Spoon has been steadily climbing up the rock ladder for the past 16 years, which makes its success now even sweeter.
SPOON FRONT MAN BRITT DANIEL can look back on his nearly two- decade career with a bit of hard-earned perspective and a lot of satisfaction.
There were certain times when I figured I wasnt going to be able to make music be the thing that I did with my life, Daniel says. That didnt mean I wasnt going to keep doing it; it just meant that I figured Id have to go back to school or keep working these copyediting jobs and play in my spare time.
Daniel doesnt have to worry about a day job any longer. Spoon has established itself as one of American rocks leading lights; its now a critical darling, popular favorite, and TV- and movie-soundtrack perennial.
Formed by Daniel and drummer Jim Eno in 1993, the group which has featured an otherwise rotating cast of players and currently includes bassist Rob Pope and multi- instrumentalist Eric Harvey released its first album, the taut postpunk effort Telephono, for Matador Records in 1996. It made the jump to major label Elektra Records in 1998, putting out a single, orphaned LP called A Series of Sneaks for the company that same year. The group then returned to the indie ranks, signing with Merge Records, and proceeded to produce five stellar albums during the 2000s. Each successive album grew the bands fan base exponentially, and Spoon finally landed in the Billboard 200s top 10 with 2007s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.
To Daniel, the bands success is partly a by-product of the demise of the traditional record business. The revolution of the Internet has helped bands like us a lot bands that maybe people in gatekeeper positions in the past would have thought couldnt sell, he says. Well, now those gatekeeper positions dont really exist, and people can go find what they want on their own.
Musically, Spoon has moved from the stripped-down soul of 2001s Girls Can Tell to the sharp singer- songwriter touches of 2002s Kill the Moonlight to the textured pop of 2005s Gimme Fiction, constantly developing and refining its sound. I never really noticed a progression, not as it was happening, Daniel says. It seems like weve just tried to push forward. I mean, you do evolve, but the best evolving might happen when youre not aware of it.
The groups new record, Transference, heralds a significant sonic shift much of it thanks to Daniel, who elected to upgrade from his favored four-track home-studio setup to a digital system, which resulted in a batch of demos that were so good, the band elected to use them as the bases, and in some cases, the finished products, for the new album.
He was capturing a lot of spontaneity with his recordings, Eno says. A lot of times when you go in and rerecord that stuff, you lose the spontaneous nature of it. So we recorded on top and built up from the demos.
Transference standouts like The Mystery Zone, Out Go the Lights, and Is Love Forever? prove Daniels gift for canny song crafting, as he conjures little touches that instantly reel listeners in. Sometimes, what grabs you is a great melody or a certain beat. Sometimes, its a great vocal rhythm the way youre saying the words that can be a hook in itself. Occasionally, its a guitar riff, Daniel says. Youre always trying to look for those angles, those things that stand out.
With this new disc, Daniel hopes to continue Spoons upward trend. He remembers leaner times for the band and says its slow progression has made the members appreciate their success that much more.
But ultimately, he says, the reason we still exist after 16 years is because we want to, because we have a good time playing, and because theres nothing else wed rather be doing.
A Heaping Spoon-ful
We choose four favorites from the bands catalog.
Everything Hits at Once
(Girls Can Tell, 2001)
Moody, blue-eyed soul that floats along a cloud of vibes and keyboard
The Way We Get By
(Kill the Moonlight, 2002)
A propulsive piano pounder thats turned up in multiple films and TV series, including The O.C. and Stranger Than Fiction
(Gimme Fiction, 2005)
An homage to the Who that readily attests the kids are all right
You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb
(Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, 2007)
Brass-fueled bliss carried by Britt Daniels feather-light croon