Besides achieving and album of incredibly catchy songs already, Episode
2, is just another step in Spencer McGarry's overall masterplan.
With the recording process already underway, Spencer's new album may
just be a huge treat in store for 2010, and a tour of theatres as a
platform for the music, may be just the kind of imaginative act that
may finally get him the attention and renown he deserves.
Last week in a packed London club, The Social, I witnessed the nine
piece band take to the stage. Here's how they looked, with Spencer on keyboards and Sophie Cochrane and Bec Wood on vocals.
...and here's a ropey film from
the gig recorded on a mobile phone. Please don't expect high fidelity!
I caught up with Spencer to find out more about the project.
So the new album is written and recorded?
It's almost finished actually. It's what I've spent all year doing it
just needs a few more days of singing and I imagine some time to
actually mix/produce (although hopefully these days that involves
pressing one button) and we're all done.
Tell me about it. What the songs are about? Is there a concept?
It's a 17-track revue in the style of my favourite musicals and classic
song writers- I mean the giants of the song world like Rogers and
Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Paul McCartney et
, people who really know how to put together a melody and how to
arrange a number.
It's got influences from modern classicists like Steve Reich and
Phillip Glass and has huge faux opera moments, jazz passages, avant
campness, out and out noise; and ends in a 20-minute medley. Overall
it's a mix of traditional song writing and utter dissonance.
It's not a concept album, but it has motifs that keep cropping up and
melodies from the last album that repeat and is part of the overall
concept for the band/project which is in itself a concept group.
It's got seriously out of hand, though, and I'm trying to keep it under
an hour and failing. Luckily I'll run out of money soon and I'll have
to leave it as it is.
It's being produced by Charlie Francis who's
simply the only man for the job after his outstanding work with the
High Lamas. I needed a man (or woman) used to recording a diversity of
instruments and keeping things under control as well as someone who's
game for anything and understands how different genres work. He's been
invaluable in showing me albums similar to what I'm doing, showing me
simultaneously that I'm not mad and what I'm doing is nothing new.
Why the change of musical style from Episode 1?
It's all part of the Spencer McGarry Season project - I have a lot of
songs that are of no fixed style. I wondered what to do with them and
decided to group them loosely into six albums. This is the second part of
my hexological journey, although I did have to look up the word for a
group of six films/books/albums.
I thought if Sufjan Stevens could do 50-odd albums, six would be
easy. However, last week I learned that he's admitted it was probably a
PR stunt and stopped. Now I'm left alone, looking stupid. But I can't stop now until I've completed all six.
Will you stick with this musical theatre style of song, or is this just Episode 2 in the masterplan?
Yes that's right, it's onwards to an all new style after this one.
Although it's been a headache, I've enjoyed Episode 2 immensely its
been good fun expanding from a very basic three piece playing rock to a
15 piece mini orchestra, learning about different instruments and what
they can and can't do, playing with simply too many people to fit on
a stage and attempting to get us all in the same room to rehearse -
it still hasn't happened.
We're going to keep playing it for at least the
next year, so there's lots more fun left and hopefully we'll get to
take the show to a few festivals and play some interesting venues. I'll
be starting on the other one in the meantime though.
In the face of album's loosing any sort of hold or power over people,
does that dampen the spirit in which you've created this project?
I've never been musically fashionable and I find it amusing that in the
face of worldwide dwindling sales and label death, lowering
concentration levels and research that no one has the constitution to
sit through more than a single at a time anymore, I've embarked on
almost a double album's worth of deeply unfashionable music presented
in a possibly redundant format. Nothing changes with me.
I certainly enjoy albums and I put aside time to sit through a whole
piece of work and appreciate its cohesion. When we started myself and
Charlie sat down and talked of the grand albums in pop history and had
a tiny moan at the lack of ambition and reliance on the structure of
rock amongst writers today. We decided we should go too far; I feel we
can go further though...
Making money from recorded music is a relatively new concept. Maybe
it'll just be seen as a blip in the history of music as the whole.
There are few examples of definitive versions of classical, opera and
traditional forms of music - they are open to interpretation and
reworking as society changes and culture shifts, but they are still
played and enjoyed.
Music is still there but the way we consume it
always changes. I'm excited for the future. This may be the last
physical album I release, so unfortunately I'll never collect my
recordings in a lavish box set with linear notes by David Leaf.
Ideally, where are you planning to tour the album?
I've learned pretty quickly that playing rock venues is a little
difficult. To put it dramatically, I need a bigger stage and sense of
occasion. I'm looking to play galleries and art spaces, we're planning
something pretty special in chapter next year and hopefully we can take
it around similar venues.
I can see us playing boutique festivals like
Greenman too. Thus far, I've just been recording and taking the odd gig
when asked, but soon I will have to think about bringing my little
monster to the people of Britain.
Official band website: myspace.com/spencermcgarry
See more videos of songs
including a wrestling vid on NME.com.
Spencer McGarry Season
on BBC Music.
What Kruger Magazine
said about Spencer McGarry:
"Spencer has been known for some years now for his hook-laden take on
indie-pop music but very recently the guitar based set-up of the
Spencer McGarry Season has been expanded into what can only be
described as a mini-orchestra. Into our studio this afternoon Spencer
brings a violin, a cello, percussion, guitars, horns and a flute. The
sound of the new band is something very exciting, taking Spencer's ear
for a great melody and creating indie music filled out with a
pop-baroque orchestration reminiscing of a 1950s Disney film. And it
works, very well."