DFW Music News

The Spring Standards' James Smith on Working With Rhett Miller: "It Was a Cartoonish Love at First Sound Sort of Thing."

The folky, harmonic pop of NYC trio the Spring Standards has been in production since 2008, and is now available their inventively inventively packaged double EP, Yellow/Gold, released this past May. James Cleare, James Smith and Heather Robb are swinging through Denton tonight, and we had a moment to speak with Smith about old - and odd - band names, what exactly a double EP is, and working with Rhett Miller.

I caught the band in Denton at the annual 35 Denton festival. I left the show feeling like yours is a "happy band," both musically and inter-personally. Is that true? Yeah, we're a happy enough group! We obviously have our off days, our disagreements and our frustrations, but for the most part, we end up staying pretty cheerful. I think it comes down to one main thing in the end: We love performing. No matter how hard things get, the stage is a pretty sacred, silly, safe, comfortable,joyous thing for us. No matter how bad a day gets, the stage sort of becomes a reset button. We've also known each other for a long time and are familiar with each others ups and downs that we can navigate our moods for the most part. And we can always make each other laugh.

The band's first EP was produced by Rhett Miller, and you've played some shows with the Old 97's. How did that partnership come about? Our manager has known Rhett for a while and told him that he should check out this new band that he just started working with. We all met, and it was a cartoonish love at first sound sort of thing. Imagine frolicking with cartoon birds dancing around our heads. That, and a heck of a lot of whiskey.

You've played on Conan and The Mountain Stage, among other high profile gigs. For many young musicians growing up, the thought of such great gigs means an inevitable rise to household name status in their own minds. Tell me about some of the wake-up calls for you, as the group has learned about the differences in perception vs. reality of being a touring musician. I always thought being a musician involved parties and leather chaps! Though we do our share of partying, the biggest lesson that I've learned is that being in a band is a business as much as it is anything else. There are books to be kept, money to be kept track of, taxes to be filed, people to be payed, etc. There's a lot more work to it than just writing music and playing on stage. That's something I didn't even think about when I got into it. Oh, and also the driving. That's how we spend most of our days. Hours and hours in a van, but everything has a silver lining, because now we can speak "trucker." In the end, it's still a fun job, just not all parties and wet t-shirt contests.

I've heard of double albums, but never of a double EP. Tell me about the thought process behind such a release? The three of us write whatever we write, play whatever we play and don't really self-classify at all. But this album was an exercise in "album cohesion." We chose two colors and all tried to write songs that matched the colors. It was our strange and artsy way of trying to get some cohesion to an album without sacrificing our sense of creativity.

The name of a previous band you were in, Urban Wombats, might be the greatest band name I've ever heard. Spring Standards is a great name, but what led to ditching the old name? Ah, 'twas the devil that told you about that! No, we were just young and that band name meant something very different to us when we came back to make music with each other again. Also, you should have heard some of the other band names we were choosing from. I mean, yikes!

The Spring Standards perform with Tim Easton at Dan's Silverleaf tonight.