Q&A: Spoon's Britt Daniel On Religion, Starbucks, and the Drudge Report


Q&A: Spoon's Britt Daniel On Religion, Starbucks, and the Drudge Report

  • Q&A: Spoon's Britt Daniel On Religion, Starbucks, and the Drudge Report

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    Autumn De Wilde
    Spoon--featuring Britt Daniel, top left--plays The Moore on Friday, April 9 and Saturday, April 10.
    Spoon played the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago last week, a place frontman Britt Daniel says is one of the most beautiful and ornate rooms his band has ever played in. It also boasts the most unbearable sound.

    "When I said, 'We haven't had sound like this in 22 years, everybody applauded," says Daniel. "And I was like, I'm not sure if you really get what I'm saying. But, whatever."

    Fans--many of them critics--started applauding the Austin, Texas rockers when they started churning out meticulously crafted pop in the mid-'90s, and they never stopped. Spoon's slow burn atop of the indie rock pantheon--with one foot dipped in mainstream waters--has led them to a pair of headlining shows at The Moore this weekend.

    Daniel took a few minutes after his first "and last" gig at the Aragon to talk about Easter, singles, and his new album, Transference.

    I was in Starbucks this morning and saw Transference on the counter. Have you been making a point of stopping in now that they're carrying your record?

    I sure have not.

    Do you think that says anything about your music, or about Starbucks?

    I don't know. What does that mean? Would they carry, like, a Radiohead record there?

    Would that make you feel better about it?

    Well, I don't feel bad about it. I feel good about it. But I don't really know what it means to have a record there.

    Brian Wilson wanted "God only Knows" to be a specific single on Pet Sounds, and certain songs on his records were meant to be singles. When you wrote "The Way We Get By" or "The Underdog," did you have the same sort of thing in mind?

    Well, when I got the crux of the idea ("The Way We Get By"), I wasn't sitting down trying to write a hit song. I was just trying to write any song. I think the first time I sang that chorus for "The Way We Get By" I thought, "Whoa, this is something." I guessed it would have been a good single. Sometimes I'm wrong with those guesses.

    There don't seem to be as many of those boisterous, overtly pop singles on Transference as on, say, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Was that intentional, or were they not coming to you this time?

    I don't know. I mean, I honestly don't think I ever sit down and say let's try to write a hit. I kind of wanted to write some songs that kind of got in a groove and stayed in a groove, maybe with fewer chords, or one groove that lasted throughout the whole song. We haven't made a lot of songs like that.

    What do you think it would take for a Spoon record to sell a million copies?

    It would take some big singles. It would take two or three of them. I think it's possible. It's definitely not something we think about when we're making records.

    How do you measure success then? Commercially, artistically?

    I look at all of those. The most important thing is that I be able to put it on and feel, "Wow this is cool." If we sold a gazillion records and we put the thing on and I was embarrassed of it, or felt like, "eeeewww," then I wouldn't want to go play those songs every night. And you end having to play the songs quite a bit off of your new record.

    Do you have that reaction to anything that you've put out in the past?

    Well, the first record that we put out, I'm not a real big fan of. I know there's some people that are. But you know, ironically, the thing that came out right after it is one of the best things we ever put out, I think, the Soft Effects EP.

    Why is that?

    I don't know. It was the first record where instead of writing the songs with the intention of writing fast loud songs for bars, I was just trying to write songs very quickly to record. That directive ... "Hey, it doesn't have to be a banger for a bar. It could be any kind of song, so let's just come up with five songs really quickly," worked great. We recorded 'em quickly, we wrote 'em quickly, and it was just kind of a totally different spirit than the stuff that came out a year before.

    Today's Good Friday. Are you going to be observing Easter This Sunday?

    I might call my parents.

    Is religion or spirituality a part of your life?

    I think about that stuff a lot; I do. When I was growing up, my parents were split up, and I'd spend every other weekend with each one. My mom was Protestant, my dad was hardcore Catholic. So I've been able to see both sides of it. I think unfortunately it was something I was forced to do when I was a kid. That makes you have a certain relationship with religion, which is not necessarily the same thing as spirituality.

    You reading anything interesting these days?

    I've been reading this really bad book called The Politician, by Andrew Young. He was John Edwards' assistant. It's actually not a good book, but I cannot stop reading it. And I read Game Change recently. That was pretty good, but it just felt like I was rehashing all [the 2008 presidential campaign] so closely that there wasn't a lot of new input.

    I picked up Karl Rove's book recently. Are you interested in the other side?

    Well, I am interested in the other side. I watch a lot of Fox News. I had to stop reading the Drudge Report, but it was my main go-to web site for about eight years. At some point I was just like, "This is just too much."

    Do you do any writing, any political commentary?

    No. I just devour.

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