- July 2015 -
HAVE A BEER WITH SPOOKYLAND
Spookyland is the musical vehicle for 22-year-old Marcus Gordon and band consisting of his brother guitarist Liam Gordon, drummer Nath Mansfield and bass-player Nic Malouf. Spookyland’s EP “Rock and Roll Weakling,” released on independent label Monday Records, has received praise from the likes of Pitchfork (“An utterly magnetizing vulnerability”) to NME (““an enviable confidence that will hopefully carry him far and wide as a vocalist, producer and performer”).
2014 proved to be the year where Spookyland left the bedroom and entered the public domain. In August 2014, they signed a deal with Canvasclub, the single arm of US label Canvasback, which was founded by rock-’n’-roll veteran Steve Ralbovsky (who signed The Strokes, Kings of Leon, Soundgarden, My Morning Jacket). Other artists currently on the Canvasback roster include Grouplove, Alt-J and The Orwells. Canvasback is a subsidiary of Atlantic Records. In November “Rock and Roll Weakling” EP was released in the UK/Europe on legendary label, PIAS, the home of artists such as The Pixies,The Jezabels, Joan as Policewoman and Dinosaur Jr.
After a successful run of shows in the US and UK, Spookyland took the stage at Chicago’s Lollapalooza and a Metro Chicago aftershow for their Windy City debut. We caught up with the band at the festival and covered Bob Dylan, working together as a band and the making of their new record.
The Gig: Spookyland at Lollapalooza // Fri, Jul. 31, 2015 // Sprint Stage
Drinks of Choice: Marcus Gordon (vocals), Coconut Water; Liam Gordon (guitar), Coopers, Australian Pale Ale; Nath Mansfield (drums), Odell’s IPA; Nic Malouf (bass), anything that affects your mind.
Kristen from A Beer with the Band: So, Marcus, coconut water is your drink of choice. You lucked out because there’s a lot of it here at Lollapalooza. You guys just wrapped up on-stage. How did the set go?
Liam: It was fantastic. There was a great energy. It was good to see people coming right at the start of the festival.
Kristen: There was a pretty big crowd there for being an early set, which is awesome.
Liam: Yeah we're very fortunate in that. It was great to see.
Kristen: Have you played Chicago before?
Marcus: It’s our first time here.
Kristen: What do you think so far of the city?
Marcus: It's just like the Batman trilogy! High Fidelity was filmed here as well and I love that you can see where they did all the little bits with Cusack.
Kristen: The Batman trilogy is a lot of dark tunnels and cars speeding through them.
Liam: Yeah, so Chicago is basically a lot of dark tunnels and superheroes.
Kristen: Superheroes. That’s all we are here.
Nath: Just superheroes and dark people.
Kristen: You played today at Lollapalooza, you’re playing an official aftershow at Metro with Lord Huron … and then what?
Marcus: We recorded an album, so we’ll be wrapping that up at home. Yeah, after the Metro show we’re off …back to Sydney on Monday.
Kristen: Just a quick visit then. Who are you hoping to see at the festival before you leave?
Liam: Alabama Shakes … Paul McCartney, obviously.
Nath: And Father John Misty. That will be something.
Kristen: Tell me about your forthcoming album.
Marcus: We spent two weeks down at Mike Mogis from Bright Eyes’ studio in Nebraska and basically did a song a day. We recorded a bunch of songs and then took it back home and mixed it. We don’t have a drop date for it yet, but it will be early next year. Maybe in February.
Kristen: You have an EP out now. You tracked it live, in order to accurately capture your sound. Was that the plan from the get-go?
Liam: Yeah, it's the energy of our band. We kind of feed off each other, and that's what we’re like ... We're not an overdub band, so to speak.
Marcus: The sound is ugly, as it is. To make it ugly and in time just seems a bit silly…
Kristen: Why do you say it sounds ugly?
Liam: It's harsh.
Marcus: It’s not pretty. I think it's for a small set of people.
Kristen: I hear Dylan in your voice, Marcus. He has sort of harsh vocals, and I see a connection with your lyricism too. Your lyrics are strongly rooted in storytelling. Was that someone who you listened to growing up?
Marcus: Oh yeah, I love Bob. Yeah, we all listened to him quite a lot in our teens. There’s so much to learn from him. It’s a goldmine of talent and form. You can just dive into it.
Nic: He's a great character for us. He seems like a cartoon character. He is as profound as he is hilarious. He’s equally as funny as he is serious…
Kristen: The movie “I’m Not There” is so interesting. It’s strange to see all the personas he has inhabited in his life. I guess he wanted to keep people guessing.
Marcus: We saw an interview with him from the ‘80s, and in the space of 10 seconds he’d gone from having the hots for the interviewer to being angry to feeling really bad…
Nic: Then he got insecure, then he got angry again.
Marcus: All in the span of 10 seconds.
Nic: Then he was calm again.
Kristen: Is that what you guys are going for here?
Marcus: No, no, no.
Kristen: I was going to say, I can provoke you, if you'd like. What is your writing process like, or creative process like as a group, or individually? How do things come together?
