I believe the city should be helping them to make ends meet. Austin has been dubbed the live music capital of the world, but it’s hard for these venues to put on live music when they’re competing with a shot bar or restaurant which are more profitable.
What do you think can be done to protect these spaces?
It wouldn’t hurt if the record labels funded spaces for musicians to write and perform. It does seem the walls are closing in and the world is getting more and more difficult for musicians. It’s hard to see what’s going to happen in the future.
What are your memories of your last Berlin show at Astra in 2017?
Last time we played Berlin at Astra, I had to pay to get back into the venue to get in the van! There was a club night taking place right after we played, and when the time came to leave I found myself out the front of the venue with no way to get back in – I had to pay!
Contemporaries of yours, The Thermals, have recently split. Where do you see yourself if the band ends? You enjoy touring, but is a music career away from the road something you want to pursue?
I don’t know – I’ve done production and soundtracks before and I’ve liked it. If for some reason Spoon didn’t exist, I’d probably start another band. It’s hard to imagine not being in a band.
How does Spoon keep its sound relevant? I’ve just read a review of the new Stephen Malkmus album which refers to his ‘continued evaporation of edge and urgency’. You’re nearly the same age as him – do you feel pressure to remain relevant/fresh sounding? Does this concern you?
Relevance is obviously closely linked to quality – if you look at a record like Crooked Rain Crooked Rain (Malkmus’s old band Pavement’s seminal album) – there’s nothing but quality there. The songs, the singing, the playing, the sound worlds they create. What I do is I look at the greatest records that have been made and think ‘I want to do something like that’. We just try and keep the quality high. It would be easy to just make 40 minutes of standard content. As you get older there’s the temptation to throw money at problems to make them go away.
What’s next for Spoon? Is a follow up to Hot Thoughts in the works?
We’re working on new stuff and we’re hoping to play it live. I’d like to play the songs and road-test them before recording this time around. We didn’t do that with the last record.
What can people expect of the show at Funkhaus?
The show’s developed a lot over the past year and we’re doing some pretty far out shows at the moment. I’m really looking forward to being back in Berlin – the Funkhaus sounds like an amazing place!
How do you describe the band to people? I’ve always had trouble describing it myself.
If I get into a taxi with a guitar and they ask me what kind of music I make, I tell them I made ‘rock ‘n’ roll’. That’s the crux of it!
Spoon play Funkhaus on Friday June 8th 2018.