For a band that has been around for almost 25 years, Spoon’s overnight success story is one of the longest in contemporary music. Hailing from the Austin, Texas music scene that spawned the likes of Janis Joplin, Daniel Johnson and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Spoon have always enjoyed critical acclaim. However, mainstream success has been a relatively late development. Not that this concerned a band whose singular and only focus has been their musical integrity.
Formed in 1993, the band have dedicated themselves to artistic experimentation and their own musical evolution. Fronted by the mercurial talent of Britt Daniel, Spoon’s success is a curious and pleasant antidote to the rapaciousness of instant success and glorification so evident in today’s music industry.
As the band ready their ninth studio album, ‘Hot Thoughts’ we caught up with founding member Jim Eno to discuss the influences and ambitions of the new work, the political dirty bomb of Donald Trump’s presidency and listening to Radiohead on a desert island.
Coney’s Loft [CL]: New album, ‘Hot Thoughts’ is about to be released. Can you tell us what we can expect and something about the evolution from your last album, ‘They Want My Soul’?
We didn’t have an over-arching philosophy or anything like that for this record. Every time we’ve tried to do that it’s always ended up wrong. The albums really emerge from what songs Britt [Daniel] is writing and then we develop them from there.
However, we did sort of have an unspoken feeling that the last record – particularly the track ‘Inside Out’ - was a starting point for what we wanted the new record to sound like. It became a sort of sonic palette for what we wanted to pursue, musically.
CL: ‘Hot Thoughts’ will be released by your first ever record label, Matador Records. How did this reunion come about and what were the reasons for your return?
It feels great. It was a long time ago when we we’re first on that label. We’re a new band from then and they’re a new label. We’ve been friends with those guys at Matador since we made the first album. When they heard the new record they were so psyched about it that when they mentioned their desire to release it we couldn’t really say no.
When you look at a record label, one of the things you can’t manufacture is the enthusiasm and you want a label that is going to be super excited about your record and Matador really showed that – they were just fans of it and we just responded to that.
CL: Austin, Texas is synonymous with a diverse and vibrant music scene. How important was this place and its connections to your development as working musicians?
Austin is a great music city. In terms of our sound we were really self-contained. I mean sometimes, we would go out in Austin and see a band we loved and some of that would leak into our music. An example of that would be bands like A Giant Dog and Sweet Spirit – we love those bands so I feel as though they could have influenced us a bit but the thing about Austin is that you can go out any night of the week and see a wide variety of music. From country to punk to pop to pretty much anything. It’s a very eclectic music scene and an exciting place to be at.
CL: Commercial success brings manifold pros and cons. One of the pros is that you get to spread your music to more people in different places. You return to the UK this summer, what do you remember from previous visits and what are you looking forward to?
It seems that all of visits to the UK have been in the winter! So our first thoughts are generally ones of shock and survival! But we are so excited to come over in what you might term the UK ‘summer’! We’re playing club shows so that is brilliant for us. It’s a totally different vibe to festival shows but we really love being connected to the audience. We played the 100 club last time and it was great to be in a place with four walls, dark and intimate whilst cranking the sound.
CL: Spoon will be playing South by Southwest (SXSW) this year just as the new album ‘Hot Thoughts’ is released. We hear you are playing each day of the festival as well as curating some of the nights. This is quite a prestigious honour. How did it come about?
Our album is coming out March 17 which happens to be the Friday of South by Southwest which is the busiest week in Austin so we decided to do something a little bit special. There’s a club called Emo’s which has moved location numerous times but the original location was in the heart of downtown where we used to play all the time.
The original place closed down but they have never built anything on that space so they are opening it up for us. That is so exciting as it’s been closed for the last four years - which is strange because in Austin, every time a club closes they just put a condo there! So it’s very strange that the club is still intact and that they’re opening it up for us to play each night of the festival. We’re picking all the bands including The Bright Light Social Hour, A Giant Dog, Sweet Spirit, Deep Sea Divers and (drum roll please) three very special acts that we’ve yet to announce but they’re really something to look forward to.
CL: Texas is one of the heartlands of Donald Trump’s support. How have you been adapting to life under President Donald – are you managing to keep sane?
It’s dark, it’s depressing and it’s really difficult right now. It’s like living your worst nightmare. Basically, I don’t think there’s ANYTHING that he has said or done that I can agree with him on. I don’t think there is any hope that he will try to curb his extremism and his fear based policies – that’s just not going to change.
I mean, he just announced yesterday that he’s going to just gut the Environment Protection Agency and that the whole climate change agenda is going to be killed. So maybe when he’s saying he wants to make America great again he wants to go back to the time when rivers caught on fire - that’s some utopia!
CL: There was a climate change summit in Marrakech which was stopped as soon as Trump was elected – there was a hopeless feeling that suddenly all was lost.
Exactly and that’s just one thing to be concerned about. You just look at every one of his policies - the fact that he’s just recently stated he’s going to push for the criminalisation of recreational marijuana use. Then, in another headline he’s pushing for more private prisons. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see what he’s doing there - like ‘hey let’s go after low income minorities and throw them in prison so we can make money out of them’. It’s such flagrant bullshit! Might be best to move on from this point because we’re going end up ranting all night!
CL: Good point. On a lighter note then – you’re stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want to have?
Ok, this is a difficult one.
1. I would have to take Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ and a solar powered stereo to play it on.
2. My teenage engineering OP-1 keyboard to play around and make some music … mmm, but I’d be really sad when it ran out of batteries
3. Tonnes of sunscreen.
CL: So not a boat loaded with survival provisions?
Haha! Oh shit! That’s like the genie wish trick. You know, you get three wishes but you really wish for a million other wishes. Oh well, doesn’t matter. Desert islands are nice!
New album 'Hot Thoughts' is released 17 March with UK tour dates scheduled in London, Glasgow and Manchester.