Spoon's Britt Daniel recalls experimental scraps of Get Nice!
Photo by Oliver Halfin
BY GREGORY ADAMS
Earlier this year I had a chance to speak with Spoon guitarist-vocalist Britt Daniel for Guitar World, with the talk centering on the long-running Austin, TX outfit’s new album, Lucifer on the Sofa. Long story short, the record cooks, but during the talk, Britt got into everything from his evocatively rhythmic right hand, to bandmate Gerardo Larios’ “fuckin’ ferocious” guitar solo on the “The Hardest Cut”. You can check out that piece here.
Spoon have often been praised for a taut and considered approach to rock. Get Nice!, meanwhile, is a 23-minute head trip of loose song ideas where Spoon wander from guttural graveyard blues (“I Got Mine”) towards astral projected synth-scapes (“Be Still My Servant”, “Love Makes You Feel”), folky character portraits (“Mean Mad Margaret”), vampy, possibly pitch-shifted funk (“Dracula’s Cigarette”), and psych-smeared proto punk (“1975”). Rarely does a song reach completion, making Get Nice! more of a transitory free-for-all. Nowhere is that more clear than on “I Can Feel It Fade Like An AM Single,” an all-time heartwrecker that wildly dips in-and-out of time.
Though Spoon albums have contained the odd instrumental (see the late-night tension of Girl Can Tell’s “Take a Movie,” or the sax ambiance of Hot Thoughts*’ closing “Us”), it’s notable that *Get Nice! goes for broke on this front, with half of its 12 tracks running without Britt’s familiar, smoky voice. That said, I’ve imagined what his vocal hook could have been on the hypnotic “Tasty Fish” for 15 years, now; it’s sublime.
Marking quite possibly the first ever interview on the subject, Britt got into a few of the details of Spoon’s experimental, if under-loved Get Nice!
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Get Nice! is one of the Spoon releases that has stuck with me the most over the years. There’s just something about the rawness of some of those songs. Like, “I Can Feel It Fade Like An AM Single”— there’s this enormous shift with the tempo on that song. It goes up and down throughout, but that’s almost the charm of it. What do you remember about putting together these particular tracks?
Britt Daniel: We’d gotten into this thing after we finished an album where we were always asked to contribute bonus tracks for this or that. We did that for Gimme Fiction, which was the one before Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga [it initially came packaged with a second disc of bonus tracks]. They used to be called b-sides, now all of a sudden they were called bonus tracks, and we’d have to give them to this record company, or a distributor.
This time I was like, “Ok, I’m just going to make an entire EP based on all these scraps I’ve got.” They were demos of songs that weren’t [finished], and a lot of instrumental stuff. It was right after I’d gotten a house of my own for the first time. I had my own Pro Tools set-up. I thought, “I bet I can just stitch something really cool together.” That was a challenge. I took a week or two doing mixes of all of those demos, just stitching them all together.
While Get Nice! was threading together idea-based pieces rather than concrete song structure, had anything from the EP been worked out more definitively for the live set?
I don’t think we ever did. Get Nice! wasn’t very...well…it was just a bonus disc that came with Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, and it never really got its due. No one’s ever asked me about it [laughs]. We did release it on its own [eventually]. I don’t think it’s on vinyl, but we put it out as its own digital release.
Like I said, “I Can Feel It Like An AM Single” is one of many favourite Spoon songs.
It’s funny you mention that slow down/pick up part of it. When I listened to [the demo], I was like “Oh…this can’t be used because it slows down.”
It’s just me [doing] the very basic, earliest take of it, and kind of figuring out how this song should go, so I’m altering the tempo as it went. Later, I went in and played a drum machine manually to it. It sounds like it’s slowing down intentionally, but it’s not. That was by accident.
Were you working pads?
I was working pads; it was an HR-16. I can’t remember who made them, Alesis maybe? It’s a piece of a shit [laughs], but it's very easy for me to play.