Spoon Leads Indie Rock Rise, Loves Margaritas
Save for a handful of bands — the Shins, Modest Mouse — no other band has perhaps more signified indie rock’s rise to mainstream success more than Spoon. Named after a Can song, Spoon formed in 1993 by lead singer Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno as an up and coming band out of Austin, Texas. The band released one album on indie favorite Matador records before signing to Elektra for its big label debut.
But it wasn’t until 2001 when “Girls Can Tell” came out on Merge Records that the band saw any semblance of success. From there a series of fortunate song placement, touring and solid albums catapulted the band into the mainstream spotlight, a place many had been expected the band to go for almost a decade.
Spoon’s next release, 2002’s “Kill the Moonlight,” my personal favorite, featured the popular single, “The Way We Get By,” which was featured on “The O.C.” Then “Gimme Fiction” came out in 2005, debuting at No. 44 on the Billboard 200. The latest album, “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga,” debuted at No. 10.
Daniel, on the cusp of a short springtime tour, talked to Graffiti in between interviews recently about his love for all things Mexican, partying and middle school bullies.
Graffiti: Hey, Britt I know you don’t have a lot of time, so let’s get right to the interview, shall we?
Daniel: Yes, sure go ahead.
Graffiti: A lot of your songs feature characters. Are these real or made up? Jonathan Fisk we sadly looked up in Wikipedia and found he’s a 19th Century representative from New York State.
Daniel: Is he? I didn’t know that. That name was made up. It rhymed with fists I think. That’s what it was I think that’s what I was rhyming it with. It was totally based on a true person or two who did like to terrorize me on the way home from middle school, but the name was a made up part.
Graffiti: Do you typically create characters from people you know?
Daniel: Sometimes, yea. I mean it’s always different. I’m always open to whatever kind of point of view I can come up with. Sometimes it’s a song in the second person, sometimes in the first person, and sometimes it’s a character thing.
Some of them are more fantasy types, like “The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine” is a little more fantastical.
Graffiti: So when you’re writing songs, are you the maestro or is it a group effort?
Daniel: I write the song in that I write the chords and the vocal melodies, but usually the way it works … (well) it works all kinds of different ways, but I come up the thing by myself and bring it to the band and we decide on tempo and the approach. We might go through five or 10 different ways to play the song and they’re involved a lot in that — trying to see what’s it like in the band.
Graffiti: I saw you about a year ago in Columbus as a Jack Daniel’s private party.
Daniel: Was that the one where Times New Viking played?
Graffiti: Yea, they were the local band that opened.
Daniel: It was a little personal show. They had a patio area out back.
Graffiti: Yea, I really enjoyed that show. It was very intimate. But back to the Jack Daniel’s. What are you guys drinking now?
Daniel: Wwhat are we drinking? (Laughs)
I always see Rob (Pope, the bassist) drink Jack and Cokes. Jim (Eno, the drummer) used to hate my Mexican beer but now he’s partial to it. He used to drink only Guinness. I’m really into Mexican beer, Mexican anything really. I like margaritas especially. I know it’s a little bit of a girly drink.
Graffiti: You know I just had my first full glass of a margarita about a week ago. It was pretty good.
Daniel: Where’d you have it?
Graffiti: Oh, at a little Mexican restaurant here in Marietta, Ohio. It’s run by Mexicans, so I felt like I was getting it authentic. It was good, but I didn’t really like the salt.
Daniel: I got a taste for that from my parents and doing it that way when I was a little kid.
Graffiti: (Laughs) Spoon’s sort of developed this reputation for being a stylish band. What’s the best advice you can give other artists about the most comfortable, yet stylish shoes?
Daniel: (Laughs) Comfortable, yet stylish? I like Converse a lot. They’re plenty comfortable, they don’t offer a lot of support but they’re cheap and come in different colors. If you want to get fancy you can get those John Varvatos Converse.
Graffiti: When the tour’s done, what do you like to do?
Daniel: I often find myself wanting to keep the party going because being on tour, if you’re on tour for a long time it’s like you’re moving real fast and there’s so much stimulation constantly because you’re moving cities and doing sound check and doing the show and after show. It’s fun but crazy. When I get done it’s like screeching to a stop in a car. It’s almost like whiplash. I find myself wanting to go out, which is probably the last thing you’d expect me to say. Though sleep’s always good.
Graffiti: Does the band have any plans yet for a new album or more tours?
Daniel: We’re not doing much touring. We’re doing this tour in April and after that we’re kind of laying low and trying to write new songs. I think we’re giong to do a week in December on the West Coast. Mostly it’s a time to chill out and try to write again.
Graffiti: You’re last two albums have come with bonus discs of extra songs, demos and different takes of album songs. What’s the philosophy behind this move?
Daniel: It’s not really our philosophy. It’s the record label’s philosophy.
At this point, in order to give people a reason to buy the record you give them this thing that’s a bonus. It’s a value add or something to keep the record stores happy. The first time we did it I wasn’t too pleased with what we did. We found out at the last minute and we came up with these songs. I was out of the country and we just threw it together. This time I knew it was coming so I was prepared. My philosophy was if I’ve got to do it, I want to do something that works instead of some tacked on B.S. that’s there for retail.
I really liked how this one turned out.
Graffiti: Do you have any rituals, personally or as a band, prior to taking the stage?
Daniel: We just kind of smack each other around a little bit, have a couple of drinks, make fun of our sound guy.
Graffiti: How’s the tour with The Walkmen going?
Daniel: We actually haven’t started the tour yet. But for sure we’re looking forward to it. We picked those bands because not only do we really love them musically but we’ve hung out with them a bit and know it’s going to be a good hang.
Graffiti: How often do you get to hang out with the bands you’re touring with?
Daniel: If we want to, usually every night. If you’re touring with one band you get to know, usually after every show there’s a little bit of hanging out going on.
Do you know if the concert in Pittsburgh is indoor or outdoor?
Graffiti: I believe it’s at Carnegie Music Hall.
Daniel: We always play at Carnegie it seems. I just didn’t know if it was outdoor or indoor.
Graffiti: It’s indoor.
Daniel: Good, I prefer indoor (shows) actually.
Graffiti: Yea, I really liked the Columbus show because it was small and very intimate.
Daniel: I really liked that show too.
Graffiti: Well, Brit, thanks for you time. It was a pleasure talking to you. Good luck on the tour.
Daniel: Thanks. It was nice talking to you too.