Before their gig at the O2 Academy Liverpool, Fred and Tom of Spector took 15 minutes (which turned into nearly 25 while Fred ate his pizza) to give LSMedia an interview on their tour, song writing and Liverpool’s architecture.
How does your own headline tour compare to playing festivals?
(Fred) It’s different, when you’re playing festivals you aren’t sure if everyone who is there wants to see you, whereas if someone’s at a gig the chances are they’re there to see you, so it’s more intimate and more kind of focussed and just maybe more… has more of a potency to it. I like gigs because everything’s more concentrated and kind of intense, I guess. It’s dark and it’s small and intimate and… romantic and loud and feisty and longer and there’s more light. There’s just a couple of reasons for how they differentiate.
(Tom) You’re breaking your own rule. What you said yesterday – the next time I hear someone use ‘couple’ –
(Fred) Even more than a couple.
Are there any places you’re looking forward to especially on the tour?
(Fred) Liverpool, Leeds is going to be great, Manchester and London.
(Tom) And every single show.
(Fred) Although especially due to population density those are going to be invariably more fun, they’re going to be busier. It’s all happening on Spectour IV… Tropicana Juice, Cadbury’s Flake, Walker’s Crisps – multiple flavours – yeah, it’s happening. It’s 2012. Check it out. We’re alive and well.
What drew you to Splashh and Swim Deep as support bands?
(Fred) What do we think of them?
(Tom) Meh. No, they’re brilliant.
(Fred) I can take full responsibility for coming up with the support bill, so you’re welcome, to everyone in this crowd. It was our duty to bring two premier bands with us, and we more than fulfilled that duty. They’re the best bands in the country right now! In England for Swim Deep but also in Australia for Splashh – no they’re New Zealandish – or New Zealanders.
(Fred) Kiwi, if you will. What do I think of them? I think that Swim Deep are the next terrific band and I think Splashh… well you just wait till you see what they’ve got up their sleeves.
How do you go about writing songs?
(Tom) Not really together…
(Fred) I can’t risk my career in the hands of them! We’ve started to write more together, although the song writing process for me is –
(Tom) I think it kind of begins individually.
(Fred) Then it grows. It’s good when you get the whole band hearing a song. That’s how the album ended up because I played lots of people demos, just ones that I would record at home. That’s quite personal, I have yet to learn how best to do it in a collaborative way, but I know it works.
Me and Chris, we co-wrote ‘Twenty Nothing’ and that really worked. I don’t know, it’s not always the most pleasant experience and it’s not always fun, it can be quite intense, and generally I find that the best work is done after hours and days of no ideas coming and listening to the same piece of music again and again. If you’ve got a feeling about a song and you keep going with it even when it feels like all is lost, like progress does happen. That can be the least… fun bit. It’s the most stimulating on a creative level, but it’s not as fun as playing shows or hanging out though. You’ve really got to pull stuff from somewhere.
I don’t really know how song writing works because essentially you’re making something out of nothing. Not as in like with pottery where you’re making a pot out of clay… those creative processes still have the medium you need. I think that with song writing it’s invisible and it’s from the brain. It can be quite odd and quite strange – there’s a kind of quite a random element to it, and I don’t have any knowledge musically in terms of music theory, I can’t actually write from an intellectual level knowing what will work, which is sometimes helpful and sometimes isn’t.
But that’s the thing, once you’ve got an idea – and there should be an idea at the centre of every song – that’s where you find your flow, because if you’re just writing a song for the sake of writing a song, generally they work out as being the least good songs.
When I started writing ‘Chevy Thunder’, I knew I was going to write a song called ‘Chevy Thunder’ and I knew I had to write that song and so then the chords and melodies were serving the idea of the song about a car, rather than having a great melody and chords and then trying to think of words.
When I wrote ‘Grey Shirt and Tie’, I heard the beat of ‘don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me’ *demonstration of the beat* and so I wrote a Blackberry note to do a song based around that beat.
With ‘Never Fade Away’, I was limited to the keyboard and the drum machine I had and it was like write a song using this. So whether it be a lyrical idea, or the technology you have or just stealing a bit of another song. For me that’s how song writing works. There’s always something I want to fulfil.
