Critical Questions: The Spinto BandBy Chris Payne
The indie rock video is alive and well.
There's more to the Spinto Band than meets the eye. They seem to have a relatively modest discography (three LPs since 2006) until you dig a little deeper and realize they produced an additional seven (!) out-of-print albums since coming together in 1996. 2012's Shy Pursuit marked a return to self-releasing (via their own Spintonic imprint) and their creative output's emerged all the better. Working with a variety of producers and creative formats, they've so far churned out seven music videos from their latest effort, in addition to a little soundtracking for their friends' cinematic pursuits. We caught up with guitarist/vocalist Nick Krill and bassist/vocalist Thomas Hughes to fill us in on the details.
CM: Many people tend to think 2005's Nice and Nicely Done was The Spinto Band's first album, though I read you released seven albums over the eight years prior, which is quite a back catalog. Are any of those records still in print? Do you still play any of their songs in live shows?
TSB: None of them are officially in print, but I think most are available online if you know where to look and know who to ask. And yes, we do play some of those songs from time to time. In fact, our song "Summer Grof" from the album Moonwink was an old song from one of those albums that we dusted off and re-recorded.
How did you come up with the title Shy Pursuit for your latest record?
Nick was on a web site and it recommended a secret phrase for retrieving your account information. The suggestion that was randomly generated was "nick krill's shy pursuit." At the time we were in a strange place in our career, in the middle of a long hiatus after a quick burst of notoriety from our first two albums. We were in the midst of recording this album and pursuing our career slowly, but surely in a way that felt comfortable to us. This random secret question pretty much characterized what we were up to: in shy pursuit of a career in the music trade.
Musically, how do you think Shy Pursuit compares to your past records?
The last two albums, particularly Moonwink might have been more an exercise in arranging using instruments. But Shy Pursuit is probably more an exercise in arranging using sound recording. In Shy Pursuit, sometimes the aggangement element is not necessarily a part played on an instrument. Sometimes the part that moves the arrangement forward could be a change in timbre of a sound, or a delayed sound in the background, or even just muting sounds at specific times.
That was your first self-released LP in quite some time. How did you like coming back to the Spintonic label after working with labels like Virgin and Park The Van?
It has been a good experience so far. We have always been very hands on and this processes is probably the most involved we have been in any of our releases. Self-releasing has primarily been a positive experience, but it can be frustrating sometimes dealing with a lot more decisions and emails/phone calls when we'd rather be in the studio recording. Overall I think it's great, though. We are certainly lacking the experience of someone who has been running a label for the last 20 years, but everyone has got to start someplace.
The band has already released a handful of videos (three, if I'm not mistaken) for songs off Shy Pursuit. What's inspired you to place such an emphasis on the video format?
There are actually seven videos at this point! We've always been very involved in the visual elements of the band and music videos seem to be the best way to present our music to the world, considering how much of a visual medium the internet is. We're also lucky to have so many talented friends who agree to keep working with us!
I'm interested in the creative process of collaborating with directors in the making of your videos. Do you have a particular favorite director to work with?
The directors will usually dream up a concept and ask for our input if they need it. Some have been more involved than others. We got to work with Albert Birney, Phil Davis, Nicholas Gurewitch, Eric Notarnicola, Daniel Gray Longino and Eric Laplante and they are the best directors/animators out there.
You've also been creating soundtracks for films yourselves, 2010's The Beast Pageant and 2010's Biba! One Island, 879 Votes. How did those collaborations come about? What do you like about doing soundtracks?
The Beast Pageant is the product of our long-time visual collaborator Albert Birney, so he just asked us to be involved. Biba! was another local acquaintance who asked us to be involved. Something that's nice about doing soundtrack work is that there is an inherent direction to steer your composition. On our albums, sometimes we find ourselves "chasing the dragon", that is, looking or searching aimlessly for a vague part or sound that fits the arrangement. With film, that dragon is less ambiguous.
You'll be touring through European countries like Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands this fall. Do you have a particular favorite international city or venue to visit and play in?
I've always been partial to Amsterdam in terms of city ideals. I just love seeing so many methods of transportation coexisting so fluidly. There are bicycles next to boats next to cars next to trains next to confused pedestrians like me wondering why more cities haven't caught onto this utopian way of life.
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