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Drummer Jim Eno of Spoon on the Value of Mistakes, Playing Covers and Capturing the Moment



Since Spoon's 1996 debut "Telephono," the Austin, Texas-based band has been sharpening, modifying and reshaping its formula.

Last year's "Hot Thoughts" is in many ways a culmination of the musical style to which only Spoon can lay claim. Dub-wise classic rock? Minimalist art pop? Deconstructionist disco? Truly, the group's music can ultimately only be described as Spoon Music: Within a bar or two, you'd never confuse Spoon with any other band, a fact not lost on the its rabid fan base.

Style spoke to Spoon co-founder and drummer Jim Eno in advance of the band's return to the National on March 7.

Style Weekly: "Hot Thoughts" has been described as Spoon's dance record. Was this intentional or did it just turn out that way?

Jim Eno: Well, on this record, we used a lot more keyboard-based dance elements. You can hear it on "First Caress," with those cool dancey, sort of Talking Heads-style keyboards. I feel like a lot of our older stuff is dancey but a lot less keyboard-oriented.

Yeah, I remember listening to "Pink Up," and at one point, I forgot what I was listening to and I thought to myself: "Wait, is this dance music?"

Yeah. Dave Fridmann had the idea of adding the kick drum pulse on that, so yeah, it definitely turned a corner and became more of a dancey track after he worked on it.

"Hot Thoughts" is almost a year old. How does a band so synonymous with studio experimentation keep things fresh onstage? Do you work new tunes into the set list or are you constantly finding new life in the older songs?

A little of both, actually. We change the set list every night. One thing we're getting into live is really honing our transitions between songs. We also like to try things during the show. I feel like it can be good to make mistakes when you're playing live, because mistakes can generate ideas. Sometimes when someone makes a little mistake, it turns into something cool. So, we tend to have fun while we're playing, and it's like: "Hey, if you want to try something, go for it," you know?

So, would you say the spirit of studio experimentation carries over to the stage?

Yeah, exactly.

In concert, Spoon has always performed a lot of covers. Do you find that playing cover songs reveals something about your own compositional process? Does playing a song deconstruct or demystify it, in a way? Or am I overthinking it?

I think you're over thinking it a bit. (Laughs). We just tend to play covers that are a little more obscure, and put our spin on them. They're just fun to do, you know? And you get the people who actually know the original track who really appreciate that, and other people will be like: "Hey, what was that new song?"

In 2014, Spoon began working with producer Dave Fridmann, following years of mostly self-produced albums. What was the reason for this change?

It's always good to have another person there who you respect and can basically give their input and just sort of steer the ship. One very basic thing that we do in the studio that a producer helps with is determining a good take. If it's just me and [Britt Daniel] trying to make that call, it can be hard sometimes.

Do you ever envision producing yourselves again?

I doubt it. I feel like [producing ourselves] is something Britt and I got out of our system.

Do you go back and listen to Spoon records once they're released? Do you hear things you would have done differently, or are you generally happy with the body of work?

I feel like with every record I work on, whether it's a Spoon record or any production I do when we're not touring, I could always listen and go "Ah, I should have done that," but I tend to not focus on that kind of stuff. I take every record as a snapshot in time. If I was going to mix a song for seven days straight doing seven different mixes, all of those seven would be different, just because it's a different day and something else would inspire me or bubble up to the top. So, I look at it not like "Oh, I really messed up," or "I wish I would have done that." I look at it like, "Well, we captured that moment and that's how it is." S

Spoon performs with openers Sneaks at the National on Wednesday, March , at 8 p.m. $28.50 - $33.


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