Although it's been nearly five years since Idaho indie rockers Built to Spill have released an album, the band continues to be a solid concert draw across the United States. Led by the enigmatic Doug Martsch, Built to Spill have featured several different lineups and this year is no exception.
Speaking from St. Louis and in anticipation of Thursday's show at the Granada Theater, guitarist Brent Netson talked with DC9 about the new additions to the band and how breaking in new members means some long, long practices.
Built to Spill play the Dallas area quite often.
The shows are always pretty good. I love Texas. The crowds are always pretty wild. We've never had any problems.
This time, you are playing the Granada. With music as intricate as yours, the venue's sound has to be important.
It really is, but you can't expect that every time. There are so many places that sound better than others. I think every single venue is different. I remember the Granada being fantastic. We did a show there with Dinosaur that was a real hoot.
The live shows are very renowned, spontaneous affairs. Do you use a set list?
Doug [Martsch] makes the set list right before each show. We do some impromptu stuff, but stick to the list pretty much. There are a lot of pedal settings and other technical things. A lot of stuff has to happen within the course of a song. It's good to have some kind of a plan.
You guys are on tour a lot and the shows are long. Does such have an effect on your health and your family life?
Yes, it has for me. We'll see it when touring around in vans. You spend a lot of time on the freeway, at truck stops. That kind of food is not good for you. When you are eating at all those places that people go on special occasions, that's what you are eating. I think most of us have been doing this the entire time, so we are lucky to have girlfriends and wives that have supported us.
You have been in and out of the band over the years. Are you an official permanent member now?
Yes, that happened in 2006. I came back in full time.
Is the current band changed?
We have two new guys since last year. We got a guy named Jason Albertini from a band called Helvetia. They've toured with us and opened up for us. He was our monitor and merch guy. Long time bass player Brett Nelson, he quit. The drummer, Scott Plouf, he quit as well. We have a new drummer named Steve Gere.
Were the departures of Nelson and Plouf amicable?
Yes, they just got tired of it. It's a cool job, but it can beat you up if you are just not into it. It's not easy.
You're originally from Boise, Idaho. What kind of music scene does the city have?
Well, right now there is quite a bit going on. It's different from the early days. In the early days, there was only metal bands and bar bands. Then alternative rock came along and we started having the opportunities to do our own music. That's where we came from and now there is all sorts of stuff going on there, everything you can imagine.
Are you a big Boise State football fan?
I was when I was a kid. I used to go to a lot of the games. I don't go that much anymore.
That damn blue football field gives me a headache.
The Smurf turf! Before Built to Spill, you were in Caustic Resin. Do you still keep up with the other members?
Yes, we are still good friends. I see them when I can.
Will be there be a Caustic Resin reunion soon?
Well, I don't know about soon. We might get around to it. That band meant a lot to all of us. To do it again, we would really want it to be right. It was a wild outfit. To really do it right, you've got to really, really get into it.
Were you influenced by American hardcore punk?
Only in the sense that it was a DIY movement. I was not into hardcore, but that was the people I hung around with when I was a teenager. I've always been into guitar rock and classic rock and weirder alternative rock stuff.
Were you always a big Neil Young fan?
Sure, of course. I think especially if you've grown up in the West, his music really sticks to you. How could you not like him? It's crazy how good he is. In the '90s, with the release of the album Freedom, everybody remembered once again what a totally amazing band Crazy Horse was. He came back in a big way. It was just real good, raw music.
The band is always labeled as indie rock. Is there something more specific?
Well, I don't know. I think more and more that we are most of the elements of all kinds of rock music.
Is the music difficult to play?
Sure, there are a lot of parts, a lot of sounds. People pay a fair amount of money to come see us play. We are motivated, our biggest thing is to give people our best performance and we do it right.
When you bring in two new members, it is difficult to teach all those parts?
There were long, long practices, long hours. But it wasn't hard as much as it was time-consuming. We hit it pretty hard last winter. We wanted to come back and sound good. We wanted it to be right.
It's been a while since 2009's There is No Enemy. Do you have something in the works?
Along with having the new guys, it's going to take us a while to get a new record done. I know Doug is working real hard to come up with new material.
Could fans look for something in 2014?
I don't know. We are trying not to think about that. It will get done when it gets done. We're just working. That's all we are going to do right now. But an album is going to get done. That is one thing that is for sure.
What percentage of Built to Spill fans have beards?
[Laughs] That's probably a high percent. I would think it has to be under 50 percent. I just don't like shaving. That is all I know.