For more than two decades, Spoon has forged a path that embodies consistency. Across nine studio albums, the Austin quartet has dabbled in mainstream success (think “I Turn My Camera On” from 2005’s Gimme Fiction), but lives comfortably in the hook-laden, meticulous ebbs and flows that have solidified the group’s status as indie stalwarts. Comprised of Britt Daniel on vocals and guitar, Jim Eno on drums, Alex Fischel on keyboard and guitar and Rob Pope on bass, Spoon’s calling card lies in its ability to push boundaries with each new record.
Released in March, the band’s latest studio effort, Hot Thoughts, is no exception. As evidenced on “Tear It Down,” an anthemic call to arms on the latter half of the album, the band not only teeters on the edge of those boundaries, but tears them down altogether. With electronic overlays at every funky turn, the record is as danceable as it is psychedelic, due in part to a reunion with producer Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, Weezer).
“[Dave] always pushes the songs in the right direction,” Pope says. “He wants to make weird records and records that are going to stick with people for a very, very long time; He’s not looking to make a quick pop record…he pushes us in much more experimental directions and tells us to do things that we normally wouldn’t do, like…somebody should pick up the bongos or something.”
After working with Fridmann on 2014’s They Want My Soul, Spoon took to Fridmann’s Tarbox Road Studios an hour south of Buffalo, New York,“in the middle of nowhere,” according to Pope.
“We spent a lot of time out in the woods in [Dave’s] recording studio, which is amazing, but after a couple of weeks it’s sort of like being in The Shining,” he says. “We would go for a couple of weeks and leave and be able to get our bearings back and then head back out there.”
The end result is a far cry from the acoustic renderings or broody compositions you’d expect from solitary figures recording in isolation. Pope credits the band’s signature sound to frontman Daniel’s songwriting approach.
“Britt’ll come in with something that’s very fully formed and a demo that, you know, there’s a drum machine and there’s a lot of keyboards and a bass part already kind of fleshed out…and then sometimes it’ll be his voice and a guitar and it kind of leaves us to do a little more of the heavy lifting,” Pope explains. “It really is just trying to create really great, specific parts…it’s not like singer-songwritery-type songs. They’re very stylized. It’s not like a Bruce Springsteen song that he sat down and wrote on an acoustic guitar. There’s a sonic element to it that’s the hook…it’s usually not four chords and a dude and a coffee house. That’s not the way that he works.”
Each Spoon record is a sonic adventure from start to finish, designed for the listener to experience without skipping a track.
“When you’re talking about records that you’re able to listen to front to back, I think track listing is a big part of that,” Pope says. “The pace of the record is very, very important to us.”
It’s that consistency factor, he says, that contributes to the band’s longevity. “Every time we put out a record,” says Pope, “it really feels like we’ve made something that people are going to latch onto and hopefully is something that will stand up over time and is not a flash in the pan.”