It says a lot about Spoon’s rapid evolution over the past two years that playing its hometown is no longer merely a show but an event: Last time through, the group crammed back into its small-stage roots with a gig at Scoot Inn, tickets for which sold out in a matter of minutes. The group's appearances today, Friday, and Saturday at Stubb's are billed as something of a mini-festival, each with a different set of handpicked opening acts. Credit 2007’s critical and commercial splash Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga—if not the string of equally solid albums that preceded it—for the awesome power Spoon now wields, and blame it also for the reputation it must now live up to (which is something the band is hardly taking lightly, judging by the patient, diligent way it’s been piecing together its follow-up). Shortly after he stoked those anticipations even higher with the Got Nuffin single, Spoon leader Britt Daniel spoke with The A.V. Club about the new album’s progression—including how AC/DC and Dabney Coleman factored into it—and what to expect from this weekend’s event.
The A.V. Club: Why do you always schedule your homecoming shows in the middle of fucking July?
Britt Daniel: That’s a good question. First of all, I like that you’re calling it “homecoming.” Everybody knows that homecoming is supposed to happen in the fall.
AVC: That’s true. You’re supposed to get a mum.
BD: Yeah, where’s my mum? But it really has to do with dumb biz stuff. Basically, it’s the fact that we wanted a bunch of bands to play with us, and there’s a big festival that happens in the fall and one in the spring, and this is in the middle. But believe me, there was some debate about whether we should have it at a different time of year or at the Austin Music Hall. The consensus is that the sound at the Music Hall is so bad that people would rather sweat.
AVC: What do you have planned for these? Horn sections? Dancers? Skits?
BD: There’s nothing really that fancy about it. To me it’s just some rock shows. We’ll have the horns, because we’ve done that before, but no pyrotechnics or anything.
AVC: Rumor has it your producer Mike McCarthy is playing with you.
BD: Yeah, he’s always complained that we invited John Croslin [producer of Telephono, Soft Effects, and A Series Of Sneaks] up onstage with us, and we always tried to explain to him, “Yeah, that’s because he was our bassist for a while.” But Mike’s feelings are still hurt. He’s playing guitar—and he’s actually a good musician.
AVC: Do you find that he’s able to take directions or criticism?
BD: [Laughs.] No. I don’t.
AVC: How much new material will we hear?
BD: I think we played six new songs on our last little tour, so we’ll have those six and maybe a couple more we can play by then. We’ve been working hard trying to get them together. We’re pretty far along with recording most of them, and there are two more—the last two, really—that we’re kind of figuring out what we’re going to do with. I’m hoping we’ll get them done by the shows, because we have to record them right after in New York.
AVC: You really snuck one past us by releasing Got Nuffin without any sort of announcement. Do you enjoy making the press look clueless?
BD: Oh, that wasn’t my intention whatsoever—you know that. I just like putting a record together and getting it out really fast, which is something we can never do with albums, because there are labels and they don’t want to do it like that. But I did talk them into doing it that way with the single, where as soon as we got it mixed, we got it mastered the next day, and I asked, “What is the absolute fastest track we can get on to get this to come out as soon as possible, without having to worry about things like lead time and press and ads?” They couldn’t really tell me, so even I didn’t know when it was coming out. I think maybe a week before the release date was when we knew it would be the release date.
AVC: So you still care about the press? We won’t see the same sort of subterfuge with the new album?
BD: I care about you, Sean. I’m hoping the album will be done by the end of the summer, which means probably January—or December, rather, but then there’s this thing called “Christmas,” and you don’t want to put out records on Christmas.
D: On Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, you started butchering the English language with titles like “Don’t You Evah,” and now you’re doing the same with Got Nuffin. Are you taking song title cues from Slade now?
BD: [Laughs.] Yeah. “Cum On Feel The Noize.” I’m reverting back to baby talk. I thought about it being Got Nothin’, but that just seemed too serious.
