Spoon’s Alex Fischel talks Hot Thoughts and getting back on the road at SXSW

It seemed more than apt to be sitting down with Spoon in their hometown of Austin, Texas, at possibly one of the busiest times of the year – SXSW. The band has Australia firmly in their sights with shows on the east coast commencing this week, but before they make the trip out, Larry hung out with Alex Fischel for a brief chat last week as Spoon embarked on their three-show residency at The Main.

You had your first show last night. New Pornographers popped up as well, and some other great bands. How does it feel to be playing the new songs in front of a friendly SXSW crowd?

Yeah, they’re forgiving. It’s been great. We’ve done them now, here. We did some in London. We played a show there, and we did a show outside of LA in Santa Ana. We’ve played new songs at all of them.

It’s been going pretty well, but I think this week we’re definitely bringing them all out, so yeah, it’s super exciting.

When it comes to the process from which you take the songs from the record, put it onto the stage, has that process changed over albums, or by the time a song’s on the record, do you know how it’s going to sound live, or there’s still a lot of work to do?

You’re making a record, so you’re just focused on that. At least from my point of view. I think I can speak for everybody in saying that when you’re making the record, you’re focused on making a good record. That’s the focus and it’s going to live on its own. Then once it’s done, you have to go back and say, “Okay, what don’t we need out of all this? What can we get away with stripping away?” and kind of put a puzzle back together. Take it apart, put it back together. That’s always been the case in my experience with playing in this band. You kinda just take a step back, take a deep breath, figure it out, and it works out. It works out. Yeah.

Are there any songs on this record that have proven particularly difficult in that respect?

Not off the top of my head. They all required, “Okay, let’s try it without doing this part,” or “Okay, can somebody cover this while somebody else does this?” That kind of thing. Just massaging it.

All of you are very busy on the stage, and I don’t think that’s ever changed or ever will.

There’s tonnes to cover!

Last time I actually saw you live was here in Austin. You did the big Auditorium Shores show a couple of years ago now.

The one with fireworks?

Yeah, the fireworks at the end, and I think there were big shadows that you were doing on the back walls. You know, Austin being … Do you live here now, or do you still live in LA?

I don’t. I live in LA, but I come here a lot.

So playing to an Austin crowd, does it feel like a hometown show in any respect?

Yeah, I’d say so, because the band is so well regarded here. It’s a hometown band, so there’s definitely a vibe you get from people that are excited to see a band that they’ve been familiar with for so long.

 This is amazing, the album number nine. I still remember when the first one came out. Listening to this record, it’s … In a lot of ways, you’re going back to the beginning, back to Matador, but in no way does it sound anything like what you started with.

It feels like the ninth record. Is there an effort within the band to try and do things that you haven’t done before when you sit down to make a new record? It seems like that’s the result, but is that a purposeful effort?

Probably. You don’t ever want to do exactly what you did before. That’s kinda boring. The last song we worked on from They Want My Soul was “Inside Out”, and that to me seems like somehow a little bit related to the material of that song, “Hot Thoughts”. We didn’t really talk about it, but it was like the jump off point for where we picked back up when we started working on the songs for Hot Thoughts. That guided the direction of where it went.

Working with Dave on the record,  was it good to have his voice in that process as well?

Yeah, I love that guy. I really love that guy. He’s so fun to be around. Super down to earth. Great ideas, great technical skills. Ten out of ten.

One way I’ve always thought of him, he’s always had a good way to make weird sound good, if that makes sense.

Totally. Yeah, and he’s the kind of guy that will push you to make things weirder. That’s a cool thing to have in a producer, instead of someone that’s like, “Man, I don’t know if this is gonna work for the radio.” You know? Someone that’s like, “Oh, that’s weird. That’s good. Do that.”

There must have been a period in the middle of the discography that was a pressure from some people to, “Oh, this doesn’t sound like a sync deal for, you know”…

I honestly can’t say, ’cause I wasn’t around then.

From what other people have said though, do you know if there was those pressures?

Oh, I’ve heard things through the grapevine, but I’m not gonna…

We’re not gonna get things third party.

I’m not gonna throw anyone under the train.

Which was the first record that you were on?

The first one I did was They Want My Soul.

That’s right. Was it hard jumping in the deep end then?

No. No, it wasn’t hard. It was interesting. You have a band that’s been working for a while, and you gotta figure out what you can do, and you wanna contribute but you don’t want to fuck with anyone else’s thing. You get the vibe and you figure out what you can do. Everyone was super nice.

You would say that, though. They’re all sitting right there.

I would, yeah. They can’t really hear me, so I could say whatever the fuck I wanted, but no. They were. They all were really nice, and made me feel like it was okay for me to explore and figure things out for my own.

Now, when it comes to this record, are you feeling like there’s more of you in that record than in the past?

Yeah, I’d say so. I would say that, though.

You would say that, though. They’re sitting right there.

I wrote a song with Britt for this record, which was super exciting for me. I feel like it’s progressed well.

When it comes to the live show, you’re still figuring it out, but we’re gonna get to see it in Australia next week, and hopefully I’m gonna see one of the shows this week if I can find my way into the venue. You were talking about, before, about developing the songs live. Are they shaping up well live? Are you enjoying playing the new ones live?

So fun. So fun. Right now, if I had to pick one that I’m having the most fun playing, I know you didn’t even ask that, so I’m giving you a bonus.

I was leading. I was leading you for that.

Well, here you go. Right now, “Do I Have to Talk You Into It”. Super fun to play live right now.

I was walking down 6th Street yesterday, and I have a rule at SXSW. If I hear something that sounds cool, I just walk into the venue. I was walking past what ended up being The Main and I was like, “Oh, this sounds good,” and I just poked my head in and you guys were sound checking. It was a new song you were playing, so my ears picked up something good there.

Awesome.

I’ve only heard the record once, but I really enjoyed what I heard.

Thank you.

Really looking forward to it getting down to Australia. Have you had good experiences down there?

Yeah. I love it. It’s great. What’s not to like?

You’ve been there what, twice now?

Yeah, so this will be the third time I’m there. I do love going there.

It’s a long way to fly.

It is, but it’s worth it.The people are good, it’s a good vibe.

Are there any Aussie bands that you’re a fan of?

I know this one band, Tame Impala. Have you ever heard of them?

I’ve never heard of them.

Yeah, I don’t know who they’re like, they’re on the up. I’d look out for them. Pretty cool.

If you like them, you should check out King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

I think I know that name, yeah…

They’re great, and a hard name to forget.

Well, it’s a confusing name, but yeah. Hard name to forget, yeah. I did Laneway with Divine Fits and Pond was on that one.

Those were good shows, too, those Divine Fits shows, and … would have seen you here as well. Mohawk.

Were you ever at the Mohawk show when MIND was here?

A couple years ago, few years ago.

That was a fun show.

After Australia, you’ve got a busy year ahead of you. Are you excited to get back on the road? I know before the last record, there was quite a break. There was still a little bit of a break between these last two, but not as extensive.

Yeah, we went straight from touring They Want My Soul into working on Hot Thoughts, with a little bit of bleed over from touring. I’m excited to get back into the other side of it all, touring time, music time.

Back on the saddle.

Back on the saddle. Back in the bus.

 

 

 

 

Hot Thoughts is in stores now. The band tour Australia this week.

March 23rd | Metro Theatre, Sydney
March 25th | Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne

Photo by Zackery Michael.