No longer a quirky one-man band experimenting with rinky-dink synthesizers, Seattle’s Throw Me The Statue has morphed into a brawny indie-pop quartet. The band beefed up and tightened its focus for just-released sophomore album Creaturesque, packing plenty of punch on tracks like the arpeggio-heavy rocker “Hi-Fi Goon.” Recorded with in-demand indie hit-maker Phil Ek (Band Of Horses, The Shins), Creaturesque is slightly too refined for its own good on some of the slower-paced material, but retains plenty of the loose-limbed charm and unconventional songcraft that made debut disc Moonbeams a hit among music bloggers. Prior to Throw Me The Statue’s Mohawk show on Sept. 11, frontman Scott Reitherman talked to The A.V. Club about his early musical diet, becoming a bandleader, and getting past scarring middle-school theater experiences.
The A.V. Club: You didn’t discover indie rock until college, and have in past interviews professed a childhood musical diet of pop artists like Bobby Brown and New Kids On The Block. Do you think that your early love for mainstream pop had an effect on your music?
Scott Reitherman: I was born in 1982, and I think it’s common for kids from my era to have grown up on things like New Kids On The Block and Bobby Brown, Paula Abdul. I don’t think I had a particularly rare upbringing in that regard. That listening was mixed heavily with my dad’s record collection, which was more sort of classic ’60s and ‘70s stuff, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles. I think what happened with me happens to a lot of people: At some point you make a conscious decision to either seek out new music and make that leap into discovering independent music, or you don’t. I grew up in a pretty safe suburban culture that wasn’t particularly progressive in terms of art, so for me that time of discovery came in college, which is pretty typical. So even though I’ve done my time crate-digging and become immersed in indie rock, I think the palette of my music is still unconsciously informed by all that pop-music exposure as a kid.
AVC: That leads to a certain accessibility in your music.
SR: I hope so. I think that’s sometimes rare in indie rock because there’s a lot of posturing going on. I’m not interested in bands that are super-guarded or feel contrived. I always try to give the listener something easy to hold onto. Whether any given song is playful or somber or biting, it’s hopefully personal and something people can connect with easily.
AVC: Were there many bumps in the road transforming TMTS into a more collaborative project?
SR: Probably more than I’m wiling to admit to myself. This last record was really about becoming more of a band. I brought demos to the rest of the band and we decided as a group what ideas we wanted to pursue. It was trying at times having those first moments of letting people’s ideas other than mine shape the songs. There’s a certain amount of letting go you have to learn how to do, and ultimately that’s really healthy. At the same time, I’m still something of a control freak, so it’s kind of a delicate dance. I haven’t ruined any friendships yet. [Laughs.]
AVC: After the success of the first album, did you feel pressure this time to avoid the “sophomore slump” tag?
SR: The whole “sophomore slump” thing is such a cliché, but it’s also the elephant in the room. It’s a real thing for artists, and it’s a romanticized to death by journalists. I tried to make it a non-issue, but I can’t lie, it was a point of stress at times. Part of that was just a scheduling thing. We finished touring at the end of last year, and I knew if we didn’t book time to record in January and February and finish by March, the record wouldn’t come out in 2009. I was really nervous about having a year of inactivity with the live band, so there was a hustle to make something good happen. People have told me Creaturesque is mellower than Moonbeams, and that’s such a vague word, so I don’t know what to make of that reaction. To me, [Creaturesque] is much poppier and more structurally conventional. There’s a different tone to this record in part because I’m in a happy spot in my life now. I wrote and recorded Moonbeams during a period where a bunch of friends I had moved to Seattle with decided to leave, and I was this suddenly lonely single person. Cool things certainly sprang out of that place creatively, but now I have new friends and am in a happy long-term relationship.
AVC: After years spent recording in bedrooms away from prying eyes, do you feel at home yet onstage and in the spotlight?
SR: I’m definitely still making that journey. I was actually talking about this last night with my buddy Michael from Telekinesis. He sings lead and plays drums at the same time, and I also like singing while playing a secondary drum kit in our band. Playing the drums is so physical, it removes you from even thinking about audience perceptions. I tend to be a little more self-aware when I’m singing and playing guitar because it’s such a common pose. You can start to feel like an actor, which for me is not a good thing. I went to this small, arty middle school where everybody was really into drama. I was horrible at it, and it made me feel really bad about myself. So for now I’m trying to navigate somehow becoming comfortable onstage while trying to stay as far away as possible from recalling those awkward scarring experiences in middle-school theater [Laughs.] I know I’m only good at playing myself.