It’s annoying because on that album there are a couple of songs that, for me, still feel unfinished.
If you weren’t doing music, what would you be doing?
(Fred) I think I’d be looking for a lifestyle that would involve doing as little work as possible because inherently I’m a lazy person and don’t find… music doesn’t feel like work. A lot of the stuff that happens around it does feel like work, but song writing and performing are fun. Tom, what would you be doing?
(Tom) Probably have just finished university… wouldn’t have a job…
(Fred) You might have a wife.
(Tom) Not yet… maybe.
(Fred) I’m probably more likely to have a wife if I wasn’t doing music. It’s quite hard to maintain relationships.
Which has been your favourite video to shoot?
(Fred) My favourite video… I actually love how ‘Friday Night’ turned out. We set the bar pretty high with ‘Chevy Thunder’ and just making that video is one of the best experiences of my entire life – I don’t think anyone who’s not in the band and says they love the video can understand that every single scene of that video implies another few hours that aren’t in the video. It was a 48 hour experience that was just incredible.
(Tom) The only set up bit was when we arrived in… it was just off like a road and there was just a car full of Mexican gangsters and we were like ‘oh so this is the set up bit’.
(Fred) It was all really unplanned, and that made it really fulfilling. If you make a video and all you can remember is the making of the video itself, then it probably wasn’t a fun video to make. With ‘Chevy Thunder’ I don’t really remember the cameras being on. Everything I remember is an experience. It was incredible.
I think that overall I’m really proud of our set of videos, I think they’re a lot more interesting and exciting that most bands’ sets; they push everyone involved, including ourselves. Even when a video is not as good as it should be, it’s a lot better than it was going to be. Like I want to make a series of videos that could be released on DVD.
How are you finding Liverpool so far?
(Fred) Yeah, we’ve come to Liverpool a few times, it’s one of my favourite cities.
(Tom) It’s amazing, the architecture. The… is it the Liver Building?
(Fred) I grew up watching ‘Brookside’ so when I come here it always reminds me of happy times.
What stories do you have behind your songs? Can I have one?
(Fred) ‘Celestine’ was based around two concepts. The first one was that I knew I wanted to write a big song… I was listening to the second Killers album a lot and I was kind of frustrated that I’ve never managed to write a song on that scale, so it was kind of the challenge of wanting to write a song on that level, mixed with then the name ‘Celestine’ when someone added me on Facebook, who I didn’t add but I thought that was a beautiful name. I thought that was a cool name, and there should be a song called that. I wanted to write this big song for the sake of writing a song and some people confuse, I think, wanting to write big songs with wanting to write hit songs that make lots of money. ‘Celestine’ hasn’t made us loads of money nor has it really been a hit song; I wanted to fulfil the challenge of writing a big song, which I believe I have succeeded in, whether or not it’s a hit or not.
(Tom) It’s huge!
(Fred) It’s a pop song using the medium of indie rock.
What’s your worst memory as a band?
That’s a great question. For me, it was about halfway through the summer when we were just playing festivals every weekend and we were always away, always traveling, and at some stage we just lost all sense of where we were. Every backstage looked slightly like mental asylums – these big white walls in squares without ceilings. You had the identical rider every time… paprika flavoured crisps in one bag. Across like three or four weekends I just lost the sense of where or when I was, or why. But then you don’t want to let a single person down so you give all the energy you have left to the performance because you know that there are people there to see you.
We all went very in on ourselves; we were trying to get our album out as well – well, we knew our album was coming out and it was tough because we had to be in the UK promoting at the same time as doing shows in Europe.
It was nothing bad happening, it was all amazing experiences, but if anything the bad memory is having amazing experiences so condensed within a small amount of space and time that you find yourself not appreciating the experiences as much as you should. You look back and think… well I can’t actually remember that because I spent most of that time sleeping or not thinking about it because it was so tough physically.
(Tom) The worst one for me was in France. It was a great festival but for me personally that was really really tough.
(Fred) Sometimes you have the most perfect moments when it’s intense – intense in a beautiful, great way. But sometimes you’ll be having the best day and then just suddenly it all gets to you, like really now I feel the next year is for me to chill out, but about four months just went by like that. And I’m sure they were four of the best months of my life but they went…