Spoon’s Britt Daniel on his musical firsts, including his newly formed band
No matter how successful entertainers become, they’ll always remember the first gig—whether it was disastrous, wonderful, or strange. Gotta Start Somewhere embraces these nostalgic moments by asking established entertainers to tell the story of the first time they graced a stage, as well as their memories of other musical firsts, from the first record they ever bought to the first concert they ever saw. For this edition, The A.V. Club talked to Britt Daniel, frontman for Spoon and a member of the new indie rock supergroup Divine Fits, about the Bee Gees, band names, and “Rockaway Beach.”
Britt Daniel: The first official show I ever played, I was in a band called The Skellingtons. We couldn’t get any gigs. We were in Austin and we didn’t know anybody. All the club guys thought we were too young. I guess all of our friends were underage, so that was probably why. But there was going to be this punk-rock night, like this 1977 punk night that this band Stretford put on, and a guy in the band was named Carl Normal. I guess I found his number somehow, because I didn’t know him. I called him and said, “We want to play.” He was the first person to ever let us play in Austin.
We played The Clash and the Ramones. We played “I’m So Bored With The USA” and “Rockaway Beach.” I can’t remember what else. The thing I remember most was when we started playing, the band had never set up stage-style, where there are drums and amps behind you. This was my first experience doing that. I remember the amps hitting the back of my legs so hard. It was the first time I could feel that. It felt really powerful. I could feel the volume hitting the back of my legs, and it just felt amazing.
The A.V. Club: How old were you? Do you remember where the show was?
BD: Probably 19 or 20. It was at the Cannibal Club in Austin.
AVC: When did you learn to play guitar?
BD: I was 16 when I started playing. I borrowed a friend’s acoustic guitar, and I had a Beatles chord book. I just taught myself that way.
AVC: How did you form The Skellingtons?
BC: It was a couple people from my hometown: Temple, Texas. A drummer, a bass player. We put an ad in the paper for a second guitar player and found him that way.
AVC: Do you remember what influences you listed in the paper to get the guitarist?
BD: I do remember. It was a wide-ranging array of influences. I just went to town and listed everything I liked. I just went ahead and paid for the ad by the word. I really splurged. I remember Dwight Yoakam was in there, and that my bandmates did not like that. [Laughs.] It was like Sonic Youth, Ramones, Pixies, Led Zeppelin. That kind of thing, plus I was really into Dwight Yoakam.
First concert attended:
BC: It was The Bee Gees in 1979 at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. I went with my family—my mom, my dad and my little sister. I just remember feeling that I was in another world because I was in the presence of these guys who I was always staring at on the vinyl sleeve. It was kind of unbelievable.
AVC: How old were you?
BD: I was 8.
First concert attended without parents:
BD: That might have been the Ramones. Or it might have been the—hm. We drove down and saw a lot of shows in Austin when I was in high school. Maybe my junior year. I know we saw the Ramones then. We saw the Flaming Lips and Butthole Surfers. Iggy Pop. Smithereens. I’m not exactly sure which one was the first. If I had to pick one, it was the Ramones, because we saw them twice.
AVC: Do you remember the first record you ever bought with your own money?
BC: There were a lot of firsts with that too, but I think the first album might have been Thriller. Before that, I got a lot of 45s. I was really into buying 45s. I didn’t want to put up with all the filler. I just wanted to hear the songs I heard on the radio, so 45s were great for that.
AVC: How much of the musical experiences you remember from growing up has influenced what you’re doing today? When you put on shows, do you think, “I want people to come out of this show feeling like I did at the Bee Gees show”?
BD: I’ve never thought that. I mean, that would be great. Maybe there are some kids who come and see one of my bands play and feel that way. But it’s so off my radar when I’m putting on my show. I’m not thinking about that. It was so otherworldly. It was the first time I’d ever seen anybody famous in my life. It just was almost sensory overload, I was so excited.
AVC: Were they your first favorite band? Were they the band you remember liking the most?
BD: Yeah, they were. They were the first band I would ask my dad to put on. I think I remember asking him to put on the theme to 2001. That really got me going. But other than that, the Bee Gees were the one I asked him to put on all the time, because I wasn’t allowed to touch the record player.
First song learned:
BD: I remember learning how to play “The Fool On The Hill” on piano when I was in maybe fifth grade. On guitar, it was probably another Beatles song. I can’t remember. I remember “I Need You” as one of the earliest ones, the George Harrison song off Help! It was easy.
First Divine Fits show:
BD: It was last week. Have you ever heard that response? “It was last week.”
It went really well. We played under a different name. We’re trying to do this completely unannounced show in Austin the day before we did our real first show. We just kind of wanted to do something that was totally low-pressure. I think word got out, though.
First Spoon show:
BC: It was at a Halloween party at somebody’s house in Austin. I remember we were still trying to decide on a name up until the week of the party. The lady throwing the party was like, “Look I’ve got to make this flier. I’ve got to make this invitation. This is very important.” So we were rushed to pick a name, and that’s how we ended up with Spoon.
AVC: Why’d you guys pick Divine Fits? Where’d that come from?
BD: I’m not sure. I think I liked the sound of the words. They looked good. We had a few band names that we were thinking about, so I made a bunch of mock record covers just to see which one kind of looked right, felt right. That one felt the best.
AVC: Do you keep a list of band names?
BD: I do now.