Liam: It's a lot more group-based lately. This latest album has been very collaborative. Marcus might have the bones or something and we might get together and work out a structure. Marcus will always say to me, "This will sound good with these guys. What do you think?" And we'll be like, "Yeah." Then when we get together it goes from like 30 percent to 100 percent.
Nic: Basically, Marcus will come in with a skeleton of a song... And then we work together to add the muscles, and the skin and…
Kristen: That takes a lot of trust on your end, Marcus.
Marcus: Oh yeah, I trust them. You can't be too precious.
Kristen: What's the hardest thing about doing what you guys do?
Marcus: I think expectations, for me, when it comes to an online presence. People expect you to do things like take photos every day, or say something funny. And I guess I find that to be the hardest, because it doesn't feel like a natural part to me. It’s all about statistics…
Liam: To make a digital persona and keep up with it.
Nath: Translating stuff like the live energy into recording can be hard, too. A lot of trust has to go into the producer as well to be able to capture that but still make a record…As well, there’s this expectation that…Well, I've noticed that people want you to stay the same. And I don't even know what that means.
Marcus: Yeah, you haven't even figured out what you really are, and people are saying you've got to keep doing what you're doing ... or what you did. It's an interesting thing, like they want to freeze you in time or something.
Kristen: You mean categorizing you in terms of genre?
Liam: Yeah, genre and voice.
Marcus: And just everything. People are telling you that you’ve got it nailed down and not to change. But you don’t even know what you are yet.
Kristen: What’s least rock-'n'-roll thing you've done in the past year?
Nic: There’s too much…We're all about that kind of stuff.
Liam: I always play chess with my girlfriend, and sometimes I play Flight Simulator.
Kristen: Flight Simulator? What is that?
Marcus: It's a game where you pretend you're a pilot.
Liam: And it's on the computer, so ... It's super, super nerdy.
Marcus: And it takes the same amount of time to play as it would to actually take the flight. So, Sydney to L.A…that’s a long time in front of a computer.
Liam: I’m scared of flying and to me, playing Flight Simulator comes from my fascination of aviation. If I understand it better, I feel like I won’t be scared.
Kristen: So I take it the flight here for Lollapalooza was not an easy one…
Liam: Yeah, actually…I just got really drunk.
Nath: Bloody Marys.
Kristen: Anyone else into flight simulations?
Marcus: No, no.
Nic: I really like Sim City.
Kristen: Sim City is the best.
Nic: We’re all constantly doing very uncool things.
Marcus: Too many uncool things to count.
Nath: And it even depends if rock-‘n’-roll is “cool” anymore.
Kristen: A lot of bands, when I ask that question, they're like, "Well, what's your definition of rock-'n'-roll?" And I'm like, "Well you know, smashing TVs, trashing hotel rooms."
Nic: All that is done with. Now, a cup of tea, a cigarette and a bit of a lie down and sleep is rock-‘n’-roll.
Liam: I think the genre is now called “rock-‘n’-relax.”
Kristen: “Rock-‘n’-relax.” I love it.
Nic: Most people I know who are in bands see smashing TVs as a thing of the past. They’re over it.
Kristen: So, I've never been to Australia. How does it work when you’re touring? Do you travel by bus or plane?
Nic: By air. There are only about four major cities in Australia and it’s the same size as the U.S., so there's huge expanses of nothingness.
Liam: For example, if we're playing a show in Perth, and we were in Sydney, it would be like flying from L.A. to New York.
Kristen: Wow. Do you like that, or do you wish you were actually “on the road” more?
Liam: Well, I love America so I’m biased.
Nic: We’re one of the emptiest countries in the world. It's pretty barren… To get out of the city is a pretty big deal. And you can’t keep playing the same cities over like you can in the U.S.
Kristen: What other cities in the U.S. have you played?
Liam: L.A., Philadelphia, Boston, New York. We played Governor’s Ball…
Marcus: Yeah, L.A, New York, we played CMJ last year…
Kristen: That's a great festival.
Marcus: The crowds here are really nice. In Australia, even if someone likes you, they won't clap.
Kristen: Really? I've heard that about audiences in New Zealand, too. I’ve had bands tell me that the audiences are sort of prim and proper. And here, we're just a bunch of drunks.
Liam: I prefer that actually.
Kristen: If you had a band philosophy or a band mission statement, what would it be?
Liam: Trust each other.
Marcus: Don't dilute the music.
Liam: Yeah. Trust the music and trust the band — more than you trust yourself. Because that's the only way to get rid of your ego: to work with other people. It’s like in any job….The best jobs are the ones where there’s no ego involved because it’s a collective effort. Where it’s a “we, we” thing and not a “me, you” thing. There can be a temptation to listen to these voices in your head telling you to go all these different directions, but it always has to come back to making the music that we, as a band, want to make.
Kristen: And it seems like you guys have the support of people around you letting you do what you — as a band — want to do.
Marcus: Yeah, we're very lucky with that. We're very lucky.