Take a look at most publications’ ‘Albums of the Year’ in six months time and you can be pretty sure that Spoon’s Hot Thoughts will be somewhere in the mix. Satisfyingly ‘Spoonish’ but still delivering the inventive rock and roll we have come to expect from this Austin-based outfit throughout the years, the band have been hailed as one of the best guitar bands out there. That’s not necessarily true – the record, along with their impressive canon of long players proves that they are one of the best bass bands out there, one of the best drum bands out there and one of the best synth bands out there! AMBY were fortunate to catch up with drummer and founding member Jim Eno recently to chat about the new album, Friday Night Lights and the band’s ultimate Spinal Tap moment, that is actually more of a Blues Brothers moment.
Thanks for talking to AMBY today Jim and congrats on your amazing new record as well as your appearance on Jules Holland. Was this your first time?
That was a really fun time, it was the first time we’d been invited and it was a real honour and it was exciting, it was cool.
Every Spoon record is distinctly ‘Spoonish’ but satisfyingly different from the last and I have to say, I’m never surprised by how good I think a new Spoon album is. I was wondering what you intended to do differently when you were recording Hot Thoughts.
I don’t know if we had any real intention. Sometimes we talk about what we want to do and how we want things to sound and it never really pans out how we expect early on. We work on every song individually so it’s like we’re trying to get each song to stand on its own, but if you look at They Want My Soul there’s a song on there called Inside Out and that was the last song we recorded on the last record. We really loved that song as far as sonics and direction and feel go, so if you look at like a jumping off point for Hot Thoughts it sort of feels like it’s based around what we were feeling with Inside Out and Hot Thoughts is continuing that idea.
Unlike the UK at the moment, America seems to have these musical hot spots geographically… You’re from Texas and live in Austin which has this incredible musical tradition. What kind of influence has Austin had on the band and your records?
It’s a very eclectic town when it comes to music. There’s a lot of different styles of music but it also tends to be small so there are a lot of people playing in a lot of different types of bands and I feel like that affects how sounds morph into each other. There’s a band called Giant Dog who are a really great garage rock band and then you have The Bright Light Social Hour who are more psychedelic and these guys are all friends… it’s hard to say, but I feel like it’s a small scene but there’s a lot of different genres.
For some reason, I consider Spoon to be quite a ‘British’ band though. Does this make any sense to you?
We listen to a lot of British music and we listened to British music when we were growing up and learning how to play music. We’re all HUGE Beatles and The Rolling Stones fans and then Britt was really in to The Cure, I was a huge Smiths fan. I’ve just been listening to a bunch of The The because I heard that Jules Holland played on a great song of theirs called Uncertain Smile, so we really listen to a lot of that type of music and I feel like there was a point around that time where Britain just owned rock and roll. A lot of great stuff comes out of here.
Is it just me that thinks that Britt sounds a bit like John Lennon?
Oh, yea I think he does. We covered a couple of Lennon songs and Britt does sound a bit like him.
I’ve never been but when I think of Texas I’m reminded of Friday Night Lights. You contributed to the soundtrack for the show. Did you identify with the Texas presented in FNL?
We contributed a couple of songs on the soundtrack and I bet Britt identifies because he grew up in Temple, Texas. I really loved that show and I watched it a lot and it does set a feel of Texas that’s a lot more rural and I’ve never really lived in that part of Texas that has a small town sort of vibe. I grew up in sort of small town in Rhode Island. FNL has a unique feel to it. Very Texan!
Talking of soundtracks, Spoon have been featured on all kinds of shows and movies. Do you have a favourite cinematic moment where Spoon have featured?
Oh, let’s see… that’s a good question… Britt did a film called Stranger Than Fiction with Will Farrell and he basically wrote some different music for that but one of my favourite moments was at the climax of the movie and My Mathematical Mind was playing and it was the instrumental and they worked it in such a way that it just became louder and more menacing and that low piano was growing right up until the climax of the movie. It’s a pretty awesome point I feel for the movie.
A lot has changed socially, politically and from a technological point of view since you formed in the nineties. Has the band’s process of making music changed?
Technology wise, yes, things have definitely changed. We used to be recording strictly on tape, now we do a lot of stuff digitally. We still try to do stuff on tape when we can but it’s a blessing and a curse… you can have an infinite number of instruments on a track but we talk about this a lot… when you’re recording music and you’re trying to make things that are really unique, then limitations are actually beneficial so that is something that we do struggle with. When we used to record on tape we have sixteen or twenty-four tracks and then we have to figure out how to make everything work, but we never have those conversations anymore so we don’t have a limitation when it comes to how many instruments a song can have, which is good in one way because you can just try a bunch of things but it’s also good to have those limitations and have less instruments most of the time. You can have too many options sometimes and we also don’t have a very strict time limitation either but you add infinite possibilities with infinite time and it makes it hard to finish a record!
Yourself and Britt have known each other for years. How do your similarities and differences shape your records?
He’s the songwriter and he’s the litmus test for everything. He has to like everything and be psyched about it. I’m more of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ guy. I know a lot about what Britt likes and try to steer things in that direction and I just try to help out whenever I can because he has a lot of things that he has to do on a record and any time I can free him up take a nap or grab a coffee, that’s been a good day!
So, that’s the key to your longevity then?
Yea, we know each other really well and we have our things that we do and we have our little things that we’re good at and we kinda make it work.
If you were stuck in a musical decade then, which one would you choose?
I would have to say the sixties because I feel like things were just so exciting around then. I love being in the studio and I have to think about The Beatles records, about how that was done. It’s where the studio first became an instrument. You think about John Lennon putting his vocals through a Lesley speaker on Tomorrow Never Knows and just to be around at that time, it would be mind-blowing to me.
You’re embarking on quite a mammoth, worldwide tour. What are the best and worst things about being on the road this long?
Probably the best thing is all the shows! At the moment we’re doing promo, we’re flying to all these different countries and cities and it’s hard to get into a routine and a groove. Once we head out on tour, we do a show every night and we start getting into our routine and we start getting better and better every night. It becomes really fun at that point. Probably the worst thing is being away from friends and family. The internet makes it a little easier but it can be hard to keep everything straight.
Any Spinal Tap moments from the road you care to share?
We played a festival in Atlanta one time and it was a big redneck festival and they were serving these little 12oz plastic bottles of beer and the audience, probably ten thousand people, they would all drink half a beer and throw the bottle and the remaining beer at the band, so there were hundreds of bottles being thrown at us while we played and Britt was right up in the front singing every word and his head would just move two inches to either side when he saw a bottle coming for him. That was pretty insane! We only played six songs that night!
That sounds like the scene in Blues Brothers when they’re performing behind the chicken wire…
Yea, it was just like that except we didn’t have the chicken wire unfortunately!
Interview by Iain Fox | @IainFoxPhoto