Spoon is one of those prodigy-like bands who never releases a bad album. Sure, it could be said that they had a so-so full-length, or a mediocre EP, but even then, it pales in comparison to some of indie rock’s most iconic release, like Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga or Kill The Moonlight. The Austin rock act—comprised of vocalist-guitarist Britt Daniel, drummer Jim Eno, bassist Rob Pope, and keyboardist-guitarist Alex Fischel—turns simple hooks into detail-dense anthems, songs that burst with personality that hinges on perfect production. Nearly 25 years since their formation, Spoon are still hustling, yet somehow that pressure hasn’t cracked them.
“We try not to think about it a ton, but it’s true: Every time we make a record, we set out to make a great one,” says Rob Pope over the phone. “Maybe it’s just because we won’t settle? Now that the band has had the success that it’s had, we’re afforded the time to nitpick over details. In the early days of Spoon, there was a lot of home recording going on. Back then and even more, we keep working on a record until we feel it’s done, which can take months.”
The newest in their collection, this year’s experimental-tinged Hot Thoughts, sees Spoon testing new instruments. “We wanted to abandon things we hadn’t been known for. That’s why you aren’t hearing acoustic guitar, a ton of piano, or things that were, 10 years ago, spoken in the same sentence every time you talked about Spoon,” says Pope. It’s tangible on tracks like two-parter “Pink Up,” for which the band’s producer encouraged the members to pick up an instrument that was new to them. “Everybody was picking up weird shit like rattlesnake tails and children tambourines, which led to all of us in a drum circle,” says Pope. “It was very weird for the band Spoon. But it turned into this big percussive background loop that finally wound up making that song. The record feels like it’s full of moments like that, where we didn’t know what to do so we did something bizarre and weird for our band.”
To dig deeper into that absurdity, we interviewed Pope for a round of Wheel of Tunes, a series where we ask bands questions inspired by their song titles. With a record titled Hot Thoughts, it was destined to be strange from the get-go.
1) “Hot Thoughts”
DIGBOSTON: What’s one of the weirdest sex dreams you’ve had?
POPE: Oh god. Well, I had a sex dream that involved almost every single elementary grade teachers—all in the same dream, mind you—male and women. They were all there. Everybody. I was like, ‘What the fuck is this about?’ So it was a grade school reunion of sorts, except it was sexual.
DIGBOSTON: Have you started to lose your hearing at all from playing constantly?
POPE: Yes. I’ve been playing music now and touring for 20 years. It’s only natural that our ears at some point give us the finger and start revolting. Now, I really do try to wear ear protection. I have custom-molded earplugs that I wear when I see shows that still allow it to sound good. Those foam earplugs make you lose something, you know? Then when we play, I wear those in-ear monitor things where I control the volume.
3) “Do I Have to Talk You Into It”
DIGBOSTON: What’s something you recently had to be talked into doing?
POPE: Usually it’s me who’s talking people into things. I can think of something funny, though. I was living in Brooklyn but then my wife and I had a baby three years ago. I think I talked her into moving to Worcester, MA, which is where she’s from, and that’s now where we live. I remember pulling up a bunch of real estate listings and showing them to my wife back then and also started talking about how much touring I’d be doing in the next few years, so I gave her arm a little twist and here we are so we can be much closer to her family.
DIGBOSTON: Does that mean you guys drink Polar Seltzer? Their headquarters are in Worcester.
POPE: I don’t, but I know people love that shit. We would come visit when we were living in New York, and a handful of our friends would ask us to bring back Polar. I’d be like, “Buddy, you okay? Everything alright? You live in New York, the city that has everything, and you want Polar Seltzer?” I’ve had it and think it’s fine, but I didn’t have a lasting impression.
4) “First Caress”
DIGBOSTON: When was your first kiss?
POPE: I kissed my neighbor, this girl named Jennifer Hardy. I grew up on a cul-de-sac in Kansas. She lived down the street a little ways. We used to play flashlight tag at night. I think I was 11, so her and I would always sneak off. At some point we decided we were boyfriend and girlfriend, and eventually we decided that we needed to kiss. I was terrified. We were behind the neighbor’s house after we told our parents we were going out to play flashlight tag. We did some kissin’, and I wasn’t crazy about it. I’m pretty sure I broke up with her right after that.
5) “Pink Up”
DIGBOSTON: What’s your favorite item you own that’s colored pink?
POPE: What do I have that’s pink in my life? Not a whole lot. My daughter has a lot of pink things. I have a pink button-down shirt that I wear occasionally that I’ve had for a long time, probably eight years. It’s a good one.
6) “Can I Sit Next to You”
DIGBOSTON: What was your best flight experience or your worst?
POPE: Worst flight experience may have been the very first time I flew internationally. In the late ’90s, I was flying to Europe, from St. Louis to Philadelphia and then from there on to Germany, or something like that. That first flight, we’re flying and everything’s cool, until the end of the flight where there’s a giant clash and all the lights go out on the plane. The plane had been struck by lightning. Apparently this happens quite frequently, I was told, and everything was fine. The plane landed. Everybody clapped, because we had been terrified for our lives. But then they come on and congratulate the pilot for running a very long career, because this was his very last flight. He was retiring. That poor pilot! His very last flight got struck by lightning. What does that tell you?
7) “I Ain’t the One”
DIGBOSTON: Have you ever been confused for someone else, onstage or off?
POPE: Yeah, there was a period of my life, about eight years ago, where I would get confused for that guy on Dexter. Michael Hall? Apparently he and I had a similar look for a minute. I think he’s a few years older than me? That happened every now and again in an elevator. There were a lot of double takes and people who would ask, “Are you…?” and I would look at them and go, “Nope!” No I’m not [laughs]. I’m not whoever you think I am.
8) “Tear It Down”
DIGBOSTON: What’s something you’re insecure about that you’re trying to get over?
POPE: I’m very insecure about doing interviews where I have to talk about myself all the time, but I’m working very hard to get over that. Right. Now.
DIGBOSTON: When’s the last time you shot a gun?
POPE: Well, I grew up in Kansas, so my father used to go pheasant hunting and deer hunting. He would take me on occasion. It has not carried over to my everyday life, though. I’m not a gun owner, though I’m not opposed to it.
DIGBOSTON: If you were a superhero, who would you pick as your sidekick?
POPE: Oooh! Fun. Someone with some serious superhero powers, so another superhero. I just recently watched that movie Logan, the Wolverine movie. I’m going to take that little girl Wolverine that’s in that movie. I don’t remember her name, but damn, she’s a badass.