Catching Up With Spoon's Britt Daniel and Alex Fischel

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Catching Up With Spoon's Britt Daniel and Alex Fischel

It’s one of those crazy realizations when you notice that Spoon have now been a band for more than 20 years. To paraphrase another Texas band, Old 97’s, “that’s longer than some of you’ve been alive.” It’s surprising because while Spoon have been the soundtrack for a lot of people’s lives, they’re less remembered for their false-start ‘90s run than their breakthrough ‘00s. Yet here we are, year 21, and the five-piece sound more vital than ever, more relevant than even the last time. There’s a lot to be said about a band that can pull that off. Luckily, we caught up with lead man Britt Daniel and newcomer/keyboardist Alex Fischel to hear them tell it themselves.

Paste : We’ve all been waiting on a new Spoon record, and it’s finally here! There’s been some good chuckles at the title of the record, They Want My Soul.
Britt Daniel: Why? Who? Is that funny?

Paste : I think it’s funny. I started thinking about it, a band makes a record and all the fans go, “Yay, the record is here! Now when can we have another record?” It’s always a demand. I’ve never been an artist like you, but it seems there is such a demand and a constant pull from fans and media. I’m not insinuating that this is what the album title refers to, but that’s what your album title makes me think of. The relationship between artist and fan.
Daniel: That really wasn’t what it was about, but I get that. I get what you’re saying. To me, I don’t know where the song title originally came from, but we had this song that we were working on and we wrote out the title on the track sheet for the tape. You know, you write down “here’s the bass, here’s the drum,” and at the top it says “They Want My Soul.” We took a picture of that and put it on Instagram, and I just took a look at that and I was like, that just seems like some vaguely threatening title that, when I was in high school or even now, that if there’s a band that’s doing something or has a vaguely threatening title or is doing something vaguely threatening, it appeals to me. I like it.

Paste : You like a little pain in your pleasure.
Daniel: It sounded like a Misfits song that has a similar…”I Want Your Soul.”

Paste : It’s instantly noticeable. Maybe more so than some of the others since Kill The Moonlight, which is sort of in the same vein. But back on the point I was trying to make, do you have to pay attention to that kind of relationship where it’s always, “Give me more. Give me more. Give me more”? Because Spoon is now over 10 years in, album eight.
Daniel: Yeah, but if they want more, you should feel lucky, I really feel like. And I do. I feel blessed that we’ve been able to do this for so long and more and more people want to hear it. More people want to come shows and buy records. It doesn’t always happen that way.

Paste : Doing it this long, it’s an art. Writing songs can be fun, but I know that when you’re a successful band especially, and it’s at some point about the next record, forced art is what I keep thinking about. It’s one thing when you sit down, you’re on your own and having a good time, but when does it become forced art? Did you all ever hit that part in the middle where it was like, “I’ve got to write this record”?
Daniel: You know sometimes you do you feel like it’s time to do this. Like it’s time to do the work. Sometimes that can produce bad art, and sometimes it can produce good art. I’ll let you decide. Some of the record was done casually, and then some of it was like, “We’re up here in Cassadaga, N.Y. in the middle of a blizzard. Let’s get this work done.”

Paste : Yeah, I read that there was some stir-craziness that occurred, but that’s the way I think of a Spoon record. I think of your music as stir-crazy. It’s always a little bit jerky.
Daniel: Yeah, so maybe it was the right thing.

Paste : There’s even a part in “Rainy Taxi”...
Daniel: You’re talking about that piano part?

Paste : Yeah! That’s the Spoon sound right there.
Alex Fischel: That was in Cassadaga.
Daniel: That’s the Spoon sound and this is your first record. So what does that mean?
Fischel: It was meant to be, man.

Paste : But you guys have always been good about injecting this madness into beauty.
Fischel: That’s an awesome compliment.

Paste : But isn’t that the perfect example? You can have something going along so smooth, and suddenly, “Let’s punch you in the gut once.”
Daniel: Yeah, surprises are good, right? Throwing curves are good. It can happen in a song, it can happen in the sequencing of songs, or anything.

Paste : Was there any rekindling that had to go on? It’s always been said that a band is like a marriage.
Fischel: I was just kindling.

Paste : Right, you were on the first date.
Daniel: You are the kindling…There was no retreat. It was all good actually, because when we did the last tour, I mean we just toured, made a record, toured, made a record for years and years and years, and then halfway through touring on the last record I thought, “Maybe not every record wants to be toured for a year or a year and a half.” It made sense to tour the one before for that long, because it was kind of a big crowd-pleasing record. It has some hits on it. The last record we put out was a little more internal, kind of like a headphone record, so it didn’t feel like it was really necessary, but we still had a lot of touring left to go, and I think that we eventually figured out that maybe we had pushed it a little too long. It got to be so that it was a bit not as fun as it should be. So when we got back together this time, it had been such a long break. I just think that the break helped. The break helped in bringing the kindling along.

Paste : Alex, how is that for you? You step into a band that has heritage and a solid fan base that has demands and knows the history. How do you come into that?
Fischel: It’s exciting.
Daniel: I think it helped because we were in another band together before.
Fischel: Yeah, so I knew Britt, I just had to get to know the rest of the guys. It was exciting. I was a fan of Spoon. It was crazy. Fucking awesome. “I better do a good job. Don’t fuck up. Don’t fuck up.”
Daniel: I think it took everybody in the band about three hours before they loved Alex.
Fischel: Really? Nice.

Paste : It took a whole three hours?
Daniel: If that long. Where everybody was like, “ok, now I get it.”

Paste : I’m curious about something I read recently. Did you really buy the entire AC/DC catalog all at once?
Daniel: I actually did buy it all at once because there was a sale on eBay of their entire catalog on vinyl. I’m not saying I’ve listened to every one of those records, because it wasn’t very long ago. But yeah, I had a real…when I was growing up, AC/DC was the name of a band that I would see on the back of jackets of a lot of people that hated me. So I wasn’t really into it. It also happened to be during their creative lull. But then five, six, seven years ago, I started getting why they were so great and then slowly getting into the whole catalog.

Paste : It’s funny how that works with those bands. You’re too cool to like them early on…
Daniel: I just didn’t like getting beat up by them. It wasn’t that I was too cool. It was just something about my ass being beaten.

Paste : I just find it rare once you get to a certain age to really get into a new band, because when you’re young, it’s much easier to become obsessed about something, anything. Do you have that issue?
Daniel: I don’t. I’m so obsessed with Thee Oh Sees and AC/DC and Rolling Stones.

Paste : Yeah, there’s bands that you can be obsessed about your entire life, but to find a band suddenly, where it hits you that hard in your adult life, it feels like it gets harder to get newly obsessed as I head into my mid-thirties.
Daniel: You’re lucky when that happens, right? I think there are those bands out there you’ve maybe sort of heard a few things by and then you peer around a corner and then you get it. And I think it’ll keep happening to you. You’re a music lover.

Paste : Ha! I appreciate your vote of confidence. But yeah, it was reading about you in that context. “He bought all of the AC/DC.” And that’s beautiful. There’s some real awesomeness to that.
Daniel: It is beautiful. One of the best things in life.