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What sticks around forever

Jim Eno of Spoon talks anti-SXSW, longevity, and ‘Hot Thoughts’

Spoon at the Austin City Limits Music Festival on October 12, 2014.

Dana Gardner / Shutterstock.com

Spoon is destined to go down in history as one of the great American rock bands. 

Hailing from Austin, Spoon has had a long and prolific career, spanning nearly twenty-eight years. Their first full-length studio album, Telephono, was released in ‘96 on Matador Records. This year finds them coming full circle with a return to Matador for their ninth record, Hot Thoughts, which carries an evolved sound, even for a band that’s had their niche well carved out for almost two decades.

Spoon will play Cains Ballroom on October 11.

Clark: Are you playing any hometown Austin shows on this tour?

Eno: Yeah, we leave tomorrow and play with The Shins on Saturday. We’re doing two shows at the Austin City Limits Festival and then we have a Stubbs show [that’s] sort of a side show, so that’ll be fun.

Clark: Spoon is one of those early South by Southwest success stories. Can you tell me about that?

Eno: Yeah, we were playing at an “anti-South by Southwest” show at a club in, I think it was ‘94, and Gerard from Matador [Records] happened to walk by and see us. We were playing at a club that was called The Blue Flamingo. It was a transvestite bar during the day and a punk rock bar at night. It was cool. 

Clark: You played Tulsa in 2010 and 2014. Did you have any early day shows here?

Eno: Ya know, I can’t remember. I wouldn’t rule it out. The problem is sometimes when you are on tour so much you get into like “Groundhog Day.” I remember one time in Paris we were playing this club in a strip mall, but we could’ve been in Waco, Texas the whole time and we couldn’t tell where we were. When you tour a lot it can get—disorienting, I guess.  

Clark: As a producer and owner of a studio, which do you prefer—the studio or playing live?

Eno: I like both parts of it. I love being in the studio, obviously. I feel like making records is really important. It’s the thing that sticks around forever, ya know. People can go and listen to this music forever, so we always try and make sure every song is great. That being said, there is something about playing live. You can’t match that feeling. Where you’re in a club, there’s maybe four walls, it’s dark, it’s loud, and people are really excited. There’s an energy there you can’t get any other way. The other thing I like about playing live after a record is released is, ya know, we’re in the studio trying all these things to make these songs great and you’re thinking in the back of your head “I think this is good. I think we made the right decision on this part.” And then you go out and play it live and people are, like, loving these things you did in the studio. It gives you this full circle thing where everything you did in the studio was worth it.

Clark: Who produced Hot Thoughts and what was it like for you to work with another producer?

Eno:  We’ve always worked with an outside producer, except for Transference. We basically co-produce the records. We started working with Dave Fridmann on They Want My Soul, so he’s our latest producer crush. 

Someone like Dave … he’s very collaborative. He basically will make a record that sounds like Spoon but give his flavor to it. It really, really works. He has great ideas and is a great engineer and great mixer.  If you think about it like all of us hanging out in the studio and people are throwing out ideas. It’s like a studio creative party.

Clark: On WTF with Marc Maron, your bandmate, Britt Daniel talked about being dropped from Elektra. He thought it was over, but kept writing. Obviously it worked out. Is Spoon in a good place right now?

Eno: Yeah, there are a lot of bands that have gone through rough times, but what you said was correct. We kept sticking with it. We’d get a show or we’d have enough songs for a record. We keep putting out music because that’s what we love to do. And to be able to do that ... I dont know. We are very fortunate to be able to do that. But this is what we love to do and we’ll keep doing it and we’ll make it work.

Clark: Would you say has been one of the keys to Spoon's success and longevity? 

Eno: You don’t stop and keep putting out recorded material. What we have tried to do is just put out records as fast as we could. I also feel a key to the longevity too is because Britt is a great songwriter and is getting better and better at writing, which is crazy after nine records, ya know. 

Clark: When Spoon was on “The Late Show,” I noticed Little Richard on your bass drum head. What’s that about?  

Eno: We have a bunch of front heads that Britt finds [of] different images. That just happens to be the one we’re into, now. They’re basically just cool images we find that would look cool on the kick drum. I think we’re gonna break another one out for this tour.

Clark: What should fans or newbies expect from the show? 

Eno: It’s gonna be a diverse, rock show. I feel like we do a lot of up-tempo rock-n-roll songs in our set but we try to make it flow in an interesting way, so there’s gonna be peaks and valleys in it. We feel like that makes the live show a lot more interesting. 

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