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INTERVIEW: Spencer Robinson

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

I’m doing well.  I mean as well as I can do with what’s going on here politically, but I’m fine.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Standing At The End of the World”?

Yes, of course.  I was the bass player in the garage band The Lords of Altamont for years, and when I decided that I wanted to put out my own EP, I knew that I wanted to do something musically different than what I’d done before.  I wanted to explore some of the darker aspects in life on this one, so I just started writing from that place, and this is what came out.

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

I love songwriters like Tom Waits, and he tells these amazing stories about people that may or may not be real.  I just wanted to tell the story of 2 people who met, and were completely toxic, but knew that they would cross paths again.  I think we all meet people that we know will be a part of our lives, even if it’s a year or 10 years down the line.  I definitely have, so this is about 2 people like that.  They’re both broken, and when they meet, they’re too broken to make it work.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

That’s a good question. I would like to, but it’s a big undertaking, so I’d need to find a director with a cool vision.  I’d love to be able to shoot something this year.

Why naming the album after this track in particular?

I felt like these songs have a bit of desperation to them, and the title song most of all.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to call the EP, but when we were mixing the title track, it just captured the exact tone I was looking for.  I don’t feel like life is hopeless, but just existing can be hard and lonely sometimes, and I wanted a title that expressed it.

How was the recording and writing process?

Much easier than I thought it was going to be.  I started writing, and I wrote and recorded demos of a lot of songs before choosing the ones I wanted to take into the studio.  The songs just flowed out quickly.  I had co-written songs in The Lords, but this was the first time I was going to be doing all the writing myself.  Also, this was the first time I’d be recording all my own lyrics, so I had a lot of experiences to draw from that hadn’t been written about yet.  After that, I reached out to the musicians I wanted for the recording, and I was lucky enough to get the guys who were my first choices.

Tom Hernandez, who plays in The Superbees, is hands down the best drummer I’ve ever played with. He hits hard like a heavy rock drummer, but has the technical ability of a jazz player.  The guy can play anything, and just perfectly.   It’s damn impressive.  I’d played with guitarist Johnny DeVilla in The Lords of Altamont, so I knew he could play well, and I knew that a lot of his musical influences matched the tone I was going for. What I didn’t realize at the time was how amazing he was going to be with the songs.  Johnny brought life to them in a way that I couldn’t believe.  He gave the EP all the moodiness I wanted without me ever having to spell it out.  He did some truly incredible guitar work, and did it in record time.  We recorded and mixed the whole thing in 2 days at Big Arm Recordings in Los Angeles.  I played bass and sang; it was an extremely easy process.

Would you call this a departure from your previous project or did you get to borrow from your past work?

It’s definitely different, but I guess it is a combination of both.   As I said, I wanted to do something that wasn’t the same as The Lords, but I grew up on punk rock and rock n roll, and I think there’ll be some of that in everything I write.  When people ask me what kind of music I’m playing now, I have a hard time explaining it with one simple genre.  I like to think that it is a mixture of all the stuff I like filtered though a whiskey glass. I wanted it to be the kind of thing that makes people feel like they are in a hotel bar in the middle of the desert.

Does LA still plays any role in your music?

Absolutely.  I grew up here, and it’s always been home.  LA is an interesting city because you have people of all types, and no real natural boundaries separating the poor from the rich.   If you go a few blocks either way, the economic climate can change quickly.  I think this helps with writing because you are forced to see people who are doing better than you and people who have it way worse.  It helps open your mind to all kinds of different stories worth telling.

What aspect of death and drunkness did you get to explore on this album?

Haha, a guess a fair amount.  I definitely drank a lot of whiskey while writing these songs.  The stuff having to do with drinking in the lyrics are anything from a drunken suicide attempt to drinking being a big part of a chaotic relationship to a silly story about a drunk guy letting a tired spider sleep in his mouth.   As far as death goes, I talk about people foolishly killing each other in the name of God, suicide, and meeting at the end of the world, which I guess is a metaphor for 2 people dying together. Sheesh, it sounds a lot more goth when I spell it all out like that.

Any plans to hit the road?

I’d like to play some shows out of town for sure.  It’s just a matter of finding the right shows to play, and the right bands to play with.  I know a lot of punk rock bands and a lot of garage bands, but not a lot of bands doing whatever it is I’m doing now.

What else is happening next in Spencer Robinson‘s world?

Besides the daily freakouts that I have about our new, fascist president, I’m writing a lot of songs.  I guess one good thing about stressful times is that they make for good music.  I’m writing and demoing a series of new songs, and looking for a label to release a vinyl version of my EP.

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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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