Britt Daniel, lead singer and songwriter of the Austin band Spoon, took a few minutes out of his busy SXSW schedule to sit down at a local bar and talk with Salon. Spoon's "Gimme Fiction," will be released on May 10. And it's one of the best records of the year so far.
A few years ago you said that your next record was going to be "Marvin Gaye meets Iggy Pop." I'm not hearing it.
I guess it didn't really work out that way, did it? I mean, I would love to meet that record, that sounds like a great record. But really, I think I was just running my mouth a little bit during that interview.
You draw on a lot of old rock bands for inspiration, but never really come across as blatantly derivative in the way that many of the current buzz bands do. What distinguishes you?
I think what separates a lot of bands is the type of songwriter that you have. It can be easy to cop a sound, but it takes a little bit more skill to come up with a great song, and always for us when we start out working on tunes there's a lot of groundwork done on getting the song to where it's supposed to be. And then there are just all the elements of recording. I'm really interested in how records sound and how records feel, and we're into doing that ourselves rather than letting some producer come and decide.
Is the Beatles' influence as huge in your music as it seems to be?
It's huge. I'm a huge fan. There was a period when we were working on this record where [the Beatles'] "Revolver" was the thing I was listening to over and over again, and I would go to sleep with headphones on listening to "Revolver," But then there was a period where [Prince's] "1999" was the record I was listening to over and over again, and then the soundtrack to [Steven Soderbergh's 2002 film] "Solaris." People in the band didn't really get that one.
Do you always get so obsessed with records?
I do go through periods of obsession with certain records.
I just got out of a period of obsession with [Prince's] "Around the World in a Day." And the Arcade Fire record, ["Funeral"]. It's a classic.
"How do you feel about Robbers on High Street? They sound remarkably like you guys...
Yeah, people keep telling me that. I met them in San Francisco and heard a couple of songs, and really I just thought they were really good and that they were very nice people. Frankly, when I listen to it, I think, "Is that really what my voice sounds like?" Because I don't think of my voice sounding like that. Maybe it does. Or maybe it's affectations that people are responding to. I don't know.
Has the next record started taking shape in your head?
Oh, the one after this one? This one's just starting to take shape in my head! I'm just starting to figure out how I feel about it.
How do you feel about it?
I love it. There are a couple moments that I'd love to have another shot at, but mostly I think it's my favorite record of ours.
What other records are you excited about right now?
I'm really looking forward to those Cure reissues that are coming out. "17 Seconds," "Faith," "Pornography" [which are being reissued by Rhino in April] and "The Head on the Door" are my favorite Cure records. I really wish they would do the same thing with Prince because his records need a remastering. I bet they're going to, now that there seems to be a bit of a Prince resurgence. I'm hoping that he takes this moment where he feels like people are watching him and uses it for good and just does something stripped down and hardcore.
Have you heard the new Beck record?
I like "Black Tambourine." I don't have all the song titles down, but there's another one I love on there.
I'm interviewing him next week. Any questions you think I should ask him?
Only ones that would probably insult him. I don't understand Scientology.