Spector Interview

“I’m on blue, Team Mystic, because I played Pokémon Blue. Tom, what team are you on Pokémon Go?” Popping his head around the corner, Spector bassist Tom Shickle acclaims “Yellow, because I played Pokémon Yellow. At first I didn’t realise but it’s all psychological.” It is 6 o’clock in the evening and Spector are backstage at The Deaf Institute preparing for their first of two albums shows at the venue. Tonight they were to play their 2012 debut record Enjoy It While It Lasts to a sold out crowd, followed by their sophomore album Moth Boys the day after.

Speaking with frontman Fred Macpherson, he recalls how these shows came to pass. “[The idea of the shows] came from when legendary bands did classic albums in full. At first it sort of started as a joke, but we did want to put on some shows that were a bit different. We weren’t necessarily going to do another headline tour of Moth Boys, so I wanted to see if we could put on some shows that would make it more interesting for us to play and more interesting for the audience. People seemed to get really excited by the idea straight away.” Macpherson carries on by explaining how he believes these shows will ingrain themselves into the band’s psyche. “I think it’s our way of understanding the albums more and working out how we go forward in making a new album, in context of really getting to grips with these albums and seeing them as single bodies of work.”

FH000021editPhoto by Saesha Blue Ward, https://www.instagram.com/saeshablue/

Despite being a band known for their brilliant live shows, there was apprehensions about tonight. “I’ll be happy when we’ve got one out the way because, even in rehearsal, we didn’t play either of the albums from beginning to end. We wanted to keep it magical.” And with these shows, comes songs the band haven’t played live for a while. “Songs like No Adventure and Grim Reefer, we haven’t played in over a year/year and a half. It’s definitely been an interesting experience. We put certain songs in the set because we can emotional engage with them at the time. So like we started having Upset Boulevard back in the set recently, having not played it for a long time. Then you come back and play certain songs and it can feel quite weird.” “We’re also a lot older now” says keyboardist Danny Blandy. Fred continues “But I also imagine it’ll be same for songs off the second album. It’s not always in terms how old they are, but sometimes you’ll play a song and it’ll really mean something. Then another night it’ll just feel like you’re playing someone else’s song.”

FH000003editPhoto by Saesha Blue Ward, https://www.instagram.com/saeshablue/

After Enjoy It While It Lasts was released, fans had to wait three years to see its successor. However this time around, Spector have said that their next LP hopefully won’t take as long.  We’ve already heard a new track titled Tenner, which the band uploaded a live session version up on YouTube. “Tenner was one of the first songs we were happy with demo-wise for the new album. I was writing with Jed and he had this idea to make a song that sounded a bit like INXS. So he was referencing (imitates INXS’ I Need You Tonight).” Fred reveals that Tenner came together rather quickly in terms of writing, going on to say that quick songwriting can work for a track’s advantage.“I do tend to believe that the quicker a song comes, the more true the channelling of whatever the feeling is. This is because you can channel it directly. The songs that come quicker are more keen to exist, if that makes sense. Therefore it may have more of a place in the world. Whereas, not saying that a song that takes a long time isn’t good, it just doesn’t feel as natural when you really labour over writing a song. The plucking out of thin air is the really exciting thing when you’re writing it, it doesn’t really feel like you’re writing per se. It’s like waking up in the night needed to be sick.”

On Moth Boys, Spector worked with Dev Hynes of Blood Orange fame for a couple of tracks. Fred begins to talk about his relationship with Hynes. “He’s still the first person I send songs to, we still send each other unfinished things. I’m really glad we got the collaborations on Moth Boys, with Decade Of Decay and Cocktail Party, because they’re both really amazing songs.” He goes on to talk about what Dev is like to work with. “He’s quite weird to work with, maybe it feels like that because he’s a friend. Dev works on his own timeframe and his own way, so I wouldn’t be surprised if maybe one day we record a song that he’d written again. But in terms of our process in the studio, it’s quite laboured because we’re not natural players. As it stands with the albums we’ve made so far, we don’t just dive in and play it out and have it sounding really great. While he’s the sort of person that only really exists in the moment, so his ideas happen as they happen. It’ll be interesting though because I think our sound is developing in perhaps a really unexpected way, so we’ll see after our next album how we feel. We’re sort of in a different zone and I don’t want to ruin it.”

