Spoon play The Zoo on February 13.
It looks so easy, doesn’t it? With latest album Kill The Moonlight charming the socks off all who come into contact with it, you’d think the dictionary definition of “effortless” would read “see Spoon”.
What you may not know is that it’s come after six years of struggle for the Texan outfit which has seen them pass through three record labels, and their breezy sound undergo a great deal of refining to get to where it’s at today.
But it’s been a process that’s finally paid off: Kill The Moonlight has sat atop many a US College chart since its release, and now brings Spoon to Australia for the first time.
“It’s been a rewarding year,” muses frontman Britt Daniels. “Our success has been a long time coming but it’s been a sort of gradual climb. That just seems like the real way to do things, it’s more genuine.”
Still Britt, there must have been some frustrating times leading up to this?
“It’s actually been alright, because your expectations are low when you start and they get a little bit bigger every time. I see certain bands that are incredibly popular and successful right out of the gate, and they don’t seem to really appreciate it. I dunno, I feel like we can appreciate it.”
Britt remains philosophical about the trials that Spoon have endured, including the painful 1998 episode that saw major label Elektra drop the band only four months after releasing their sophomore album Series Of Sneaks.
“The day that we found out we weren’t going to be working with that label anymore wasn’t fun,” he says. “But, then we went and put out the next album (2001’s Girls Can Tell) on a label from North Carolina that’s run by five or six people instead of three hundred, and it sold seven or eight times more records. So it was a good thing. And when I deal with those people I don’t wanna throw the phone through the window!”
While the subsequent US success of Girls Can Tell would be the band’s best revenge, immediately after they were dropped Spoon went and made a cheeky single called Agony Of Laffitte, directed at the A&R man from Elektra responsible. So was there quite a bit of pain initially, Britt?
“Well, yeah. His name was Laffitte, and we have an expression here ‘the agony of defeat’. So we adjusted it to The Agony Of Laffitte, and the B-side was Laffitte Don’t Fail Me Now. We came up with these funny song titles and we thought this is too good not to do, ha ha! And yeah, it probably got under his skin as well.”
Apparently Nebraskan band The Faint met him recently and gave him a copy of the single?
“Actually, I heard he wasn’t too impressed!” Britt laughs.
A period of reflection after the band were dropped by Elektra did make Britt think about changing the sound of Spoon into what it is today. There’s a marked shift between Series Of Sneaks and Girls Can Tell towards more of a post-punk or new wave style.
“Yeah I don’t know what it is, but after the first two records we did feel more free to not look over our shoulder and say, ‘Is this cool?’” he reveals. “I think it was more just a matter of me finally sitting down and evaluating, ‘What kind of band is this? What kind of records are the ones that I wanna go and listen to over and over again?’ And I thought we weren’t doing a lot of the things that my favourite records do. So I wanted to try to do some of those things.”
Did that include making Spoon’s sound more direct? There’s not a lot of frivolity in the arrangements of songs on Girls Can Tell and Kill The Moonlight.
“That’s true, that is important to me,” he says. “It’s good that you point that out. I’m kind of the mind frame that when I write a song I don’t want to throw in a bridge just to make it longer. It just doesn’t feel right to me. I want it to be all meat, I want it to be all good.”
On Kill The Moonlight it seems to be what gets left out of a song is more important than what gets put in. Stay Don’t Go is based around a human beat-box, and Paper Tiger has just got pulses through it. Is it sort of finding a balance, to make it ‘deceptively simple’?
“Ha, ha!! No, it’s not simple at all. Sometimes you do need to have that huge swell of sound. But other times what makes a song work better on its own is just to strip it down to a few key elements.”
That said, Kill The Moonlight followed hot on the heels of Girls Can Tell. With two albums in two years, do you feel like you’re on a bit of a roll now?
“Yeah, definitely. We put out Girls Can Tell and we thought, ‘Wow! People are buying this record and this is even more fun than it was being in the band before, so let’s keep doing it.’ So that’s why we put out another one as fast as possible.”