Spector have a new project in the works. No, it's not a new album - 2018 will see them try to save guitar music.
“When you’re kids, nothing seems odd about five guys spending an inordinate amount of time together doing not much at all. An hour or half an hour of music a day seems natural. As you get older, that sort of thing seems a bit…” Spector frontman Fred Macpherson stops in his track, something catching his eye in the Haggerston cafe he finds himself in. “Oh no, is that a dead fish?” He leans in to gaze more at the fish-tank located in his line of sight. “That white one there on the side, think it’s dead.”
“Oh no! It’s alive!” he exclaims. “There we go, that’s the metaphor for our career!”
Spector have done much more than simply survive. Over the course of six years, two albums and a whole heap of euphoric live shows, they’ve become a beacon for a not-too-distant era with their blood flowing with the here and now. There’s a sense of excitement for the future - and an energy that comes with an ever-lightning bond between them. Fresh from a quiet year and a half, Spector have been naturally finding where they go next.
“The last few years have been generally positive, though if you asked me that on a different day you’d probably get a different answer,” notes Fred, calm and measured about the next step in a band which has been lead by his immediate presence across the globe. Always with their pulse on modern life, they’re back for something more. “It’s good to be doing music again; it kinda took us a while to get stuff back together. There was a point where it didn’t feel like anyone was in a rush to do anything, and then recent everything has just pulled into place, and it felt like the right time.”
“I just felt like now we have these songs ready and people and fans are keen to hear them, well, all five of them,” he jokes, “it was time. We had a couple of songs, including ‘Untitled In D’ that just really feel like they would make more sense out than in and we just felt like when we had the right songs, and we had the right way of getting them out, then that would be the moment.”
Like a triumphant firework display, Spector’s return is led by a dazzling canon. ‘Untitled In D’, the first glimpse at chapter three, is rooted in the guitar-laden punches of their debut album ‘Enjoy It While It Lasts’ yet is laced with that knowing nod of experience and progression. It’s a track that no matter what year it was born into, it’d always be met with fevered masses with that knack for a big ‘ol pop chorus shining loud and proud. With more guitars over it than the whole of ‘Moth Boys’ before it, Fred talks about it as a conscious move after the last tour they did.
“When we were doing live versions of songs from the last album, they ended up being a lot heavier, and guitar/drums led,” recalls Fred, stirring his coffee around in front of him. “I think that made us want to write songs that would fit really well into our set. That’s where our music feels the most alive. What we wanted to do with ‘Untitled In D’, and the songs coming, is get the sound of the band playing. Drums, vocals, bass, guitar - it sounds really obvious, but in the past, it’s sometimes not been how our recordings have turned out. We’re happy that we’ve managed to get that done and it gives it a bit of energy rather than it just sounding like it’s been made on a computer.”
He takes a moment, pulling together his thoughts before continuing. “You know like when you buy an outfit, and then you never wear it out? You keep trying it on, and it’s just not quite right until it eventually doesn’t fit. This is the song that you ask if you can change into it in the shop. That’s why we’re putting it out first, it’s not the best new song we’ve got, but it’s the most irreverent and a good snapshot of us now.”
The role ‘Moth Boys’ played in where Spector now found themselves can't be diminished. A record that the band needed to make, they came out of the other side needing space to reconfigure their own minds and goals. “I think it was a case after spending almost three years working on our first album, then two years on the second and then touring that for a year - it felt like we had spent just too much time together. So I think we all needed to take some time.”
“It’s weird. Whenever you finish an album, you think it’s the most important thing in the world. Now I look back on it and think, well, half of it is good, and half of it maybe isn’t, which is a good attitude to have, to never be emotionally attached and always strive for better. It definitely helped us get through a kinda sticking point in music, where it felt song-wise we had already done so much of what we had planned on doing - which wasn’t very much at all,” Fred cracks. “It felt like we needed tracks like ‘All The Sad Young Men’ to really break through to the next stage.
“Whenever we finish something there always feels like there's an expectation left, like we haven’t been the best versions of ourselves or done the best thing we can yet. I think that’s what makes the forward motion for us to continue, if it felt like we’d done what we wanted to do, then we probably would have quit a long time ago”.
