Spoon's Britt Daniel

The Exclaim! Questionnaire

Photo: Oliver Halfin

BY Matt BobkinPublished Aug 27, 2019

A lot has changed in the music industry over the last 25 years, but at least one thing has stayed the same: Spoon are fucking cool. The Austin-based rock outfit survived an early career split from a major label, numerous lineup changes, and a fickle cultural landscape with their rock'n'roll swagger and devoted fan base intact. The ties that bind their discography are apparent on their recent greatest hits collection, Everything Hits at Once, out now on Matador Records.
Lead singer Britt Daniel is at the centre of it all, with his effortless confidence and soothing demeanour being a cornerstone of the band's sound and style since its inception. With Spoon's tenth album on the horizon, it doesn't appear like that's going to be changing anytime soon. In an industry where sound, taste and aesthetic change on a dime, Daniel's indefatigable charm has remained a reliable constant.
What are you up to?
Recording a new Spoon record. We've started five songs, and we've still got a ways to go. We've got this seven-week tour coming up [with Beck and Cage the Elephant]; we'd be working on [the album] all summer but, as it is, we'll resume in September.
What are your current fixations?
Tequila, over the last few days. Have you heard the Danger Mouse/Karen O record that came out a couple months back, Lux Prima? I love it. It's probably my favourite record this year. It's a beautiful one — some of those melodies, I just don't know where they came from. They're so… they seem like they've existed forever. There's this band called Tropical Fuck Storm from Australia. I love them. I guess that album came out last year, but I just found out about it. Fantastic. That guy's [Gareth Liddard] lyrics are so good.
Why do you live where you do?
I live in Austin because I love it. Because I have history here. Because my family is here, and because we record here. Lots of good reasons.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art.
"My Cherie Amour" by Stevie Wonder. I don't know if it changed any games, but it's just beautiful, and it's filled with emotion and I never get bored with it.
What have been your career highs and lows?
When we were a very young band, we got dropped by a very big label called Elektra. In that moment, I couldn't see any upside, but in the next couple months, I wrote some songs about it. We had an A&R guy at Elektra named Ron Laffitte, and I wrote one song called "The Agony of Laffitte," one song called "Laffitte Don't Fail Me Now." And when the single about that experience came out, it was really a sort of rallying cry for a lot of people that really didn't give two shits about this band beforehand. So somehow, out of that low point came this high point. It was really the first step in our road to success. From there, we never went back down again. The next time we put out a record after that was Girls Can Tell, and it was the first time that anyone seemed to pay attention. And I think that that single started it all off.
What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
I have this rule that you have to know me for 30 minutes before you can start giving me shit, and so if someone comes up to me after a show that I don't know, says they don't really like my band or whatever it is for whatever reason, sometimes you have people try to... I dunno. Maybe they're trying to allow themselves to stand out, or maybe they think it might be endearing to provide this negative feedback. It's happened occasionally. That's my rule. You don't get to say that to me, not until we've known each other.
I can remember just being in a bar, it was a couple hours after a show and someone came up to me going "Are you Britt from Spoon?" and of course my immediate reaction was to smile and say "Yeah." And they said, "Well, you guys really aren't that good" and just walked off. I'm not sure what they got out of that. It was at the Beauty Bar in Austin, so many years ago. Ten years ago? Eight years ago? We were big enough that he recognized me.
What should everyone shut up about?
Off the top of my head, everyone should shut up about the deep dark secret they want to tell you about Instagram.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
What did Dan Boeckner say [when he took the Exclaim! Questionnaire]?
I don't have it off-hand but I believe it was along the lines of "Making a meal and spending time with loved ones." [Ed. note: It was "Get up late, make a large breakfast for my loved ones, go for a walk in the park, come to my apartment and just sit on the couch and read until it gets dark."]
Yeah, I think that's a good one. I think making a meal, hanging out with a loved one.
Did you and Dan Boeckner spend a lot of perfect Sundays together during the Divine Fits days?
We did. He lived at my house for several months while we were making that record, and it was a real moment.
What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
Bad manners. Talking with your mouth full. Luckily it hasn't come to that.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
Dan Boeckner.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
I bought Thriller by Michael Jackson on vinyl.
What was your most memorable day job?
I had a number of very memorable ones. I worked as a waiter at Pizza Hut for two weeks and then I quit that one and started working at a plumbing business where I was the dispatcher. That was much better. I worked at a videogame company making sound effects and I worked as a copy editor. And I worked as a substitute teacher. Good thing this music thing worked out.
Sound effects for video games? Sounds pretty cool.
It was a videogame company that had two main things they focused on: Fantasy games and flight simulator games. So we did actually go and create our own sound effects, occasionally, but a lot of time they actually came from sound effects CDs, so getting the right engine noise for this type of plane or the right engine noise for this type of spaceship. It was a cool job.
How do you spoil yourself?
I dunno. I never think of anything as spoiling myself. I do what I like to do. I do what feels good. I deserve to feel good.
If I wasn't playing music I would be…
A radio dispatcher at a plumbing company.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
"Sabbath Bloody Sabbath."

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