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Spoon-ing With Eric Harvey

Written by Lucy Donnelly on April 28, 2010

There’s nothing I love more than a 10am spooning session – it’s comforting, familiar and a great way to ease into my day. For Eric Harvey it’s 5pm in Los Angeles and he’s been at it for the better part of the last decade since joining indie-rockers Spoon in 2004.

Last here for the Big Day Out in 2008, the band always look forward to their ventures down under. Despite having only recently finished up a very busy month touring their new album Transference in the US, the band are soon set to embark on the Aussie leg of the journey – though thankfully Eric has a week off in between to go home and have a breather. And how exactly does one ‘prepare’ oneself for a rock’n’roll tour – particularly when its members are scattered in various cities about the country as the members of Spoon are? “Well, I think we’re ok in that we’re an established band now and we have ‘people’ to co-ordinate most things for us! We’re pretty ready for this because we’ve just done this big tour in the States. Sometimes we’ll start a tour when we haven’t been on the road in a while so we have to actually get together and rehearse, you know, to make it look like we know our songs and everything”.

Strangely enough, their Australian trip does not coincide with Sydney’s ‘Vivid’ Festival – curated by one of their major musical influences, Lou Reed – missing it by only a few days. “I wish I’d spoken to you a month ago and I had known about this!” he says of this discovery. Instead they’ll be partaking of a different tour – joining acts like Silverchair and Tegan & Sara for the Groovin’ the Moo Festival a well as playing sideshows along the way. Realising that he’d be up against some seasoned outback drinkers on this particular trip, I helpfully advise Eric that a substantial amount of time should be dedicated to beer-training and conditioning, to which he assures me he would over the coming weeks. “I don’t really know what to expect [of Groovin’ the Moo]”, he muses in that easy Austin drawl. “I’m going to these places I’ve never really heard of… how rural is Cool-arn-garter?” Hmmm.

Consistently recognized for their consistency, Spoon are one of those rare and endangered musical beasts able to run harmoniously along with commercial and more underground indie herds alike. Having been around since 1993 (making them the equivalent of about 268 in band years), their longevity and distinctive ‘sound’ are qualities that few contemporary rock bands can boast. “You have to make good art, write good songs and just have that desire to keep producing”, he says of the secret to their ‘sticking’ power. He also notes that founding band members Britt Daniel and Jim Eno have always been heavily involved in the recording process itself. In fact, their seventh studio album, Transference, released in January of this year was entirely self-produced.

Although retaining that typical Spoon sound of pared-back production, simplistic melodies and sharp rhythm sections, Transference sounds distinctly more ‘raw’ than the previous albums, and Eric is quick to point out that this was a conscious decision. “It doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been fussed and laboured over and a lot of work hasn’t gone into it… y’know, if a song sounds unfinished then that’s an artistic decision. It’s not like we ran out of time or anything!”

But although their unique ‘Spooniness’ is still apparent on the record, it is a distinct deviation from their previous slick indie-pop albums Ga Ga Ga Ga and Gimme Fiction, some tracks of which were featured in TV shows like Veronica Mars, Bones, The Simpsons, Scrubs and movies 500 Days of Summer and I Love You, Man – not exactly the grittiest of indie material there (seriously, will that guy from 3rd Rock From The Sun ever hit puberty?)

Though perhaps the vein of Transference was the same as that of the young, pre-released Gimme Fiction or Ga Ga Ga Ga? “I hear these records from their very rawest form to their very finished form… and sometimes I kinda like them when they’re a little rougher and not perfected. This album sounds to me like the whole world gets to hear what up until this point only the people in the band have heard. I think it’s cool that people can hear a band that’s this big in such a vulnerable state.”

I point out that it’s somewhat paradoxical to describe an album that debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 and sold 53 000 copies in its first week as ‘vulnerable’. “I think it’s a vulnerable record because there are things about it that other bands wouldn’t do because of a pressure to conform to industry standards”, he reasons. “There are a million really avant guard bands out there doing stuff like this, but they’re reaching smaller, more selective audiences. For this to hit the Billboard top ten is kind of mind-boggling – it says a lot about where music is these days and this gives me a lot of pride and hope for the future. I’m just glad these guys asked me to be in their band.”

Spoon will be performing on the 7th May at The Forum in Sydney before embarking on the Moovin’ the Groo… sorry, Groovin’ the Moo (see what I did there? Eh?) Festival tour. Click here for full dates and ticket details.

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