Saturday, Aug. 24, 6 p.m., $30+
Walnut Creek Amphitheatre, Raleigh
Since dropping debut studio album Telephono in 1996, Spoon has done nothing but churn out one stylish, solid rock record after another. The Austin, Texas-based band’s remarkable run of success has carried it from Merge Records to ANTI- to Matador, always buoyed equally by the sharp songwriting of front man Britt Daniel and the tones and textures he achieves with drummer, producer, and fellow founding member, Jim Eno.
Daniel is the kind of bandleader who likes getting deep into the technical aspects of, say, capturing the perfect kick drum sound. Those speaker-busting beats, thick bass lines, and exquisite stabs of distorted guitar? Chalk them up to attention to detail. Their dedication to craft stands out more than ever while listening to Spoon’s new, career-spanning compilation album, Everything Hits at Once: The Best of Spoon. From the buoyant and brassy “The Underdog” and the minimalist indie-pop standard “I Turn My Camera On” to the lighters-out anthem “Inside Out,” there’s a clear emphasis on top-shelf sounds.
Ahead of Spoon’s Saturday night show in Raleigh with Beck and Cage the Elephant, we caught up with Daniel by phone to discuss why this was the right time for a “best of” collection, how his own perspective on songwriting has changed over the years, and the hunt for the perfect “stereo image.”
INDY: In the early years of Spoon, did you ever imagine that the band would release a greatest-hits compilation?
BRITT DANIEL: I don’t remember it ever crossing my mind, honestly. The first time I remember this coming up as a real idea was after the fourth album, and I thought at the time that it was just too early. It didn’t make sense yet. But it kept coming back up every now and again; somebody in the band or somebody we work with would bring it up, but it never made sense because we just had too much going on. This time, after we got done touring Hot Thoughts, we thought, “Well, maybe this makes sense. We have nine records.”
A somewhat surprising addition to the track list is “Inside Out” from They Want My Soul. That wasn’t a big single in the traditional sense.
I think it was briefly worked to radio, and I say briefly because it wasn’t a hit. It didn’t take in that world, but for some reason, it still connected with people. I think if you look on Spotify, it’s the most streamed song we’ve got. I don’t know what happened; I guess it’s just a good song. Personally, I think it’s pretty cool that one of our most loved songs isn’t due to placements or radio hype. People just dig it.
What makes a greatest-hits record worthwhile in the streaming age, when anybody can put together their own playlist of Spoon songs?
If I just made a playlist, I wouldn’t get to talk to you. I hear your point, but there are a lot of reasons. I don’t want this to make this too much of a marketing-focused call, but the fact that it’s a physical product that people own and pick up is a whole other deal. It’s a totally different type of collection than something that just exists on the internet.
You listened to Spoon’s whole catalog to put this record together. Did you learn anything about yourself through that process?
I remember what I was going for on those early records, but I feel like I don’t relate as much to the guy who wrote Telephono as the guy who wrote even the next record. We had different goals back then. There’s also a record called Girls Can Tell. I had forgotten the emotional impact of that record. I hadn’t listened to it all the way through in a long time, and it brought me back to where I was in that moment.
What were you trying to accomplish with Spoon in those early days?
It was all about going over well in a rock bar. There was a place called the Hole in the Wall that held about sixty people, and that was a big gig. My goal was to write songs that would go over so gangbusters on Monday night that we’d get invited to play on the weekend, when everyone was going out. That was it: What sort of songs go over well in a very small, contained, and loud environment?
You’ve grown tremendously as a songwriter in the intervening years. What do you think the goal is now?
When I write songs, I’m always thinking about how it will come across as a stereo image. All this work you put into doing overdubs, guitar parts, drum sounds, lyrics and chord changes and all of that—all it’s really going to produce is a left stereo image and a right stereo image. What do you hear coming out of that? What is going to give you some emotion and give you some spirit? I’m thinking about the end result.
Did you gain insight or energy for new music through this process of looking back at your career?
I noticed a lot of really cool drum sounds we haven’t gone for in a while. Girls Can Tell was the most homemade record we’d made at that point, this ragged thing we had put together. You listen to that record and it doesn’t sound perfected in any way, and maybe that’s part of why it’s great. So I think about that moving forward: Maybe we need to home in on more rough ideas that carry some emotional weight.