Spector aren’t finished, and there’s a reason for that. They’ve symbolised an era in their own distinct way, becoming one of those bands simply beloved no matter what they might do. They stormed out with their influences of The Killers, Roxy Music and The Strokes emblazoned across their chests with a new romantic bow, and ever since they’ve continued to tease and please in equal measure - a band taking on the world. It feels raw and new, unabashed in their dreaming. “Even though it feels like so much is moving away from guitars, we wanted to go back and head against the grain. I do feel a bit of duty of care over guitar music,” states Fred, when chatting about what’s to come. “You don’t leave a dying friend or family member in the hospital without trying to look after it the best you can, and that’s how I feel about guitar music. I don’t listen to it too much now, to be honest, but it has to be waded through difficult times.
“I thought someone would have come along who are better than us, and there are a lot of bands better than us, but not in the sense of what we do. Guess it’s just gonna have to be us, working our way through.”
It’s a pivotal moment for any band when they reach that crossroads where they’re out of those early days full of wide-eyed ambition and searing intensity, but Spector have come to terms with the role they now have to play. It’s given them a new look on their career, on the industry and most importantly, on how they carry themselves. It feels like they’ve been waiting for this moment right from the very beginning, feeling refreshed and free - getting to be that band who lead from the front. “I think we as people kinda care less, where stuff seems less important,” explains Fred. “The good thing about getting older is that you become less self-important, like so much competition goes on as a younger band, around what festival stage you’re on or what venue you’re playing. You have this idea when you start that with each venue you play, the next one always has to be bigger. Eventually, we realised that, like economic growth, it’s not possible to sustain. I feel good.
“When you make a first album and then a second, you treat them like golden idols from Indiana Jones - each thing feels like the most important thing,” he continues, running through the thoughts that have truly come into focus in the past two years. “Once you’ve got 25 songs out, suddenly a song is just a song. The good ones will be remembered, but the shit ones won’t. Nobody’s going to come up to you in a bar and say, ‘Hey man, remember that song you released in 2013 - it was shite’. I mean they should do but y’know, those were the things that would keep you up at night. I speak to people in bands now, young bands, who talk about how upset a video turned out, and I just say, ‘Trust me, you won’t remember it in a few years’.
“When you’re younger you think the world revolves around you, whether you’re in a band or not, you feel the centre of everything - most people probably don’t feel like that, but people in bands do! Then you realise, there are a million bands out there playing every night, you’ve just got to write songs that you want to play really. I'm just looking forward to making more music.”
Studio life has left them in a pretty good position, with a series of releases planned throughout 2018 - starting with ‘Ex-Directory’, out in January. “We have lots of songs,” tells Fred. “These songs are slightly more light-hearted, in the sense that making them has been more light-hearted, and quite joyous. That’s why we’ve decided to release them in smaller increments and not leave such long gaps between things.” It comes with the band reflecting how now only fans but themselves consume music nowadays, a change Fred is happy about. “I like that music has been democratised like that. There’s a direct line not just between fans and artists, but artists and potential fans. If my mate hears a song, he can send it to me that day, and I can be a fan and have merch sent over by the day after, gig tickets on Dice too.”
It leaves Spector with an exciting year ahead. A band born for adulating nights and singalong sermons, they’re aiming skywards. Taking their time, with many highs and lows on the way, now feels like the moment where the world gets to see the best of them. That fire to create their defining work is one that’s impossible to extinguish, understanding what they’re all about, Spector are hungry and are cooking up a feast.
Fred sits for a moment, contemplating how life and many different decisions have led him here. “There are points where I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved and then I have moments where I’m the opposite. Points where I’m happy to play to 50 people in each city and other points where the world is not enough, y’know? I think our ambitions are more fluid now. We haven’t written our defining masterpiece. Our singles have been better than our albums because they’re more concise and you’re less likely to fuck up three minutes and forty-three seconds, but I’d still like to have an album which is cohesive beginning to end, with a thread that runs through it.
“I think kids who are into guitar music deserve something good. Whether that’s us that can give them that or not who knows, but we can throw another record on the fire and see.”
Spector's EP 'Ex-Directory' is out sometime soon. Taken from the February issue of Dork, out now.