If you go looking for bands that have changed how people outside of Texas look at our state, look no further than Spoon. The Austinites have been going strong since 1994, thanks to a steady stream of solid releases from the Soft Effects EP all the way up to They Want My Soul three years ago. On their ninth album, this year's Hot Thoughts, Spoon veers even further away from their early releases' lo-fi aesthetic, leaning into a more focused and precision-based sound. The Houston Press was ecstatic to talk to drummer and founding member Jim Eno recently about Hot Thoughts, his work as a producer and engineer, and what to look for when the band performs this Sunday at House of Blues.
While speaking with Eno, I realized I had seen his band back in their early days, when Houston still had an Emo's. With those kind of thoughts noodling around in your head, time can't help but become a factor; like, that was almost 25 years ago. Eno, though, swears he hasn't really put much thought into it. "I think '94 was the first year, but it doesn't really feel like it's been that long," he figures. "Asking me right now, I'd say that being in this band maybe feels like about six years. Everything still feels fresh, and yeah, 25 years sounds like a long time, but with this new record everything feels new. Plus the live shows have been the best we've ever played, and it's the best I think we've ever sounded as a band."
Whether on Hot Thoughts or strolling through the band's back catalog, it's possible to detect what some have termed a signature "Spoon sound." Britt Daniel himself remarked in a recent interview that he sees Hot Thoughts as "future Spoon." Eno agrees the band has developed a distinctive sound. "Yeah, there's a sound to us that I credit to Britt's songwriting," the drummer says. "You can't change certain things when you're in a band, but the evolution of the songwriting has definitely given us plenty to evolve with. On this new record, we wanted to create something that sounds like a futuristic Talking Heads."
Certainly Spoon's evolution has been an impressive arc to witness. Twice appearing on major labels, they've always seemed to make the records they wanted succumbing to the pitfalls of what the larger label system may want a band to do. They returned to their first home of Matador Records for Hot Thoughts, and Eno sounds noncommittal about whether being on a major label is important anymore. "I think it depends on your goals and what you want as a band," he says. "If your goal is to get on the radio, then you can't really do so without being on a major label. But really, the only difference between big and small labels, as I see it, is the amount of money they're willing to pour into a band before they see a return."
For Hot Thoughts, Spoon re-teamed with Dave Fridmann, who also co-produced They Want My Soul. Jim Eno himself is an in-demand engineer and producer for artists like Houston native Walker Lukens, Tennis and Har Mar Superstar. Discussing the choice to go with someone else rather than producing the album himself, which he has for many past Spoon releases, Eno remarks, "I really like it with Dave, because he looks at it like a Spoon release and not a Dave Fridmann release.
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"I feel like a producer can really fuck up a band's sound, you know, by trying to get a band to sound the way he wants above what the band wants," he adds. "But Dave just wants to make us sound better as a band, and present our work in the best way possible. He's also a really hard worker and a great mixer. Working with him takes all of the pressure off and just lets us do what we do. Getting to work with another producer means I can learn from them while taking the good and leaving the bad. I also get to look at things from both angles, and I can learn things like how to get a really good take."
As usual, Spoon has been hitting it hard with tour dates to support Hot Thoughts. Even the most jaded live-music fans have been to puddle up at the prospect of a Spoon show on the horizon. Asked how the the new songs are fitting into the set, Eno exclaims, "It's been great! This is the best live band we've ever had. We added friend Gerardo Larios on keys and guitar, which had really been great. He and Alex [Fischel] work on all of these parts while Britt is freed up to be a better front man."
Hot Thoughts is available to stream on all platforms, while physical formats are available directly from the band or from Matador Records. Future Spoon becomes right-now Spoon when the band returns to Houston's House of Blues for an all-ages show this Sunday, October 15 with special guests Parameters and Mondo Cozmo. Doors at 7 p.m.; tickets $37.50 to $65.