In an interview with Local Spins, Spoon co-founder Jim Eno talks about creating the Austin band’s latest album and revving up live audiences again. Spoon plays Kalamazoo State Theatre on Tuesday.
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Spoon drummer Jim Eno pauses and asks the interviewer to repeat his characterization of the Austin band’s latest acclaimed studio album, “Lucifer on the Sofa” – described as “mysteriously intoxicating.”
“Seriously. Intoxicating? I have no idea what we did to create that vibe, but yeah, it’d be great if we could keep doing that, because that’s cool,” he concedes.
“I mean I feel like one of the things we did differently on this one was just to try to run the songs as a band and know what we were going to play before we were going to record, you know? The other thing is we made a pretty conscious effort to not add a lot of bells and whistles. So it’s sort of like, you know, guitars, bass drums, and simple keys.”
He later adds: “We tend to use delays and reverbs on the keys to give them a little bit of a dreamier sense.”
Mysteries and dreaminess aside, it’s clear that this inventive indie-rock band has hit yet another stride with its 10th studio album, released in February to rave reviews.
The ever-fussy Pitchfork described the collection as a “loud, low-down, melodious rock record almost without sacrificing any of their savory nuance and inscrutability.” Rolling Stone magazine declared that the “consistently excellent band takes it to a new level by getting back to basics.”
Formed by lead songwriter/guitarist Britt Daniel with Eno in 1993, Spoon continues to impress fans and critics on the road, too. The fresh batch of songs – following up 2017’s “Hot Thoughts” – has resonated with audiences on tour. (Spoon plays Kalamazoo’s State Theatre on Tuesday; tickets $37.50-$52.50 available online here. Bodega opens the show at 8 p.m.)
“The songs are going over really well. I feel like we’re the best live band that we’ve had over the life of the band,” Eno says, chatting with Local Spins by phone from Austin the day before resuming the group’s North American tour behind the new album.
“We’re just playing really well together. The live shows are going great. People are craving live music now because we’ve all been shut in for, you know, two years. People are very excited about live shows, which has been great.”
STRIVING TO STAY CREATIVE AND NOT REPEAT THEMSELVES IN THE STUDIO
The band – Daniel, Eno, keyboardist-guitarist Alex Fischel, bassist Benny Trokan and guitarist-keyboardist Gerardo Larios – actually began recording the new album at Eno’s studio in late 2018, but put its completion and release on hold due to the COVID pandemic.
Daniel not only is “writing his best material 10 records in,” Eno says, but the group also constantly pushes itself to explore new territory.
“In the studio, we try to be creative and try not to repeat ourselves from record to record. So there’s a lot of discussion … talking about that,” he insists. “We don’t want to get bored in the studio because a bored band means a boring record, you know? So we want to stay creative and be excited about the process.”
Eno – an engineer and producer himself who owns Public Hi-Fi in Austin but who didn’t even start playing drums until his junior year in college – says he’s been fortunate to have learned so much from “a lot of great producers” who’ve mentored him in the studio over the years.
“It’s almost like a master class for me. I can ask all these different questions and I can sort of carry on the good things and don’t do the bad things,” he reasons.
As a result, he’s passing on that knowledge and assisting female engineers as part of his Project Traction – a female production mentorship program that Eno launched after learning that less than 10 percent of recording engineers in the industry are women.
“I’m like, ‘That’s ridiculous because I work with so many talented female musicians,’ ” he says. “So I reached out to a lot of them and I have eight that I’m working with on the production side. I co-produced a track with each one.”
These engineers then get a production credit which helps give them the background and experience to take the next step in the business.
For now, though, Eno and Spoon are focused on extensive touring across the United States that doesn’t let up until mid-October when they play the Austin City Limits Music Festival in their hometown.
“And then December, I’m not really sure what’s happening from then and beyond, but there’s talk of like Europe and some other things,” Eno says. “We’re really looking forward to the (Kalamazoo State Theatre) show though. It’ll be fun.”
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