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“Every album is a reaction to the one before it.” | An Interview with Britt Daniel of Spoon

Originally published on KDHX.org

It has been a long time since Spoon has released a new record or hit the road for a tour. Tragically, it’s been even longer since the band has played St. Louis. But that changes this week, when Britt Daniel and company make a highly anticipated stop at the Pageant on September 20.

Daniel was kind enough to carve out a few moments with me from the band’s hectic tour schedule to chat about the evolution of Spoon’s new record, “They Want My Soul” and playing St. Louis back in the day.

Kevin Korinek: What are you up to today?

Britt Daniel: I’m in New York. We played on Letterman last night and we stayed up late watching it.

I actually met you once in 2007 at SXSW. We were crossing each other in the street and I said, “Hey, you’re Britt Daniel from Spoon” and you said, “Why, yes I am” and shook my hand. And then we went about living our respective lives.

(laughs) That was it, huh? Yeah, SXSW is a good place to meet people.

It’s a really crazy festival.
Yeah, it gets worse and worse every year. Or more and more fun every year, depending on how you look it.

It’s been four years since the last Spoon album, “Transference.” Is the new album a departure from what you’ve done before or would you consider it an evolution of the band?

Oh, I think it’s a little of both, you know? I think that we — there’s always an evolution, and I think every album is a reaction to the one before it. Two records ago, we made a somewhat R&B-flavored, really pop record, and then after that, we made sort of weird, inward-looking headphone record. This one is a little more for playing out your car stereo. It’s an evolution in that way.

But also, I think that it’s also a bit new in that we worked with this guy Dave Fridmann for the first time, and he’s super inventive, and everything is sort of pushed into the red and everything is maxed out and everything is crunchy. He has a sound, you know. So the combination of our two sounds is what makes the new album.

Is he considered a producer on this album?

Well, there are multiple producers, but he mixed almost all of the songs and he produced half of them, so I feel like it’s really got his insignia on it. He works with the Flaming Lips a lot and MGMT.

Was working with him a result of the label change from Merge to the Loma Vista?

No, we made the record first and then decided where we’re gonna put the record out. He’s just a guy who I admired a lot of his records and kind of admired them more and more as time went on. Like, I knew who he was for a long time, but I felt like he was getting better and better at making more and more of these records that I just thought were incredible.
And we had mutual friends. He’s worked a lot with Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney. She told me what it was like working with him, and I was like that sounds like the guy.

Photo by Dustin Winter
Photo by Dustin Winter

How long did it take you to craft this new album? Were you working on it during your time with Divine Fits?

Yeah, I wasn’t really crafting the album the whole time. I mean, I was working on Divine Fits songs for a while and then recording them and then touring them. A lot of other stuff going on, but we kind of always knew we were eventually gonna get [Spoon] back together and make a new record.

Will there be more Divine Fits records? Is that a project that you’re interested in continuing?

Oh yeah, we’ll continue it for sure.

What was your writing process for the new album?

Well, a lot of it was done the way that I always do it, meaning, I just go and sit down and write a bunch of songs and work on them for a long period of time, then bring them to the band. I bring them to the band and we figure out how we’re gonna play them. There was one song on the record that Eric and Jim wrote the music to that turned out really well, we hadn’t done that before.

Which song was that?

“Outlier.”

That’s a great song. You’ve had some success working on soundtracks, any plans for similar work?

If the right thing came along, yeah. I don’t have any plans to but it takes so much time making rock records, writing the songs and making the records and touring. It’s kind of a full-time job, but I’d like to do it again.

Where is the band at so far with tour?

We play in Central Park tomorrow, and then we got maybe two more weeks playing in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Minneapolis.

The band hits St. Louis September 20.

Yeah. And it’s been a long time since we’ve played St. Louis. I’ve been back there quite a bit. I can’t remember the last time we played there. We used to to play at Cicero’s. Back before it moved, we used to play there in that little basement where they had shows. But I honestly can’t remember the last time we played St. Louis. Wish I could. I actually came back to see Chuck Berry a couple times.

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