“We have a certain way of talking to each other that’s quite venomous,” shares the Spector frontman, Frederick Macpherson. “We get rid of our nerves by taking the mickey out of each other all the time.”
And indeed they do. We interviewed the British band Spector while they were in Singapore for their October 4 performance; and in the 20 minutes we’ve spent in their company, these five bandmates couldn’t stop throwing playful taunts at each other.
Spector in Singapore (L-R): Christopher Burman, Frederick Macpherson,
Thomas Shickle, Jed Cullen and Danny Blandy
Cue some snickering in the background, whenever the ever-chatty Macpherson launches into his lengthier, melodramatic replies. At one point, he describes “death” as the “ideal day-off”.
Nearly every question posed gets us two answers from this band; first a facetious reply from Macpherson, almost the default spokesperson, followed by more honest answers by the group.
You can’t take Spector quite seriously — and perhaps that’s exactly the point — when the band seems to be taking their album title like a band motto: “Enjoy it while it lasts”.
Here, we chat with the indie rock band on their music, the worst and best pick-up lines and more; including their dream collaboration with a certain Japanese girl band.
If you would take them at their word, Spector is the “sort of band who’ll be scared of doing anything debauched in front of each other,” says Macpherson. “So we kind of keep it safe, keep it hidden. Our way of partying is that we ‘party in our minds’.”
In contrast, bassist Thomas “Tom” Shickle, also a model, is referred to as the “normal lad” in the group, the band member who would “appreciate a straight up party”. Drummer Danny Blandy is simply referred to as “having his own problems,” while keyboardist Jed Cullen is reportedly “the quiet one.”
Nevertheless, everything that you see in their videos is all their doing. As Macpherson would describe it: “When the cameras start rolling, anything can happen.”
As for their music, think exuberant tunes inspired by the rock-disco tracks of The Killers, mixed with some of the more alternative rock riffs of ‘70s English band Pulp. Or in Macpherson’s words, a debut album that is “maximalist, romantic, emotional (and) a bit of a mess, in a good way.”
“It’s us recording the last album we ever thought we might get to record,” says the vocalist. “That’s truly what it is. A record with a vision solely of itself.”
THE “SPECTRE” OF SPECTOR
“The origin of the band name, came up with the boredom of having to come up with a band name, and having to make a choice,” Macpherson explains. “It would be easier to come up with a band name at the end of a 10 year career.”
“If you could email the government and say like, ‘we’re going to start a band’ and ‘can you give us a name’, that will be great,” quips guitarist Christopher Burman. Or a “serial number,” adds Macpherson, “and that’ll be the name of the band”.
Contrary to earlier reports, this band was not named after the infamous former record producer, Phil Spector; they decided on the name “literally from brainstorming.” Derived from the word “‘Spectre’, which writes in different spellings,” Macpherson says the band simply “went with one that wasn’t taken”.
POISON OF CHOICE
When quizzed on his drink — or poison — of choice when songwriting, Macpherson ponders on this point: “I’ve never actually written under the influence of alcohol but it’s something I’m going to be trying on the next album.”
He continues: “My drink of poison is. . . love or the relationships that don’t do you any favours that actually only give you pain but you think something will come back right to you. like a scab . . . like venom, like a snake, a snake bite venom from a woman who hurts you, repeatedly.”
And then the kicker: “Maybe gin. Because that’s a drink that’s filled with tears.”
A more believable admission follows, as Macpherson goes on: “But I write these songs because . . . I have certain friends and all they want to talk about are their bloody ex-girlfriends. I write these songs, rather than talking about things that you’ve been through.”
BEHIND-THE-SCENES WITH SPECTOR
So how is it truly like backstage with the band? “The tempting answer would be to say, more boring than you would expect,” Macpherson replies. “But I think some people would find it quite difficult. . . Even our booking manager, agent when they come backstage with us. They feel uncomfortable; we’re always just sniping at each other.”
“We deal with nerves in many different ways. Most of us would say we’re not nervous but we get rid of our nerves by taking the mickey out of each other all the time, and making jokes at each other’s expense.”
AKB48, AS A DREAM COLLABORATOR?
Maybe it was their time in Tokyo. Perhaps it was their trip to the Singapore AKB48 Cafe, as guitarist Christopher Burman had tweeted. Or it’s simply the fact that there’s 48 girls in Japanese girl band AKB48, whom Spector describes as a “dream collaborator”.
“There are 48 of them and all you need is one number,” says Macpherson wryly. “It’s easier than to get like Jay-Z’s number.”
On this point, the band seems genuinely awestruck by the fact they’re on a world tour. Even being in Singapore is “a pinch-me moment in itself,” admits Burman.
With their debut album released just two months ago, there’s been “so many of these moments that you’ll actually forget to pinch yourself and see if you’re dreaming”, says Macpherson.
“We’ll probably wake up tomorrow, we’re all in a dream and we won’t have time to pinch ourselves. This is all happening in Danny’s head and he’s going to wake up and have his last (university) exam tomorrow.”
“The whole year has been a pinch-me moment. It’s going to be a year that we’re not going to shut up about for the rest of our lives.”
AN IDEAL DAY-OFF
On the subject of an ideal day-off, Macpherson waxes lyrical on desiring a state of “being like you’re asleep but you’re awake. Where you can remove all thoughts from your head. I think death will be an ideal day-off, in short. I think as long as you’re alive, you’re going to be bogged down with pain and infinite questions.”
Bassist Shickle intercuts: “Or we could go to a park.”
As usual, Macpherson had to have the last word: “We have two options: a nice park, or death. We’ll see when we get to the end of this tour to see what we’ll choose.”
Then he finally concedes, “we recently got two weeks off and this was a bit scary for me. I was like ‘I’m going to enjoy these two weeks so much I’m not going to think about the band at all’. About 10 days in, I just wanted to be doing band stuff again.”
BEST PICK-UP LINE EVER
“Throw some ice on the floor and then say, ‘now you’ve broken the ice’,” deadpans Macpherson. “If you could muster the confidence to say a crap chat line to a girl, you’ll be safe.”
“We went through a stage of inventing worst possible chat lines,” shares Shickle. “The funny thing is, there’s no such thing as a good chat line. The worst one is probably a great way to start.”
Drummer Danny Blandy has a more heartfelt recommendation: “When I was 19, I broke up with my girlfriend who had gone to university and I was having really no luck with the girls. I didn’t know how to approach (girls), I had really low self-confidence.”
“I spoke to my dad, he said, ‘they probably think you’re really nice but you have to let them know that you might be interested. And all you have to do is to give them a smile. But his smile was like. . .” Blandy pauses, then imitates his dad with a creepy sideway grin. “Don’t do that smile. But just be yourself and smile, and it’s fine.”
Spector performed live in Singapore at Avalon at Marina Bay Sands on October 4, 2012. Their debut album, Enjoy It While It Lasts, is now out in stores.