As you can see from the splendid mini-documentary above, last week Spector took to the streets of Soho so they could record the sounds of its demise. We’re always doing stuff like that with Spector - getting them to review festivals or interview grime stars. Pretty much everything except talking to them about their actual music. And actually, we really wanted to talk about the band’s latest single, which feels like a chest-thumping classic which will engender a new miserablism in the genre of indie anthems.
So, we sat down for breakfast with Fred at the café next door to their rehearsal studio. In the mediterranean tradition, he had scrambled eggs with roast vegetables, no doubt reflecting the band’s long-standing support for closer integration in the European Union. We both had the house smoothie, which was pretty good.
Noisey: Hi Fred! Your new single, “All The Sad Young Men” (video below), is a lot more direct than the stuff on your last album. It feels more like a nervous-breakdown Facebook post or a Clive Martin article than a pop song.
Fred: I think with lyrics you can always be very floral with details, and it’s a good way of skirting around subjects with small, personal details. But then you look at someone like Drake and the way he boils everything down to something like “Just Hold on We’re Going Home” or “Started From The Bottom”. You’ve got songs that deliver one idea rather than a series of intricate anecdotes or in-jokes. Sometimes I do just simplify something to its clearest form and it becomes the most impactful idea. A bit like if you just had custard for a dessert rather than some elaborate, three-layered trifle. Don’t put that in that’s an awful example.
The topic of your new single is becoming one of the most noticeable trends in popular music. Songs about being out getting smashed and having a shit time - from Drake to “Chandelier”.
I guess it started in hip-hop, Drake and The Weeknd really nailed it, but now it’s quite popular. The feeling that you are constantly searching but never finding. But not finding will never be enough to stop searching.
Do you worry that now people will see you on a night out and be like: “He seems like he’s having a good time but I bet deep down he’s just wallowing in the melancholy of it all.”
Luckily most of my friends never listen to our music so I could probably write about each of them by name and how much I hate them, pretty confidently knowing that nobody would hear it. I do think my parents notice, my mum will sometimes call to check I’m okay because she takes lyrics more literally.
What about you? Does it stop you from having a good time when you’re constantly aware that no one is really having a good time?
I think there is a danger, and Drake has been a victim of this, of becoming a character and writing yourself into a corner. If you experience life by translating the world you see into lyrics, then you end up dramatising things that might be quite simple. So I could go to your club night and spend £27 on three drinks which is heartbreaking, but then that could potentially unfold into a real epic. I think our album is taking a lot of real life situations, anecdotes and fragments of memories and stretching them into some kind of tapestry of misery.
Do you think we are a miserable generation?
I think for a lot of the UK, with cities and places changing so much, it feels like everything is losing its sense of humour a bit. Opportunities are being taken away and everything is becoming a bit samey - it feels like the high street is extending from Oxford Circus to Glasgow, there’s a Primark every ten minutes.
Is that why nights out provide such diminishing returns. Because the high street has pervaded into our lives in every sense? Chain clubs, shit pubs and Coors Light?
I think its partly to do with getting old, but I think mostly it’s that we are hyper aware of what everyone else is doing. Just seeing that your friends are at a fashionable party you couldn’t get in to while you’re sitting on your sofa watching Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. I think that stretches across romance as well. My parents were married and had me and my brother when they were younger than I am now. I think back in the day, people weren’t googling everything all the time; you had a tendency to meet someone, fall in love and say: “Why not try and make this work?” Back then it used to seem like people were born quite hopeful and were made cynical by their experiences. Whereas a lot of people I know now seem to have been born cynical and are spending their lives trying to win some innocence back, trying to lose some of the cynicism and restore a bit of faith in the world.
Is that even possible, to tune-out those extra layers of constant meta-analysis that come with being a cynic about everything.
