Built to Last

Doug Martsch runs the biggest little band on Earth

The practically mainstream following resulting from the success of Secret led to the 2000 release of a live album chronicling the subsequent tour. The 2001 follow-up studio album, Ancient Melodies of the Future, didn't get rave reviews, but it wasn't panned either. Apathy seemed the general consensus.

It's hard to follow an amazing album with a good one. Amazing is a double-edged sword: Do you stick with your sound and tempt indifference, or do you stray into uncharted territories and risk alienation? Martsch opted for the former, perhaps because he had enough alienation in his normal life.

"I don't really need to communicate with anyone on a daily basis. I'm not antisocial or anything. It's kind of a natural thing as you get older. You tend not to socialize as much unless you have to. In Boise, I don't really get out much at all."

At 35, it's not like Martsch has one foot in the grave. Two years after the release of his solo album, he's back with Nelson and Plouf, listening to old reggae, old soul and old Built to Spill sessions, trying to understand the nature of the jams that ended up translating into the group's best studio songs.

"It's way more of a band now. We write songs together. It's definitely not my band."

Martsch isn't even all that excited about going back on tour. The songs he's been working on don't sound too fun to him right now. Once he gets them out in front of people, though, he thinks he'll start enjoying them. Once they become alive for an audience, they become more real for the band. Martsch plans on using this tour as a series of live jam sessions. In all likelihood the new songs debuted and refined on the road will be the ones included on the new album, not the other way around.

It seems Martsch is right--it's not his band. It's ours. So much for ditching the collective.

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