Published Aug 01, 2014Texan pop auteurs Spoon will release They Want My Soul on Tuesday (August 5), and though it comes on the heels of a four-year break and a move to major label (Universal's Loma Vista), vocalist Britt Daniel says the recording process was the same as ever. Which is to say painstaking.
"Of all the things we do, making records is the most important thing," he tells Exclaim! "It's what makes a band significant. That's where we put all our heart and soul."
The band's previous album, 2010's Transference, Daniel suggests, "was more of a headphones record, maybe to listen to when you're chilling in your room. This is more of a blast-from-your-car-stereo kind of record.
"I think that every record we make, we want to react a little bit against the one we made before. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga had lots of pop songs and singalong R&B-type songs, then the next one was intentionally more difficult. This one is a little bit more intentionally rock'n'roll, something you can sing. I don't want to do another record like Transference where it's [primarily] mood."
As per Spoon's reputation for studio perfectionism, They Want My Soul found the band searching for new ways to expand their sound.
"Sometimes you know there's an element of the song, the melody or the chords, or something that you know is good — maybe the syllables... maybe all three — but it's not exactly great yet. You just can't give it up because you know there's something there, but you haven't happened upon it yet. That can be really frustrating; 'I know that we can make something of this, but I don't know how.' Then you make version after version trying to come up with that way that feels the most like a single or the most special.
"There were a few times on this record I was just like, 'Okay, we know this version of the song is good.' What was it, 'Do You'? We did sort of like a '[staccato] dun dun dun dun' kind of version of it, and I was like, 'Come on. We can do better.'"
Adds percussionist Jim Eno, "Even sonically, we'd done that before. We had discussions like that: 'Do we need the low piano parts?' 'Nah, we don't need that, let's figure out something else.'"
"Rent I Pay," explains Daniel, "was originally a 6/8 waltz-y song. We even did it as a Paul Simon kind of thing. It sounded like something off of [There Goes] Rhymin' Simon. That one definitely morphed around. 'Inside Out' was originally just a piano and vocal song. They morphed a lot."
The album was produced by studio vet Joe Chicarelli briefly before being handed over to Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, MGMT, Mercury Rev), whom Daniel says played a substantial role in the album's sound.
"Dave was really important in sometimes finding that thing. Sometimes we'd be going back and forth about whether or not something was a hook or really important, and he would be the voice of reason. Sometimes he'd just say, if something sounded loud to us, 'Let it be loud!' He mixed almost all the songs and produced half of them."
Despite a decades-plus relationship with indie mainstay Merge Records, Spoon's move to a major label, though seemingly a big deal, had absolutely no effect on They Want My Soul. According to Daniel, it was a spur-of-the-moment, low-risk move.
"We always make a record and then decide what label it's going to come out on. We didn't owe Merge any records since Kill the Moonlight, so we'd always make a record then decide. Sometimes it was more discussion than others: 'Oh, Columbia wants to sign us, should we do this? No, I don't think we should.' This time, it seemed like a good time to do it, to try something else. There's really not much more to it than that."
Meanwhile, the band remain tight with their longtime indie label home: "We all love the Merge people. I'm working on a seven-inch song for them, and they have all of our catalogue. We'll be working with them for a long time."
Spoon have already taken They Want My Soul on a series of North American dates, but they have several more coming up this summer, including a few in Canada. You can see their complete schedule here.