FH000015editPhoto by Saesha Blue Ward, https://www.instagram.com/saeshablue/

Chatter then turned back to Pokémon Go, but not in the way you might think. Fred thinks there is more to Pokémon Go than what you see at face value. “I think Pokémon Go is the single biggest step computer games have made since the Nintendo Wii. I always feel Nintendo, I know it might be an obvious thing to say, but they always try to innovate rather than trying to sell games. That’s kind of a rare thing. They’ve chosen innovation rather than just do what Sega do, who just farm out Sonic The Hedgehog games. They could easily have chosen to sell Mario games for other consoles and made a lot more money. They’re one of those weirdly pure companies and they have characters like Shigeki Morimoto who to seem to be the real artists in the world of video games.” However just like everyone, Spector feel the same pain we all do. “We were trying to work out if you could hatch eggs on the motorway, but I think it knows when you’re moving too fast. I was hoping to hatch a few 5km eggs today but it just doesn’t work.”

FH000005editPhoto by Saesha Blue Ward, https://www.instagram.com/saeshablue/

Leading up to the EU Referendum, Spector were vocal about the UK remaining in the EU. They even released an old demo called Born In The EU that never made it to the full recording process. We talk about what the impact of leaving may have on musicians. “I think it’ll be negative for both British bands touring Europe and European bands touring Britain, with all the extra amount of paper work there’s going to be. Then there is the amount it’s going to cost with having to get extra visas, which means there will be less chance for small bands to tour Europe. Obviously the bigger bands will be able to afford it, but I think it’ll be a shame that these small bands can’t just go and play a show in Paris or Barcelona easily.”

However Fred reckons that something positive could come from recent events. “The only good thing that I think will come from the negativity of the current political climate across music and the arts, is that people will have to respond to it a bit more like in the 70s or 80s. Back when things were a bit more difficult and music was more socially engaged. People turned to the music and the arts rather than entertainment, and it became a solace and a reaction to all the shit going on. So I only hope that out of this comes better music. There’s been good bands recently, but there just doesn’t seem like there’s been vital music that has been connected to recent times.”

FH000007editPhoto by Saesha Blue Ward, https://www.instagram.com/saeshablue/

Fans of Spector may have noticed recently that they’ve become infatuated with lyric ‘sick puppy’ from the song Bad Habits by The Last Shadow Puppets. It might come across that they are mocking the track, but in lieu of recent events, Spector’s frontman has a new outlook. “It’s caused quite an internal musical crisis inside me because, after the first time I heard it, I was so sure it was the worst song I’d ever heard. But with every subsequent listen, it’s made me have a different feeling. I went to Primavera [a festival in Barcelona] and I left Radiohead to go and watch The Last Shadow Puppets. And compared to Radiohead with all those bloody tunes, you know the long ones, the short ones, going to The Last Shadow Puppets and seeing them play [Bad Habits] kind of made make me think ‘Is this a purified, boiled down version of what songwriting is?’ In the same way a single boiled potato might be more enjoyable to eat than some gratin infused with truffle oil and oyster shavings.”

He continues and talks about what happened when he spoke to someone from The Last Shadow Puppets’ label. “I was also speaking to someone from Domino when those sick puppy t-shirts came out and I was like ‘what’s going on? Has the world gone mad.’ And he was just like ‘bad habits, sick puppy. Say what you want but that’s when you know a song has become a hit when it’s entered the vernacular and the lexicon.’ The phrase sick puppy wasn’t a phrase before and now it is and he was like ‘Rock The Casbah? Same thing and that’s a hit.’ I just think they should have maybe called the song Sick Puppy. But it’s definitely made me come round to that album, especially the track The Dream Synopsis. I think once again that Alex Turner has proved that he’s one step ahead of everyone, even with Miles Kane.”

Liam Egan

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