Interview: Rob Pope

Interview: Rob Pope



Rob Pope is the bass guitarist of Spoon, one of the most critically acclaimed U.S. rock bands in recent memory, a record romantic and all round top bloke. Figaro was fortunate enough to have a chin wag with him as Spoon travels around Australia on the back of their recently released album, ‘Hot Thoughts’.

Congratulations on the new album, we’ve really enjoyed it. Do you think it’s a maturation on previous Spoon works?

Yeah, it’s a different direction we’ve gone in with this album. We want it to sound like the future, with some deeper wilder moments than we’ve done in the past.

You joined Spoon 13 years after they originated and were a fan of the band?

Yeah, I was very aware of them, I’d seen them play a couple of times and had a couple of their records.

Was it intimidating joining a band you were a fan of?

Not really, I’d been playing music quite a bit up until that point and when I joined that band it felt very natural to be playing with those guys. Luckily it wasn’t very intimidating at all and they were very welcoming and we got to know each other very quickly. It was fairly easy.

How’d you end up joining Spoon?

Well at the time my previous band had broken up and a really good friend of mine was working with their manager (Spoon’s management). He called me one day and said “Hey, Spoon’s been looking for a bass player, they’ve been trying out a few people but they’re still looking, do you want me to throw your name in the hat?” and I said sure, I know that band. Then Britt and I wound up meeting, we got together and the whole band rehearsed in my basement in Lawrence, Kansas, that went really well and then a few months later I was in the recording studio with them and that was in 2006 I believe.

One of the things that stands out about Spoon is that the band always seems to release critically acclaimed albums, rarely do we ever hear a bad song from Spoon. Is there some kind of process or formula for the band that ensures this keeps happening?

We don’t really think about it a tonne, I mean, of course, it’s great to have critically acclaimed albums and that does weigh on our minds but we don’t read too much about our own records - we try not to anyway. For us, I think it comes from trying to keep each record fresh and interesting and those are the records we are always striving to make and not necessarily repeating ourselves and also making it kind of undeniably Spoon sounding.

So it’s more a case of making music for yourselves first and if people enjoy it, then they enjoy it?

Absolutely, but I mean, we do really want people to enjoy our music of course. But we enjoy a lot of very popular music so those are our influences we love pop music so, well, maybe pop music of the past, not pop music of retail.

With so much music out there currently and so many ways to access it, with Spotify and all these streaming services. It feels like a lot of genres can become over saturated in some ways. Do you ever hear bands coming through and hear them doing something a bit different and then feel the need to stretch yourselves, as you said you like to keep each record sounding fresh.

Yeah, I do think we try to stretch ourselves and to go for new and different ways to make songs interesting every time we make a record and some of that I think comes from listening to other records. But a lot of it comes just from us knowing what we’ve already done and not trying to repeat ourselves and trying to… kind of wow each other sometimes.

So each album is intended as a progression then?

Yeah, I think so.

Another thing that stands about Spoon is all of the albums seem very contemplative and nuanced, they always seem like the kind of music best enjoyed with headphones in looking out a window in a bus or a train or something. How would you, if you could choose, have people listen to your new record, ‘Hot Thoughts’?

Man, there was this record we made called Transference and that record I’ve always described as a kind of loner record, it’s like the one kid at the party that has headphones on in the corner and that’s the record he’s listening too. I think maybe that kid has moved more to the centre of the party and he’s listening to ‘Hot Thoughts’ now.

Away from Spoon are there any Australian bands you’d like to work with?

Um, jeez, you know we’ve always loved that band ‘Eddy Current Suppression Ring’. Yeah I love those records, even that Total Control record that came out a couple years ago, a year and a half ago, you know that record? It’s a really great record. Then we played a handful of shows on our last record with Courtney Barnett and she’s incredible. That song ‘Depreston’ blew me away for a little while and it was a joy to play a handful of shows with her. It’d be fun to maybe make a song or two with her. 

What have you been listening to recently? Any particular styles or sounds that you think have come through on the new album?

Oh man, it’s not really poking through in the new record because the record was already done but recently I’ve read a book by Allan McGee which is the guy who started ‘Creation Records’ back in England. So I’ve been going back and listening to all of that stuff like ‘My Bloody Valentine’ and Primal Scream and all that pre ‘Brit Pop’. I don’t think that’ll come through on the new record though, we won’t get to making one for a little while but there’s some undeniably cool stuff happening on those records.

You’re playing a couple ‘first in best dressed’ style shows in Sydney and Melbourne at some Independent Record stores, Red Eye in Sydney and Polyester in Melbourne it seems like you guys have a special affinity with record stores, it’s a very musically romantic gesture playing a few intimate shows there.

The whole band isn’t playing, but we’re doing a sort of stripped down version with two of the guys playing. I think, we all still buy records. I love going to record stores and it’s the coolest way… I mean, I remember seeing bands when they would put records out or even just going to record stores when I was a kid and that was just such a great, cool, free thing to be able to do.

It’s a very easy, fun way for us to shake some hands and look some of the people in the eye who are buying our records.

This is the second album you’ve made with Dave Fridmann. What do you think he brings to the process that is maybe a bit different from previous albums?

Well, he mixed almost the whole last record ‘They Want My Soul’ and when the time came around to work on this one he had reached out and had wanted to do the whole record with us which was very flattering and we felt the same, we had such a great experience with him. Dude, he’s so good at his job. He really knows how to get cool, unique sounds he has tonnes of insane gear he knows how to work really well and he’s a pleasure to be around and he really does make some of the coolest sounding records I’ve ever heard in my life.

Thanks so much for the chat, good luck with the tour.

Thank you so much.

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