- 23 Mar 22
After 10 albums, 6 labels, 11 former members, and nearly 30 years in the business, Britt Daniel and Alex Fischel of the American rock band Spoon discuss COVID lockdowns, their new record, drunk mariachi bands, and what's next for the group.
“You know, it would be interesting to see how long all of our songs would be put back to back,” muses Britt Daniel, co-founder and lead singer of Texas-based rock band Spoon.
“There’s got to be some way to find out,” says Alex Fischel, Spoon’s keyboardist who joined the band in 2013.
The two musicals are currently on a press tour of Europe to promote the bands new album, Lucifer on the Sofa, and have been playing gigs as a duo.
“Jim is at home in Austin. Gerardo is in Austin. Ben is in New York. We’re on a press tour and it's just a lot more economical to bring two people rather than the whole band,” says Daniel.
“And it's a different thing,” Fischel adds. “We have to figure out how we’re going to do some of these songs. Some lend themselves to doing them with the two of us and some don’t. We were figuring it out until five minutes before we went on which songs we could do because not all of them translate to a duo.”
This is certainly not the American band’s first time bringing their music across the pond.
“I've been trying to do that for every record we’ve ever made,” Daniel says. “From Telephono on, we’ve always come over to Europe. I guess the only one we didn't come over for was the one where we were on a major label. I guess we do it because there is a potential to reach more people and it's just a good time. For the last album we came over and played more than we ever have.”
Although Daniel reckons that hardcore fans "are certainly hidden under more rocks" outside of the States, he's found that the band "are very well respected over here."
Spoon has certainly persisted long enough to earn that respect. The band was founded back in 1993 by Daniel and drummer Jim Eno. Their first full LP, Telephono, was released in 1996, to rather disappointing sales.
“It sold like fifteen hundred copies and that would be bad now but it was REALLY bad back then,” Daniel recalls.
In 2001, they released their third LP Girls Can Tell through Merge Records. This time around, they finally found success as the record quickly sold more than their previous releases combined. Their hot streak continued with Kill the Moonlight and Gimme Fiction. Their 2007 album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga debuted at number 10 on the Billboard 200.
In 2019, the band released a greatest hits album, Everything Hits at Once. Asked whether the album felt like a monumental moment for the band, Daniel says: “I wanted it to feel monumental. I'm glad we did it. I've always liked greatest hits albums and I was totally behind why we did it from the beginning.”
“I wish we'd had two records to be able to explore some rarities or some more facets of the band but the 'biz' people did not want us to be doing that kind of record and they said that we could do the regular greatest hits in the summer and then we could do a curated one in December. I just didn't want to do a second greatest hits album just six months after the first one.”
In 2019, a video circulated online of US presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg playing the band's song 'The Way We Get By' on piano before a campaign event.
“It's an honour. Any kind of cover is an honour,” Britt says on seeing others play their music.
“I love seeing that kids on YouTube are trying to do Gerardo’s guitar solo and stuff like that,'' adds Fischel. “Seeing kids play along is super relatable because that's what I would do. I'd be sitting at home and I'd put on a song and try to play along with it. It's hard to do everything on keyboard because nothing sounds quite the same as guitar, but when I was thirteen or fourteen I had a keyboard and I’d just sit at my computer in front of the speakers and just try to play along.”
The musicians of Spoon are all fiercely talented, and they tried to capture that live band energy on their latest album. A far cry from the electro-tinted elements of their last album Hot Thoughts, the new record brings a back-to-basics minimalist rock sound that replicates the band's dynamic stage presence.
This decision to make their most tight-knit and collaborative album yet came right before the start of the pandemic – but “almost got fucked by COVID.”
Looking back, the band members at least see the irony of embracing a live band sound right before that sound would become impossible for several months.
“Yeah, it was funny. Right before we could not get together. From March, until September or October, of 2020 we kept trying to get together but one thing or another was always keeping us apart whether it was a COVID scare or high numbers or not knowing what the hell was going on. But eventually we did and by then I'd written a lot more songs so we just had more to record”
Every band has their own story of how COVID affected their craft for better or for worse and Spoon is no different. “Well… it was a good thing for the record,” Daniel says.
“For me, when COVID hit and especially during the hardest part of the lockdown, getting lost and working on a song or several songs kind of made me feel the most normal. I’d get really into that and I'd avoid the news for that amount of time. It really did help and I know a lot of friends who are artists and they didn't want to work on music and I felt bad for them. Cause it was a great time to get creative and really get into yourself.”
When asked what kind of sound the band would like to explore next, Daniel doesn't hesitate. “Tex-Mex,“ he declares. “Something with mariachis at least”
Recording in Austin, Texas, Alex Fischel has certainly heard his fair share of Southwestern American and Tejano-style music:
“I have some neighbours at home, and a few times a year they would have parties. At one point they'd be having have these parties once a month, and they would have a Mariachi band. I could hear it from my house, but as the night would go on the band would get worse and worse and worse. By the end of the night, nobody had any idea what the fuck they were playing. I imagine they were having a good time and definitely having a few drinks in between songs."
And for those wondering how long all of Spoon's songs would actually run when played back to back – it’s 7 hours, 54 minutes, and 21 seconds.