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INTERVIEW: Spencer

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Fantastic, thank you very much! We’re just back from a couple of Swiss summer-festivals, where we played the new album for the first time. It went down very well. We’ve been just confirmed for some more shows in Zurich, Italy and Germany and getting cool reviews and airplay for the new album. And we’re very happy about making new friends in England as well.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Hidden From The Sun”?

It’s one of the key songs for the new album. We had this melody in our heads quickly, but it took us a lot of time arranging the guitars. We really wanted to give it a punk-feel by forgetting the indie-roots of the song. We didn’t want to have a too polite clean sound. “Hidden From The Sun” is a personal song. It says that you have to live your own life and do your thing, regardless of what the others think – even if some people might not understand what you do. According to my opinion, especially in music this is an important attitude.

Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?

There’s not just one single event. There are quite a few Swiss festivals we played, where people first were shy. But we were acting like madmen onstage, with paint in our faces, supplying a lot of fun. It took them a while to understand what exactly we do there, but then they went crazy as well, which was nice to see. They got our idea of ‘just let yourself go’.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

So far we haven’t planned to shoot a video for this one. We did some clips for two other songs from the new album – ‘We Built This Mountain Just To See The Sunrise’ for the melancholic pop-number ‘On A Wire’ and the indie-funky ‘Saturday Shoes’.

The single comes off your new album We Built This Mountain Just To See The Sunrise – what’s the story behind the title?

It’ a very personal title, that comes from the history of the band. After years we spent on indie-labels and got signed to a major, who didn’t really care, we decided to do our own thing. We’ve founded Ambulance Recordings as our own label, inspired by the likes of The Delgados who run their great Chemikal Underground-label in Glasgow (home of great bands such as Belle And Sebastian), building their own music-community. In the meantime we’re working with a lot of cool new bands on Ambulance Recordings. So there’s a lot of DIY-spirit around Spencer. The title of the album refers to that. It says you have to build your mountain, which of course is a pile of work. But finally you’ll see the sunrise, a metaphor for little successes. And that’s nice.

How was the recording and writing process?

We took more than one year to write the songs and the lyrics. It was an intense time. Bass-player Pashi and me had some basic ideas for the melodies. We showed them to drummer JP and keyboarder Reto to make them sound cool and they added some more melodies. They helped changing the songs, finding to correct moods and rhythms. I remember discussing hours and hours about one or two words. Writing the lyrics was very intense work. We finally started recording the album with producer Reto Peter, who has worked with Green Day on their fabulous ‘American Idiot’ album and worked on the last Counting Crows album.

What was it like to work with Reto Peter and how did that relationship develop?

We knew Reto Peter from our second album. We got to know him via our former producer. He mixed the album and we were very happy about the result. We felt that he understands our music. So for our current 4th album he was our first choice. We flew him over to Switzerland from Oakland for a couple of weeks. Soon we became friends, and he had very good ideas for sounds and melodies on the album, helping us to keep its indie-pop melodies, but leave it raw in the same time.

How much did he get to influence the album?

A lot! And that’s why we choose him as a producer. We knew that he’d help us getting a dense and modern indie-sound with a punk-feel to it. He’s open to work with effects, adding tiny bits to the sound which make it bigger. Apart from that he gave us good advise on some melodies and arrangements.

Does Switzerland play a role in your music?

Not so much on this album. Of course, we’re a Swiss band, playing a lot of shows over here. But we had to realize that our sound was too ‘indie’ for most of Swiss radio, with all the distorted guitars and the British feel to it. Regarding the music that we like and we listen to – and which inspires the modern Spencer-sound – we had to think global. So we’re happy to reach people outside of our country as well.

How much did the 90s get to influence the album and why this decade in particular?

After years of listening to northern soul, rockabilly, beat, garage and psychobilly in the 80s I discovered some new bands in the early 90s: The Smiths, Stone Roses, Blur, My Bloody Valentine – and Oasis, one of my favourite bands of all times. They combined what I liked: beat-melodies, rock’n’roll feeling, psychedelic sounds. And some of those early then-called rave-music was really danceable. Later I discovered the melancholic music of Editors and Nick Cave. Pashi, who joined the band about 4 years ago, is as well a big shoegaze and dreampop fan. No wonder this music inspired us! We’re still music-nerds looking for new sounds and listening to BBC6 Music and John Kennedy’s ‘X-Posure’ on Radio X all the time. It’s good to get to know a lot of new bands.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Inspiration comes from life on the road. As a musician you’re facing a lot of interesting, weird, happy and sad things. You get to know a lot of people who tell your their stories. So there’s a lot of inspiration from there. Regarding the music – it’s just in our heads. Sometimes I wake up singing a song. One track came into my mind while driving on the road. So I had to stop and record the melody with my mobile-phone. I think, Britpop band Dodgy – who are back with a cool new single – once sung it: “melodies haunt you”. They’re absolutely right!

Any plans to hit the road?

Yes, apart from some Swiss club-shows we just have been booked for concerts in Milano/Italy and Berlin. And we’re hoping to come over to play in England as well.

What else is happening next in Spencer’s world?

At the moment we’re getting a lot of nice reviews and airplay from all around the world. So next to playing the Swiss shows we’re preparing for some concerts and festivals abroad in 2017. We might release a new single next year as well – the song whose melody I recorded while driving… Thank you very much for your great support!

Leo Niessner/Spencer-singer and guitarist

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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