By DONNA BALANCIA
Spencer Robinson and the Wolf Spiders have been creating an intricate web of new music.
The band, led by ex-Lords of Altamont bandmember Robinson, has released a new album, Beneath The Surface, that’s worth a listen (Check it out HERE).
Beneath The Surface is dark but with good reason. Robinson is a guy who’s done a lot of living. His Link Wray-meets-Nick Cave vibe comes through loud and clear on the album.
Sporting the latest in black leather jackets, Robinson sat down for a Q and A with CaliforniaRocker.com.
The CaliforniaRocker.com Q and A with Spencer Robinson
CR: The music is pretty dark. What motivates you to go in that direction?
SR: I always say that I’ve lived a lot of lives during my one life, and had plenty up highs and lows. Playing music, and the years I spent as a professional blackjack player were some of the highs, but I also dealt with years of depression that came close to killing me on more than one occasion, and all of these experiences (good and bad) creep into the songs I write. I know it’s cliché to say it, but writing about some of that dark stuff can be really cathartic. I also think that, when you’re hitting your lowest, it’s nice to know that other people out there feel that way too. Who doesn’t like a good, sad song sometimes?
CR: Who have been the big influences on your career?
SR: I mean the Beatles, The Stones, and The Who were my first introduction to rock music, of course, but I got into Black Sabbath pretty quickly after that. John Entwistle and Geezer Butler were really the 2 reasons that I started playing the bass. I think the fact that they were in four-piece bands meant they had to fill more of the space with their instrument, and that was just really attractive to me.
I was a pretty big metalhead for a while, and then when I was 13, I heard The Sex Pistols for the first time. That was like a slap in the face in the best possible way. I started digesting as much punk rock as I could find, which was A LOT. It’s really the best age to get into music like that because I was already starting to question everything around me, and angry music is a great soundtrack to that. I was listening to everything from the classic punk of The Ramones to the proto punk of the Stooges and MC5 to hardcore bands like Bad Brains to the more artsy stuff like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Joy Division, and everything in-between. I just wanted to know as much about music as possible.
From Lords of Altamont to Nick Cave
Eventually, I was lucky enough to join The Lords of Altamont as their bass player. I knew a little about garage music when I joined, but my knowledge was definitely limited. Being in that band for 5 years, I got a real education about what real garage was, and became obsessed with it. I toured a lot of countries in The Lords, and played shows with musicians that I idolized like The Who, The Cramps, X, The Pixies, and a bunch more.
After I was out of the Lords for a while, I was really missing playing in a band, and I decided that I wanted to start working on my own music. I had never sang or played guitar in a band before, but I wanted to give it a shot, and I ended up really liking it. When I started writing, all the dark stuff that I’d gone through for years just informed the tone of the music and the lyrics. I guess all the Nick Cave and Tom Waits I’d listened to was just waiting to spill out of my brain.
CR: What is the secret to getting your music out there? Any advice on promoting that you can give?
SR: This whole process of having my own band for the first time has been one lesson after another. I had to reach out to so many record labels before finding ones that were interested in releasing our material. That first rejection email was a little upsetting (I haven’t forgotten who it was from), but the next 100 rejections were much easier to deal with. I’m was proud of the music we’d created, and I knew there were labels, journalists, and radio stations that would like it…I just had to hear “no” a few hundred times first. I guess just persistence and being organized about who I reached out to is the real lesson I learned.
CR: Where are you parents/family and what do they think of your career?
SR: I grew up here in Los Angeles, and my family is still here. They have been really supportive, maybe too supportive of this whole thing. They say they like the band, and it’s possible that they aren’t even lying. I’m pretty lucky in that department. My dad was the first one to play The Beatles and The Stones for me, so it’s always been nice to be able to give him a record that I made.
CR: Who are you favorite collaborators and how did you meet?
SR: Being in The Lords of Altamont was great for a lot of reasons, one of those being that I got to meet a ton of great musicians. When I went into the studio a year ago to record the first EP, I reached out to the musicians that I most wanted to pay with, and they actually said yes. I played with my guitar player Johnny DeVilla in the Lords for years, and he was the only guitar player I asked to be in this new band. His influences fall right in line with this music, and his playing has been unbelievable. I’ll often write a song, then bring it to him so he can make it sound more interesting. He’ll often help take the music in an unexpected direction, and I love that.
Spencer Robinson and the Wolf Spiders
I played in a short-lived band called The Black Honey Cult with drummer Tom Hernandez, who also plays in The Superbees. Tom is just the best drummer I’ve ever played with, hands down. The guy can do anything, and what he does in this band impresses me on a daily basis.
I played bass on the recordings out of necessity, but we finally have a full-time bass player now in Piper Ingram. She was in a band with my guitar player called The Honeymoon Screams, and when it was time to find a bass player, he reached out to her, and she joined pretty much right away.
One of the really nice things about being in this band is, for lack of a better way to say it, nobody acts like a dick. We get stuff done quickly, easily, and without a lot of petty bs getting in the way. It’s been a surprisingly easy process, and the shows have been a lot of fun.
CR: Tell us what you are doing for the upcoming gig. What is your next gig after that?
SR: We have a show this Saturday January 13 at The Love Song Bar in Downtown LA. It’s a free show on a Saturday in Los Angeles, which is always a nice thing. Opening up is this really great band called Blackbird Days, who play reverb drenched, haunting music that goes very well with the dark stuff we churn out. It should be a great show.
After that, we’re set to play a St Patrick’s Day show with The Heathen Apostles (Chopper from The Cramps) at The Maui Sugar Mill Saloon, and I’m currently finalizing a couple other shows for February now.
CR: What is your favorite track off the new record and why?
SR: I’m very happy with the new record Beneath the Surface, but I think my favorite song on the album is 10 Years of Fire. My guitar player Johnny wrote the music, and I wrote the lyrics. It’s a song about a terrible 10 year relationship, and I imagine a lot of people can relate to that type of thing. I like the song a lot because of the unique time signature and instrumentation. We were able to add some cool percussion on it, and I played a glockenspiel, which was a lot of fun and just something different. I felt good to turn a decade of some of the darkest times in my life into a musical piece that I’m really proud of.
Interview was originally published Jan. 12, 2018