Spoon has always been that band that you love without actually knowing it. Not only has their music been an indie rock staple on the radio and included popular streaming playlists for the past two and a half decades, their music has been used in countless pieces of television and film. From The Simpsons, Veronica Mars, and Scrubs to Horrible Bosses, Spiderman: Homecoming, and 17 Again, Spoon has made sure to make its mark on just about everything. Even politics, most recently, since Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg covered their song, “The Way We Get By,” back in April.
Jim Eno, drummer and one of the original members of Spoon, sat down with me for a chat about just how the band has gotten this far with their music, what they are up to now while on tour, where they plan to jump off from going forward, as well as what their down time and individual creative endeavors are made up of.
Your new release, Everything Hits At Once, is a collection of your greatest hits. It’s a lovely grouping of songs, in my opinion, but when it came down to it, how did you all decide what songs made this record? Was it based on all of your personal favorites and what you felt were your strongest tracks, or more based on how well some of these songs have done sales-wise and chart-wise?
It was a rough one. We have nine records, B-sides, and all of these other things, so Britt [Daniel] pulled out the entire catalog and he whittled it down to, I think, a three-disc set. We couldn’t do that, though—it’s not very cost effective to do that, but maybe we’ll do something like that later, like a deluxe box set, or something…. What it came down to, though, was maybe the songs that were more immediate and had been in our live set since those records have come out, because that is a good indication of whether the song relates to fans and people get excited about them, so we thought that would be a good gauge on whether they should be on this recent compilation.
Absolutely, that makes a lot of sense. Are there any songs that you are particularly fond of that you felt maybe should have gotten the recognition it deserves by being a part of this new album?
Well, I mean there are a ton of them. There are a lot of early ones that I think would be super cool to be on there, like “Anything You Want” or maybe something else off the Soft Effects EP, like “Mountain to Sound,” or something. Again, I feel like that would be for the box set.
Right, really find the place to let that extensive catalog of fan and band favorites be showcased in a special edition.
Exactly! Then we can have behind the scenes photos and more and more attention put into artwork and documentation of us and sort of the overall history of the band.
That would be really cool for fans, especially the ones who have been with you since the beginning. Twenty-five years of being a band means there are quite a few different eras the band has gone through. But with Spoon, I have always felt as though each new record was a new turn and a new surprise for listeners. Over the years, when it came to putting an album together, did you all strive to make something new that really varied from your previous work, or was it just a natural progression of the band’s style and perspective at each time in your lives?
I mean, it’s hard to say. All I can think about is in the studio, we consciously try not to reproduce ourselves. If we have an idea for a part or a feel for a song and we’ve done it a lot, we tend to be like ‘Ah, let’s think of something different….’ We want to create something that feels new to us, but maybe what it does is, as a whole, it makes the record seem more varied and that it’s going someplace truly new. As we start a new record, there might have been a song on the previous record that is sort of a jumping off point for the next record. From They Want My Soul, I think “Inside Out” was a good jumping off point. I don’t know if this new record is going to do something like that…. Maybe we’ll want to get into something that is more organic sounding, since the last few records have been a bit more keyboard based.
While speaking of a future record, this greatest hits album includes a new track, “No Bullets Spent.” What made you guys want to include this new song on the greatest hits album, rather than put it on a whole new record?
I don’t know, we just had this idea that as a greatest hits release, it would be cool to put a new song on it. We have been in the process of working on a bunch of new tracks since last November or so—maybe even a little bit earlier—and just when we were working on all of these tracks, “Bullets” is the one that bubbled to the top. We thought it would be a good companion, perhaps, for this compilation.
Absolutely, it definitely fits the attitude and the feeling of the greatest hits record as a whole. Do you maybe think that “No Bullets Spent” is your jumping off point for the next album? Or do you think you guys will pull in a little bit more from left field?
I don’t know. It is the newest track that we have been working on and we have been working with a new producer, too—Mark Rankin—and he helped us with that track, so I don’t know. We’ll just have to see how it goes. It is our first new track, though, of this era. So, we will see.
Spoon is currently on tour with Beck and Cage the Elephant. While all three of you might have coinciding fan bases, you’re all distinctly different artists. How did this lineup come about and how are you enjoying sharing the stage with these two so far?
We just got a request to join the tour. I think what they were trying to do was put together a touring package that was almost like a mini rock festival, you know? I feel like the lineup, like you said, is slightly varied, but it allows all of us to play in front of new fans, which is the goal. We always want new people to hear our music and playing in front of Beck’s audience and Cage the Elephant’s audience is great, because while a lot of those fans probably have heard of us, maybe there are some people who haven’t listened to our music or don’t even know who we are. This is a good opportunity to get on a stage with two great bands and playing in front of new people. It’s been pretty awesome, so far.
That does sound like a great opportunity, even this far into your career, to expand who listens to your music – both new and old.
Since Spoon has been around for quite some time, with 25 years of recorded music under its belt, I have to ask what you think has changed—if anything—about the music industry since you guys started out.
Oh, boy. I feel like for most bands that haven’t had a quick hit that catapulted them into radio stardom, it’s been hard for the last 25 years. As an artist, what we are constantly trying to do is create music and pay the bills in an environment that we have very little control over. You know, before streaming and everything, it used to be ‘How do we get noticed?’ and you would have to pick up a fanzine or be on a cool label for people to buy your music. Now, with streaming, it’s almost like there is too much noise, so how do you get noticed with just so much going on? It’s just challenging all the time. Different challenges over time, too. What we try to do is always put out records that we are really proud of and hopefully we will keep growing our fanbase that way so we can play the bills.
[Laughs] For sure. I think that you have had this longevity as a band because you constantly put out music that challenges yourself and your fans, as well as music that you very obviously seem passionate about.
I agree. That is how we stay creative and that is how we are still going to be excited about putting out music and putting on live shows. We have to feel like we are creating something new and fun and different for everyone involved.
You and Britt are the only two members of Spoon who have stuck it out for the long haul, but you’ve actually done a lot of work outside of this band through producing other people’s music, such as Father John Misty and Catfish and the Bottleman. When and why did you branch out into that part of the music industry? What drew you to that specifically?
Early on, we realized that the more self-sufficient we could be, the better off we could be as a band. We could do records by ourselves and basically produce as much of it ourselves so that we would have more control over the music. With that in mind, Britt is writing all the songs, so there is a lot of downtime for me while he is writing. I have just loved being in the studio since the early days, so I decided to start buying some gear and putting things together on my own—mainly to help us make records cheaply, but also to be able to produce bands and do things on my own when Spoon was either not active, or when Britt was off writing. I love it. It’s been great. Anytime I am home and we’re not doing any Spoon stuff, I’m always in the studio doing something, whether it’s mixing or producing, there are just a lot of different aspects of it that I get to do and love.
Be sure to catch Spoon on tour with Beck and Cage the Elephant on August 17 at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, NY, on August 20 at the PNC Bank Arts Center, and on August 21 at BB&T Pavilion in Camden, NJ!!