Indie rock stalwarts Spoon reached a commercial high point last year with their phenomenal sixth album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. It was a long time coming for this Austin, Texas quartet, having gone through the major label highs and lows and then finding a permanent home with Merge Records while steadily releasing albums of increasing quality. Heading over to Australia to play the Big Day Out, Static’s Chris Berkley caught up with drummer/producer and all-round good guy, Jim Eno.
All this Australian touring for Spoon comes on the back of what was another pretty busy year in the States for you guys, right?
Yeah, we have pretty much been touring since about March. So it’s been a long time.
And you think that sort of relentless tour schedule paid off last year as well? Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga was the biggest success you guys have had. It was like a charting American record, right?
Right. We’re really happy with how everything has been going, but for us it has been a gradual sales increase. Every record since Girls Can Tell has basically doubled in sales so it’s been a sort of gradual thing from our perspective.
Every person that bought the last album tells two friends or something? Do you think that is how it works?
[laughs] That is how it works I guess, yeah.
But it also speaks volumes about the groundwork that you guys have done, doesn’t it? I mean, is it nice to see it paying off in some ways?
Yeah exactly. Especially in the States we get zero radio play so it is basically all from touring and word of mouth… That’s it.
Given you’re this far in to the band’s history now — when you guys turn up to make a new album do you pretty much have an idea what the record will sound like, and what pieces will fit where? Or is it still a lot of tinkering?
Well, I think it is a lot of tinkering. The other thing is the way the record is going to sound is based solely on what Britt’s writing at the time. It depends on what he’s bringing to the table and we figure out how to approach each song.
Is there much trial and error in assembling the versions of each song that is going to be on the record?
Yeah, there is. For instance, I think for “Cherry Bomb” that was version three or something. We recorded it with a couple different people, we tried it a bunch of different ways and that one was the happiest with.
So do you or Britt wake up in the middle of the night and go “I know! It needs horns”?[laughs] Yeah exactly. Usually Britt does that.
I mean, even a song like “The Ghost of You Lingers” is quite sort of spartan in a lot of ways. Was there ever a rocking version of that?
Actually no. That one we liked just pretty much how the demo was and Britt stumbled upon that chord progression when he was just practising one day. He put a song around it and yeah, I think it is a pretty adventurous song.
Is it hard to resist putting more and more layers on a song? It always seemed to have been that the less is more approach seemed to have worked for a lot of Spoon stuff. Do you take stuff off as much as you put on in the studio?
Oh yeah, we take a lot of stuff off. We have flamenco guitar on “Japanese Cigarette Case”. I think we had five or six total tracks of that and we probably used three seconds of it.
So does the flamenco guitarist still get paid the full amount though? This is what I want to know.
Oh yeah, he does, he does.