I think it is possible but problematic. In London there is so much in the way of narcissism, a need to hold a mirror to everything and work out how it reflects on you and why. But actually I think the people having the best time realise they’re not the centre of everything and they’re just a minor facet in a big set of wheels and cogs. We have a tendency as artists and dramatic English people to paint ourselves into our own film noir, wherein every windswept cab ride takes on significance, whereas actually we’re just going between places, having a drink and working a job. It shouldn’t all be that complicated. So would I take out that frequency if I could? Yes for my sanity but I don’t think it would be good for the music, if I wasn’t feeling something. So it’s a double-edged sword.
Does music always flourish in those moments of self-doubt?
There is some good hip-hop that that does without it. There should be more indie or alternative music that’s just about getting turnt. But the band often say to me: "What about lyrics that are about something else now? What about a love story in which you haven’t been smited or your life hasn’t been torn asunder by a girl in an H&M cardigan?” So I’m working on that.
You don’t really write love songs, it’s always someone who has broken your heart. Do you think part of this house party ennui stops you falling head over heels?
Most of our songs aren’t love songs, its more that talking about relationships is the medium for talking about now. So we are using relationships so that we can talk about the world. Not politically but more functionally. So we’ve got a song called “Stay High” that’s about all the tropes people use to make their relationships work. “Where we’re going we don’t need roads, set menus or 2 for 1 codes”. It’s this sort of filtered version of romance that is ordained by corporations. I think that mixed with the internet, mixed with how much more we see of celebrity culture it’s a kind of slightly unsettling combination.
So love isn’t realistic anymore?
There’s a reason people watch Romeo and Juliet and cry, because they know they will never experience anything as wonderful as that Shakespearean level of romance. I’m not saying love isn’t real, I think it's one of the only things that is really really real, it’s just a shame that it gets caught up in so many other little things on the way. There is a descending vanilla haze over everything. Now we have health goths instead of goths or normcore instead of squares, everything has to be acceptable to the extent that the unacceptable is no longer of interest because there is a filtered safe version of it.
Why do you think we have to justify everything with those kind of labels now? Is it just because we’re more concerned about getting laid?
Maybe. I think one of the problems is there are more articles on everything. There is this constant content where websites have to put out however many articles, it means you can find a justification for the intellectualisation of everything. Whereas before something might have stood out on its own, it now has to be written into this content cosmos, a map where everything is linked and justified and defended staunchly by a series of people on twitter at some juncture in the world. It’s like everything is a debate over minor details and statements are being constantly qualified. It’s like everyone has become a little politician when it comes to their own opinions. That’s why people get excited when someone comes along and says something that is, not even extreme, but black and white. People are hiding from that. It seems people are less political as well and less interested in politics and less engaged in the things that matter because they have so many minor things to be engaged with. I don’t think its inherently wrong I just think it is worrying.
Even now, I think people fear making statements or having intent. I think telling the world what you want to do is daunting because people are so scared of failure, because now failure has such a big platform to exist on. Like Drake says on his new mixtape, “you whisper my successes but scream all my failures”. The internet is just waiting for people to fail so they can relish it. I think people are more hyper-aware of how they will come across if they don’t succeed.
What do you expect in terms of success?
If you are a band like us, with a pop element - where entertainment comes into it, its not 100% art, it’s a collaboration between artistry and entertainment - then I think you need to have people who want to be entertained. I wouldn’t want to carry this on if it entered the ether and wasn’t heard. I think there are some songs on this album, more than the last, that have a place culturally and could have some meaning, however vague, to some people. I think we have tried to write the songs we might have wanted to hear aged 15 or 16.
Hmm, I do worry about your 15-year-old fans getting early-onset despondency after listening to “All the Sad Young Men” though.
I think it might help kids rationalise the world and not just take it as is. This song is meant to be uplifting. It’s saying just because you don’t feel a responsibility to marriage, children, a job, romance - all things we used to cherish when we were growing up as the light at the end of the tunnel - doesn’t mean there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You know, if you don’t have a career path set-up aged 19, or you’re not going to university or you’re not in a relationship, it doesn’t mean the world is closed. Now more than ever you don’t have to take traditional routes. The song is about disenchantment, its a rally cry to all the sad lads, and sad girls, which says: Get together, and maybe in the moonlight of a mid-season festival after a couple of Strongbows you might find a path open up in an unexpected way.
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