Austin-based rock band Spoon has stayed consistent with records but has made an effort to change sonically throughout their 24-year career. They’ll play tonight with Tennis at The Lyric. Before the show, I caught up with Rob Pope, bassist, guitarist and keyboardist for the band to talk about their most recent release, “Hot Thoughts,” and how they’ve morphed as a band.
AW: What inspired you guys with this last record, “Hot Thoughts?”
RP: We spent about a year recording it on and off. We’d spend a few weeks at the studio, and then we’d take some breaks to just kind of collect our thoughts and decide what was working and what wasn’t. Overall, we spent about a year in the studio. We got off tour for the last record, “They Want My Soul” and kind of went straight to work on it. Brit took a little bit of time. He took a couple months and did some songwriting, and then we started heading into the studio. A lot of songwriting happens in the studio. We don’t really discuss too much what the goal of the record is, but we really try to make interesting sounding future-sounding really consistently good records. That’s kind of the goal. We’re still very much a record-oriented band. We like A-sides and B-Sides.
AW: Tell me a little bit about the process of recording “Hot Thoughts.”
RP: Dave Fridmann produced the record, and he has a recording studio about an hour outside of Buffalo, New York, in a town called Cassadaga. He’s got a giant recording studio out in the woods. So we spent a lot of our time in proper seclusion. It was kind of nice, but after about two weeks of that you’re ready for city life.
We worked with Dave a little bit on our last record too. He did about half the record. Our drummer Jim (Eno) has a studio in Austin, Texas, so we kind of split our time half-and-half between those two studios at this point.
We tried to get Dave to come to Mexico City to record, but he’s pretty particular about his place and what he accomplishes in that place. He’s good enough that we go to him and recording in Austin, the band’s based out of Austin and Jim’s got a studio there. It’s we’ve done a lot of work at that place, so that feels like the home studio.
AW: Tell me about the song “Tear it Down.” It almost sounds uncannily political.
It’s definitely got a politically leaning to it. It’s kind of funny though. We were working on that song pretty early on when we were making the record, kind of early in 2016. I remember Brit singing that lyric, and being like, ‘Oh, that’s kind of a poignant lyric at the moment,’ because I think Trump had just promised that he was going to have a bunch of Mexicans build a wall for us. That was like February of 2016, I think we were still in the primary elections. It seemed so far-fetched that he was ever going to get as far as he has gotten. So we kind of thought that that song wasn’t going to apply to politics by the time the record came out. But it certainly has, unfortunately.
AW: When you guys started in the 90s, what was popular was so different, but you guys have stayed relevant.
The band started at a time coming right out of grunge music, almost. You had a lot of the early Matador bands: Pavement and bands like Superchunk.
The climate was a little bit different. People were still buying records. Digital media didn’t exist yet. It seemed like there were a lot less bands. It seems like there’s so many bands now, it’s crazy. I personally was a massive Nirvana band growing up.
I don’t think Spoon ever sounded particularly 90s, really. We added a keyboard player a couple years ago, and we have tried to make songs that don’t rely so heavily on guitar or kind of the typical, singer-songwriter acoustic guitar type stuff. We want to make records that sound like the future.
We’re just, we want to make songs that sound wild and when you listen to them— whether it’s the lyrics, or a certain keyboard part, or the way the drums sound, or some weird backing vocal, or something that’s backwards— I don’t know, we try to spend a lot of time to try to make stuff that is shocking, surprising and hopefully pleasing and interesting to a listener.
Catch Spoon tonight at The Lyric with Tennis. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 9 p.m.