D: The “Tweakers (Remix)” is the first Spoon song to feature rapping. Who’s rapping and what are they rapping about?
BD: That’s my friend Sean from this band we had called The Muhfuz that existed before Spoon. We reunited for that song. He says something like, “Fly through the air like a day-old tortilla”… Uh… “Bust a load in your face like my name’s Dick Cheney.” You know. You can hear what he’s saying! What, you just want to hear me saying it?
D: How indicative is Got Nuffin of what we can expect from the next album?
BD: The structures of the songs are weirder than the records before, and definitely more so than [“Got Nuffin”], which sounds like fairly straightforward songwriting—verses and choruses and stuff. There’s lots of guitar. I’m not trying to be sneaky here. It’s just hard for me to define what the records sound like.
D: In a conversation I had with Mike McCarthy, he said—or more accurately, complained—that you wanted it to sound like Joy Division.
BD: What? No, he wanted it to sound like Joy Division. When we first started recording that song, Mike was going through a major Joy Division phase. He bought a bunch of their DVDs. He was going off about their producer, Martin Hannett, and how great he was. I was always more of a Cure fan than a Joy Division fan. And that was the song “Got Nuffin.” The version we did with him was way more Joy Division. He’s the one who programmed all these drum machine beats to go with it and everything. [Laughs.] Really, he said that I wanted it to sound that way? He’s insane.
D: If not Joy Division, what have you been listening to as a point of reference?
BD: Lots of AC/DC. Seriously. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap is pretty good. I love all the Bon Scott stuff, although it’s kind of inconsistent. I just love his personality. It just bursts onto the record. He has so much character that comes out in his lyrics and in all the little phrasings that he throws out to the side.
AVC: You’ve also said that you’ve written a song about Dabney Coleman.
BD: Dabney Coleman was more of just a starting point. I was talking at lunch with someone about needing ideas for songs, and also how much I liked Dabney Coleman, and they were like, “Well, there’s the song you need to write.” The one thing I could think of to say was that I felt like I got Dabney Coleman in a way that a lot of people don’t. So the line, “Nobody gets me but you” came from that, and that’s in one of the songs we’re working on now.
AVC: What about Dabney Coleman do you get that you don’t think the rest of us get?
BD: [Laughs.] Your way of asking that is really great, Sean. It’s not that you don’t get it, but you know, there’s no Dabney Coleman fan page out there. And I look at the guy and I just start laughing. I think that Buffalo Bill is one of the great TV shows in the ’80s, and maybe of all time. And when I started going to movies when I was a kid, it seemed like he was in all of my favorite ones.
AVC: After the success of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, do you feel as though you have to top yourself with the next one?
BD: Yes. You always have to top yourself.
AVC: In terms of debuting higher on the charts?
BD: No, I wasn’t thinking of it like that. But you know, I would be a very unhappy lead singer if I had to go out and tour behind a record for many months that I felt was not great—that I didn’t feel I could really get behind. I would not be able to do that happily.
AVC: The crossover success of “The Underdog” was sort of double-edged. It was kind of the first Spoon song that people’s moms could get into.
BD: Yes, my mom had that exact same reaction.
AVC: It even inspired comparisons to Billy Joel. How much of the new material is a reaction against that?
BD: To be honest—and I’ve said this many times—we almost didn’t put “The Underdog” on the album because I didn’t feel like it fit in with Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. It’s not the type of song that we frequently come up with. So if there aren’t any songs like “The Underdog” on this record, it’s not necessarily a reaction to popularity or comparisons to Billy Joel. But I don’t think there are any.
AVC: You’ve been threatening to call the record Me And Matty Pickles, which is the name of the guy from The Subjects. What about you and Matty Pickles?
BD: White Rabbits introduced me to him. I don’t know. I just thought it was a good title. The guy’s name is incredible. And you know, sometimes people ask me for titles and I’m not ready.