Originally published in Guitar World, February 2010
Spoon's Britt Daniel explains to Guitar World why less is more on his band's new album, Transference.
I wanted the whole record to be ugly,” Spoon guitarist/frontman Britt Daniel says of his band’s new album, Transference. While not necessarily ugly, the seventh album from the Austin-based indie rock combo is stripped to the barest, lo-fi minimalist essentials. Daniel’s carefully crafted songs of dysfunctional romance are buoyed by dry, deconstructed bass and drum patterns, shards of distressed guitar and melancholy keyboards. But when one of his bright, poppy melodies pokes through the dour din, it’s like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. The album’s sparse arrangements also tend to put the Cobain-esque rasp in Daniel’s vocal delivery to the fore.
“I just think that less is more,” he says of Spoon’s bare-bones aesthetic. “The best singles and recordings are usually very minimal, whether it’s AC/DC’s Back in Black or something by Joy Division. It took a long time to make our last album [2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga], and it was definitely a meticulous process. I wanted this one to be as off the cuff as we could let it be.”
Spoon have effortlessly outlived the Nineties alt-rock moment that gave birth to them. “When we started out in 1994, we were a rock band from Austin,” Daniel says, “and we kind of sounded like that for a while, until we found our own thing.” The band’s popularity has grown steadily since then, aided in part by Spoon songs earning prominent placement in movies and TV shows. Daniel is proudest of making it onto The Simpsons. “That was a real honor,” he says.
Transference is the first album Spoon have produced themselves, working at Daniel’s home studio and the Rare Book Room in Brooklyn. “I was on my own a lot in the beginning, down in my basement,” he says, “And I was alone a lot toward the end of the project, doing vocals and overdubs. It got lonely. There were moments of uncertainty. But I feel that I always have to challenge myself to find new ways of doing things. It doesn’t always work out, but when it does, it’s the best feeling in the world.”