Live from Anne’s Backyard: Spoon
Intimate performances, fresh sounds, and candid conversations with a view.
Come on in pals, the water’s fine, and the live tunes are even finer. Austin's grand purveyors of rock ‘n' roll Spoon blessed us in Anne’s Backyard on the first sun-kissed — nay, sweltering — LA day of the year with a special release day celebration of their acclaimed tenth studio album “Lucifer on the Sofa,” and the guys brought some heat of their own.
“We looked around and we thought, there's not enough great rock and roll records being made,” says frontman Britt Daniel of the album’s inception.
So they went ahead and amended that. “Lucifer,” the band’s first album recorded in its Austin hometown in more than a decade, is a triumph from a group noted for its dependable excellence, this time raising the bar by paring it all down. The record is loud and urgent, unshackled from studio preciousness and pandemic disconnection towards the pursuit of the spark kindled by five friends playing in a room together, lo-fi style. The result is a testament to the thrill of live chemistry, spontaneity, and rough edges, distilled through nearly three decades of matured instincts and lightning bottled on stage. But don’t take our word for it.
You can catch that sweat live on June 2 when Spoon brings the “Lucifer on the Sofa” tour to the Hollywood Palladium, and we’ve got five pairs of tickets you can enter to win now.
In the meantime, put eyes (and ears) on their extended Backyard session, which serves up cuts from the new album, back catalog classics, and a freewheeling conversation with DJ Raul Campos — plus some surprises along the way. Check out Spoon's live performance of "Wild" and our favorite moments from Raul's chat with Britt and guitarist/keyboardist Alex Fischel below.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
KCRW: Is your leveled-up live chemistry something that you're seeing now that you didn't really expect it to be?
Alex Fischel: We were talking about this the other day — something feels different, feels more relaxed and loose or something. I think we just trust each other all a bit more from playing a bunch now together. So it kind of naturally started doing that.
Britt Daniel: And we got the talent.
You made this record in a reverse fashion from the traditional recording process, where a lot of the songs were perfected on the live stage before taking them into the studio.
Daniel: Our last record [2017’s “Hot Thoughts”] was kind of a produced record. We were writing the songs as we were recording them, some of the times, and you end up with a certain sounding record that way. And I think because we were just getting off so much on playing live, we had this idea, and also we were kind of reacting against that record. So we wanted to do something a little different, and the idea was get the songs, hash them out ahead of time, try to make it sound like an 8-track record from 1968 where you actually have to think out the parts and get them all sorted, and then you hit the record button.
How much did that live performance influence the actual record?
Fischel: A lot. That was the whole mentality, was to try to do it all in the room together, as opposed to how we had done it the last time more pieced together, and just catch that sweat.
The record is getting a lot of positive reviews, in part because it's one of those albums that you can hear start to finish. It's got dynamics, it's got flow, it has a beginning, it has an end. Talk about your approach to crafting albums.
Daniel: We work on the sequence a lot. And it's not something that we just haphazardly do. We might have worked on this sequence for a couple of weeks. That was sort of the vibe. I felt like [opening track “Held,” a Bill Callahan cover] sort of set the scene for what you're getting into. We think about all that.
And the closing cut is the title track, which was written during lockdown, and there was a lot that came into play when you were writing the lyrics. Talk to us about that.
Daniel: That was the one sort of timely song, maybe. It probably could not have been written any time other than April 2020. And in it, I go walking around Austin, Texas. I walk from my part of town, Southside, across the river to downtown, and sort of talk about what I'm seeing and thinking about. It was an Austin that I almost didn't recognize and I never thought I'd see. It was a moment.
How did it feel being back in Austin to record a record?
Daniel: It felt good for about four or five months. That was the idea, go back to Austin and make a record where, instead of being out in the woods where you're like 20 miles from a coffee shop, let's go down to Deep Eddy Cabaret and have a couple drinks and then take that energy back to the studio, or take it back to my house and just write with it.
And then lockdown happened, and you guys were about halfway through the record?
Daniel: Yeah. We thought we were maybe a little further on yet, and it turned out it was about halfway. Because I ended up writing more songs since I had so much time alone. And then I said, “Guys, we got to put this on, and we got to put this on, and maybe this will replace that one over here…” It stretched out. We don't like to wait this long between records. But one thing after another.
How many songs went by the wayside and were left on the cutting room floor?
Fischel: A lot [Laughs].
Daniel: We worked on 42 songs on this record. I'm not saying we recorded 42, but we there were 42 songs that we worked on.
Fischel: Some of them are worth revisiting.
Daniel: So we’ll finish them, they'll probably come out eventually.
You continue to play a lot of the older songs from the really early records, which have taken on kind of a new life when you guys perform live. Is that intentional?
Daniel: Yeah, there's some that we came up with new arrangements for. We like to make it hurt. You know, figure out a way to do it that's not rote.
KCRW Music Director: Anne Litt
Interview: Raul Campos
Sound Engineer: Paul Smith
Assistant Engineer: John Meek
Video Director/Editor: Angie Scarpa
Director of Photography: Vice Cooler
Camera Op: Dalton Blanco
Producer: Melanie Makaiwi
Digital Producer: Andrea Domanick
Artwork: Gabrielle Yakobson