INTERVIEW: Spector | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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With the release of their second album, Moth Boys, London-based indie band Spector have forged a nice little niche for themselves making slightly doom-laden alt rock written from the perspective of socially observant twenty-something young men. Having already played two intimate sets in the region in August – at Reflex in Newcastle and Sound It Out in Stockton – they’re back for a full-on showcase of their sophomore effort.

Ahead of their return to the region, I talked to frontman Fred Macpherson about Moth Boys, how hip hop has played a surprisingly large role in Spector’s work and the importance of record shops both big and small.

Hi! How is life in the Spector camp at the minute?

Good. We’re rehearsing for our tour which starts next week, currently learning the songs from the new album we don’t know yet and a few from Enjoy It While It Lasts which we haven’t played in a while.

Much has been made of the fact that Moth Boys sounds quite different to your debut and that it has more depth to it in general. Was this an unconscious development or something you actually wanted to try and develop in the new songs?

I think both albums were quite different projects which came from very different head spaces. Plus the first one was recorded by five people in quite a short amount of time and the second one was four people spending a lot more time and thinking about things a lot more. Which hopefully paid off. As for depth, that just comes with age I guess, though every album we make in our twenties will probably seem naive when we look back.

One of your latest singles, Stay High, is about keeping yourself distracted when everything around you starts going wrong. Does this theme come from personal experience?

Most of our songs come from personal experience – the lyrics in a song like Stay High are far too banal to have been made up. We spend so much of our lives looking for distraction and amusement and trying not to think about all the awful stuff happening right in front of us. Music in itself is one of those distractions. I like Stay High because you can sing along to the chorus lyrics in a joyful or miserable way depending on what mood you’re in. I guess a few of our songs have that.

When talking about the other themes of the single, you make reference to sites like Groupon and in quite a negative way. Where does some of your apathy for these types of sites come from?

I have no problem with any specific websites – it’s more the internet culture and the effect it has on our social lives. Collusion between the sites that collect and harvest our information to sell to companies that in turn want to sell us things means we end up in this situation where we chase ‘good deals’ round from cinemas to restaurants to supermarkets, playing right into corporate hands looking to get rid of dead stock, fill their establishments on quiet nights of the week or sell holidays off season. If I didn’t love Pizza Express and Ryanair so much I’d probably cry.

On Bad Boyfriend you reference yourself as being a “bad artist” and on All The Sad Young Men you said “I’m getting bored of all the songs I write.” This is all pretty harsh on yourself, so are these songs actually written from the perspective of someone other than yourself?

No they’re all written from my perspective. I definitely don’t think I’m a great artist and am dubious of any artist that believes they are.


“I enjoy playing about with clichés and turning them on their heads”

Actually, on the subject of All The Sad Young Men, when you first started getting some critical attention some people were saying you were “the new Killers.” The opening line of of ATSYM is “And no, nothing ever started with a kiss,” which struck me as a reference to Mr. Brightside. Am I right? Or am I imagining things? 

Yeah it’s kind of a nod to that. And maybe Hot Chocolate’s It Started With A Kiss. I just wanted to negate what might be an obvious opening line to a song or album. It’s deliberately unromantic and cynical, which sets the tone for the rest of the record. I enjoy playing about with clichés and turning them on their heads. I like the Killers though, especially Sam’s Town.

It’s interesting that you make quite grand, atmospheric rock music but grime and hip hop is something that you’ve tweeted a lot about and also spoken of as having quite a big presence in your life. What originally got you into these genres?

Yeah grime and hip hop are undoubtedly what I listen to most on a day to day basis, but I grew up with guitar and band music (and I’ve been in bands since I was 15) so that strain of music is the medium that feels most natural to write in. Especially with a singing voice like mine. I can’t speak for the rest of the band but I wouldn’t say there’s much new indie or rock music that inspires me. I guess when I was a kid we had bands like The Strokes, The Walkmen, Kings of Leon when they were amazing etc. But right now there’s nothing in the guitar world that would have me hanging on its every word like Kanye, Drake or Skepta do.

Do these quite different genres ever inform what you do as SPECTOR?

All music inspires us but we need to think about what we’re good at, how we sound and what feels natural. I’m obviously not going to start rapping over 140bpm instrumentals but if you hear songs like Kyoto Garden on the new record or Grim Reefer on the first one you can see that our music taste takes in more than garage rock.

You’ve recently been in the north east playing a couple of intimate sets at Reflex in Newcastle and Sound It Out in Stockton. How was the overall experience of doing a tour where you only played in record stores?

It was great, especially meeting the people who ran the shops and digging through the selections. We also went as just the four of us, no drummer or tour manager or sound man or anything. It was the closest we’ve been as a band in a long time and the whole thing felt very human and pure. A shop like Sound It Out just has an insane selection. We came in to promote our own record but couldn’t walk out without spending about fifty quid each on other people’s music.

What do independent record stores mean to you?

I grew up near Rough Trade West and learned a lot about music from the guys that worked there over the years. But equally shops like Virgin Megastore and HMV Oxford Street had a huge influence on me, so I’m as sad to see the big corporate shops closing as the small ones. Amazon and eBay and discogs are all very well but record shops used to have a sense of community and it’s sad that so much of that has gone. Which is why the ones that are still surviving are so important and we need to support them by giving them our custom. But that goes for HMV too.

What can we expect from your gigs this month?

It’s great that we now finally have enough music to play for an hour or more. In the past we just had to play every song we had whereas now we can pick and choose and play different sets every night. The songs you choose can have such a big effect on the atmosphere. We’re resurrecting a few songs which we haven’t played in years and the new stuff is the most three dimensional we’ve ever sounded. We’re also re-energised and understand who and what we are a lot more now so I think this could be the most confident we’ll have ever played.

It’s only been a couple of months since Moth Boys came out and you’ve been very busy since then! Are you planning to have a well deserved rest after this tour?

I actually wish this tour was longer. We’re going to Mexico for the first time in November which we’re really excited about and then hopefully some shows in Europe. We’ll rest around Christmas but to be honest we were in the studio so long making this album we need some time in the real world.

Spector play at The Cluny on Sunday 18th October.

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