A New York band by way of the UK, Spacehog first formed in 1994 and their local shows became legendary in the Village music scene. The band, with brothers Royston Langdon on vocals and bass guitar and Antony Langdon on guitar, along with drummer Jonny Cragg and lead guitarist Richard Steel, had a very unique, distinctive sound. Eventually, they inked a deal on the ultra-hip label Sire Records, fronted by Seymour Stein, who at that time was undoubtedly the connoisseur of cool.
Their debut sold over a million copies and spawned a hit single, “In The Meantime,” and the band did several major tours. Their semi-glam sound, mixed with distorted guitars and melodic basslines, brought to mind groups such as David Bowie and T Rex. It was a welcome respite to the doom and gloom grunge dominating the airwaves at the time.
The band managed to survive the decade, which included two more albums, forays into Hollywood and film by Antony, a romance between Royston and Liv Tyler that produced a marriage and a son, and a short-lived band called Arckid. But finally, after a 10-year hiatus, Spacehog has come out with a new album, As It Is On Earth.
“To me, the band never really broke up,” says Jonny. “It was always such a defining thing for me and was so close to my heart. We grew up in the same town and had the same dream of international success which somehow got cut a bit short. So it felt like we had some unfinished business.”
The one change in the group is multi-instrumentalist Timo Ellis, who takes over Antony’s spot while he stays on the West Coast to pursue his Hollywood goals. Timo is an old friend of the band. “He came into an Arckid rehearsal, down the hall from where his band The Netherlands practiced, and said he had had a dream in which he was playing in Spacehog,” laughs Jonny. “We simply put it to him a couple of years later that we make his dream a reality. Or a nightmare!”
Some of the new album is actually material the band started developing back in their days with Sire. “There are songs Roy wrote when we were demoing at David Sonenberg’s beach house in the ‘90s,” states Jonny. “And songs we all worked on very recently. Some tracks were collaborations with other writers. It comes from a variety of sources over a 15-year time span.” While some of the songs date back to their earlier days as a fledging band, the music has the feel of a more experienced, been-through-the-scene-and-survived maturity. “My best friend in England said it best when he declared that it was ‘Spacehog for grownups.’” Jonny adds.
The band still has the classic influences, but mixes in what they take from modern bands. “The usual Bowie, Queen, Zeppelin stuff,” Jonny says. “But I’m sure everyone weighs in with more recent stuff they have been listening to. Personally, I like to listen to new bands all the time.”
Live shows are still a priority for the group, and besides appearances at festivals such as Bamboozle in Asbury Park, they plan on hitting a lot of East Coast venues, as well as a possible residency in New York. They still do the songs from the ‘90s that fans want to hear, but will add a healthy dose of the newly recorded material. “Obviously, ‘In The Meantime’ gets a good cheer,” Jonny notes. “But it’s always nice when something new gets a good response. In addition, having Timo on board gives us a broader palette to try other songs from the four albums at our disposal.”
While looking to revamp their team on the business side, on the artistic side, Spacehog have returned to their musical heyday. Both fans and the band seem happy with the results of the recordings, and the response to the live shows. “Well, the musical goals have, I think, been met on the record,” Jonny says. “Which, for me, I guess is just to complete something that is lasting and resonant and we all can be proud of. I don’t know whether it’s better or worse than what came before it. I just know it’s honest and us, and I dig it.”
Spacehog will be performing on May 20 at The Bamboozle Festival in Asbury Park. For more information, go to spacehog.com.