“I’ve got this Reddit thing to do and I can’t find a picture,” Britt Daniel says with a laugh. In the midst of a “busy morning”, which Daniel drolly detailed as “getting a shower, getting breakfast”, the Spoon leader and singer-songwriter took a few minutes to sit down with Far Out to discuss the band’s brand new studio album, Lucifer on the Sofa.
The band’s tenth studio effort, Lucifer on the Sofa is the loosest and rawest Spoon album in nearly a decade. Inspired by the live experience and featuring a return to Daniel’s home state of Texas, the album is the kind of return to form that any great rock band does when the world around them gets a little too complicated.
But Daniel isn’t one to focus on the past. After compiling a greatest hits album, the first in the band’s now three-decade long history, Daniel got down to making Lucifer on the Sofa almost immediately. More than half the album was completed when Daniel and the group were forced to halt their work thanks to the Covid pandemic. When they returned, it was all about getting back to work.
It’s part of Spoon’s M.O: you don’t get to ten albums, hundreds of concerts, and a feverishly devoted fanbase by taking it easy. There’s no real room for any over-sentimentality – but Lucifer on the Sofa proves that the mundane can be beautiful too.
FO: I was hoping that we can start actually back in 2017: Hot Thoughts comes out, there’s the subsequent tour, there’s a greatest hits album (Everything Hits At Once), there’s All the Weird Kids Up Front, and Covid. Where in that timeline does Lucifer on the Sofa start?
Daniel: “The very start of it was before the greatest hits record, but just a bit, a tiny bit. Most of it started happening after that tour, yeah. The first songs we recorded were ‘My Babe’ and ‘On the Radio’, but the oldest song was ‘Satellite’. We’ve been playing that one since 2014. We got to it later, but that’s way older.”
FO: Why go back to Texas?
“Well, we wanted to take a break with how we’ve made the last few records. Not only for sonic reasons: we wanted to take a break from the way we’ve made the last few records and one of the things we wanted to do is record in a different place.
“We did the last couple of records with Dave Fridmann. And when you record with Dave everybody comes to him because he’s that good. I don’t think he’s been in an airport for ten years or something. I think that’s what he told me. So you go to him and you’re out in the woods – it’s a bit isolated, I guess you’d say, this record, we had the idea about going back to Austin, making a record where we could take in some of the vibrancy of the city, taking the energy of the city and use that to make a record.
“You know, for instance, go see a show at Hotel Vegas and not go to bed instead, just go do some recording. And it worked great for a while.”
FO: How has Austin changed in the past 20-30 years?
“It’s a lot bigger. It’s massive. You know what I mean? It’s just a totally different city than it used to be, but I guess most cities are changing. It seems like Austin has gotten more money and more skyscrapers and more people than the typical city
“Most of my friends who’ve been there a long time would say it’s not a good thing. But surely there’s good things about it. And I mean, the thing is that it’s still a city where you can go out and see your choice of 200 different bands on a Monday night. And it’s still a city that has some institutions that have a character and class and maybe even a funk to them. There’s still a lot going for it, but it’s so much more expensive and it’s harder for musicians to live here. I hate that about it.”
FO: Do you take in some of those contemporary influences when you guys are recording and writing or do Spoon kind of exist in its own little world?
“Yeah, we wanted to take in influences and we wanted to take on some of the energy of the city instead of me being in a situation where you’re staying in a farmhouse, staying at the studio and these little bunk beds. Which is a cool thing. I mean, it’s intense and it really keeps you focused, but I don’t think I have any trouble focusing, honestly. So the idea was we make a record that’s more about being a little bit more social, a little bit more about being real.”
FO: Does that mean it was a little more relaxed this time around?
“Yeah, it was. I mean, it was for a while. All these plans were great until about March 12th of 2020. [Laughs] Oh God. I can’t believe it’s that long ago.”
FO: What, what was that impact like when you guys just had to completely stop?
“It was freaky. Nobody had ever seen anything like it before. I imagine my experience was fairly similar to yours, but I mean, in terms of the band situation, it just put us way off. We thought we were almost done with the record, or maybe three quarters of the way done with the record and we couldn’t see each other for a long time.
“And during that time I figured out that the thing that made me feel the most normal was writing. So I wrote a whole lot and didn’t want to stop, really. It was the thing that made me feel good. And so then suddenly we were far away from being finished because I had all these other songs that had to go in, and maybe some of those other ones had to come out because these were better.
“So it was a blessing and that we got more songs. That’s the long-term view, but in the moment it was pretty frustrating. It was like, ‘When are we going to get it to finish this thing? It’s been too long already'”.
FO: Which one of those new songs do you think really kind of put the flag down and said ‘All right, this is how we’re going to move forward’?
“I wouldn’t say that there was a stylistic change. It was more about just having time, you know, and we had, uh, we had the idea from the beginning that this needs to be a great rock and roll record. There’s not enough great rock and roll records being made. Records that make you feel real good to put it on.
“When the pandemic happened, I believed more than ever that that should be continued. The blueprint, the idea behind this one. So we didn’t change the styles. I mean, the only thing that happened that was a little tricky was I came up with that one song, the song ‘Lucifer on the Sofa’, and when we recorded that one with Dave Fridmann, we did it remotely.
“Most of the songs we did with Mark Rankin, and we did those all in person with him. And then, because we had so much time apart, we decided to take on this one song with Dave Fridmann and it’s a beautiful song. It’s a timely song, but it sounds very different from the rest of the tunes.
“We didn’t think it could fit on the record, but once we figured out we could put it on last and have that be sort of a sendoff where things sort of veer off into outer space, that made sense to us.”
FO: Did it shift the band dynamic at all? In that some of the other guys had more freedom and maybe you don’t have to look at them in the eyes and say, ‘That’s not good enough’?
“I’m not sure about that. No, we don’t have any problems with that. I mean, everybody’s welcome to tell me when it’s not working. I want them to. I think that we’re pretty fucking old enough that we’re past that point and we’ve done this so many times that it’s just not the way you make records – to be precious and overly sensitive. There’s no time for bullshit.”
FO: Do you listen to any of the other Spoon albums at all? Are you a nostalgia guy at all or is it just move forward?
“I mean, I never know what people mean by “nostalgic”. I mean, I guess I have a sentimental side.”
FO: You don’t sound very sure about it though.
“I do like to move forward. I mean, we’ve never done a tour where we do an old song in that way. I always wanted to move forward. I wanted to do the next thing.
“And it took me a long time to agree to do a greatest hits record, because it was always like there was something new to do. We eventually did it and that is when – you just asked me ‘do I go back and listen to Spoon records’ – I did for that. I listened to them all front to back in order for that.”
FO: What was your main takeaway from that?
“I liked them. I remember being shocked at how much I really loved Girls Can Tell. That was the one that kind of stood out as better than I would’ve expected, but they’re all pretty damn good, other than the first one.”
FO: What’s wrong with the first one (1996’s Telephono)?
“The first one… the first one’s good. It’s a moment in time. But even when I was listening for the greatest hits and I listened to the first one, I was like, ‘Yeah, there’s parts that don’t sound like the me that I know now’. But, I could remember that guy and where he was at the time. The attention was largely about playing songs that were loud enough and fast enough to get people to pay attention in a bar. That’s what those songs were really about.”
FO: What are Spoon songs written for now?
“I guess I’d say that [Telephono] was before we started thinking about records. By the second thing we put out, Soft Effects, I’m trying to think if there’s a single song on there that we played live – I don’t think there was – before we recorded it. It was meant to be a record. And I love that record. That’s one of my favourite things we’ve done. It’s just, like, it’s only five songs.”
FO: So this is going to be the longest gap between any Spoon records. Is it always definitive that Spoon is coming back, that everything’s going to snap back into place?
“Oh no. I might make a solo record. I might open a liquor store. I don’t know, we kind of figured out what we wanted to do on this one while we were touring for the last one. And I suspect that might be the case again. And we have a lot of tour dates coming up. It’s one of my favourite parts of the job. I think it will become clear after that.”
FO: How do you think touring is going to be different now that you’re touring in the middle of Covid life?
“Well, we toured a bit in September and October, so we have a little bit of an idea. It was, um, it was different in a few ways and I’d been warned that it would not be as fun, but I found it to be just as fun.
“The essential parts of it, all the most important parts, we’re all the same: hanging out with my buddies all during the day and then a party at night and having the shared experience with a lot of strangers. Loud music and a beautiful night. That part is still all the same.
“Nothing about that had changed. There were times when it felt like it was never going to come back. And so, just to be doing it at all was incredible. And for it to still be just as much fun.
FO: What song from the album are you looking forward to most playing live?
“I haven’t thought about that, but if I have to pick one out, I think I really like ‘The Devil and Mr. Jones’. I really like it, it feels all right. We haven’t played those much. We played some of the songs on that little tour, like ‘Wild’ and ‘My Babe’ and ‘The Hardest Cut’. And these songs really lend themselves to being played live.
“I mean, they basically the idea was ‘Let’s make a record where it sounds like a band playing in a room and band that’s hashed out what they’re going to do before we hit the record button,’ instead of, you know, like the last record, for instance – it sounds like a band writing the songs as we’re recording them. It’s very, it’s very produced.”
FO: You don’t dislike Hot Thoughts, do you?
“It’s just different. I like it a lot. I’m glad we did it. And I’m glad we went down that path and we kind of pushed out and tried some things we’d never done before. But you always kind of react against react to the last record you’ve made, or we do at least I do. I felt like we should turn some kind of corner.”
Spoon’s new album Lucifer on the Sofa is out now. You can read Far Out’s full review here, and stream it below.