Interview: Spindrift

Founded in 1992 by singer-songwriter-composer-producer-actor Kirpatrick Thomas in Newark, Delaware , Spindrift is one of America’s truly original active bands, with a style that resembles what would happen with the Old West mythology if it were mixed with The Doors and My Bloody Valentine.

True to the band’s undeniable visual element through their music, the film “The Legend Of God’s Gun”  (2005) was inspired by Spindrift’s album of the same name, released just three years prior. The band went on to release the album Songs From The Ancient Age in 2007.

In 2009, after tours with Black Angels and The Dandy Warhols, they took a break due to burnout from the road and financial difficulties. Later that year, Kirpatrick Thomas decided to reform the group and started rehearsing and writing new songs at The Joshua Tree Inn – in the same room where Gram Parsons died.

In December 2010, after a succesful tour in Europe supporting Black Rebel Motorycle ClubSpindrift went in studio to record its latest album “Classic Soundtracks Vol. 1” , which was released this year on Xemu Records. The album has 14 tracks, which (as the name of the album suggests) are set to a different type of film score, all of which were filmed and aired earlier this year.

Interviewed here is Kirpatrick Thomas, prior to the band’s long-awaited arrival in Montreal for what will be the Spindrift’s first show here, supporting The Black Angels,  Tuesday October 25 at Cabaret Mile-End (a show which Them Blue Midnights has been granted official access to review, so stay tuned for plenty of pics – click that Facebook “like” button if you want to be updated!)

TBM: Thanks very much for doing this. How’s the tour going?

KPT: This tour has been referred to as “band camp” and The Psychedelic Roadhouse Tour by some of the other members/bands, which seems fitting. This is most definitely one of my favorite tours I’ve ever done. We are all really good friends and there is no competition between the bands. After our 2 month tour  in Europe, this is easy stuff. The crowds have been amazing and extremely enthusiastic. Plus, this will be Spindrift’s first time in Toronto or Montreal! I truly feel honored to play almost every night with both The Black Angels and Dead Meadow.

Your latest album ranges from so many different styles of music and songwriting. What inspired you to do something so creatively different?

Ever since the beginning, Spindrift has set out to be unique. I’ve never had the desire to mimic or mime some other concept or tune. The idea of mixing film, cinema, and other elements all came together through a collective group of musicians and directors and label reps who all shared in this unique, equal vision.

Musically, I agree we are all over the place. We listen to pretty much everything. Rap, Metal, Psyche, Country, Oldies, Classical, Space Rock, New Age, Krautrock, Experimental, Soundtracks, lots of Foreign Nomerican music like Bollywood, Turkish, Hindi, African, and so on…

When working with a director on a film, it’s good to have a vast knowledge of these influences to grab from. We used to only do Spaghetti Western  and psyche style stuff. Now with Classic Soundtracks Vol.1, that whole thing has expanded.

What was it like writing songs at the Gram Parsons death room? What drove you to go there?

At the time, our pedal steel player Luke Dawson was an innkeeper staying/working there. Being from L.A., Joshua Tree is our home away from home, and we began songwriting retreats for hours and days out there. It’s was a beautiful, spooky experience. Like a bit of a creative explosion with some solitude and a Ouija Board mixed in with guidance from Gram’s ghost.

Your band’s been around since 1992 and seen numerous lineup changes, all the way up until this album. Is it difficult to retain the sound you’re going for when you play with so many different musicians?

It’s  not very difficult as long as you have a solid concept and vision for each album. Life changes, music changes, always for the better. That’s my philosophy at least. I’ve been the main songwriter and vocalist/lead guitarist for Spindrift for 20 years now. I think I’d like to say I’ve nailed down my own style by now but then again, the band was designed for the listener to generally expect the unexpected.

What is your approach in translating such a visual style of music into your live shows?

Visually, we rely on a VJ or a projectionist to accompany our live set to the proper visuals. This came full circle at a recent record release show at the Echoplex in Los Angeles.
With the release of Classic Soundtracks, all the videos have premiered on ifc.com which has made this a solid endeavor.

From what I understand, just a few years ago your band was essentially no more. Yet, here you are now and your band seems to be doing better than ever. Do you think taking a break was essential to this happening?

Yes, the breakup and rebuilding was essential for reinvention. Truth is, I never took a break after we lost our drummer, rythm guitarist, and key player a couple years ago. I just went back to Delaware for a month and kept writing. Henry and I just said “let’s keep going with what we’ve got”. Our primary goal at that time was to write a new album and tour Europe. Since then we’ve released the new album, videos, scored several films, been to Europe twice,  and have played more gigs than ever in our career. I connected the dots and made contact with Luke(pedal steel), James(drums, autoharp), and Sasha(vocals, flute, keys) and after a few rehearsals and a tour, we knew it would work.
With festivals like the Austin Psych Fest growing in popularity, do you find that Psychedelic music is – as broad as the term is – finally getting back the attention it deserves?

It’s still quite an underground genre. Though with the existence of more main stream semi-psyche bands such as Noel Gallaghers High Flying Birds(which, by the way, Mike Bruce, director of The Legend of God’s Gun recently finished a video trilogy for) , MGMT, and such its gained a bit more rise in recent years. We’ve seen its resurgence every decade since the 60’s, through various sparks of Pop Culture and it’s always been a cornerstone of American history. I do believe that we are raising some eyebrows during this tour though.

This might be a bit of an obvious question, but I have to ask. What is it about the mythology of the Old West that inspires you to this day?

I love how tradition and stories of The West have been passed down through generations creating an American Folklore. I honestly feel it is our honor and duty to preserve these tales of life in the old west. Otherwise, these tales, songs, will die.

Spindrift plays Montreal at Cabaret Mile End (5240 Parc Ave.) along with Black Angels and Dead Meadow on Tuesday, October 25 2011. Tickets are $18.00 advance (they can be purchased through www.blueskiesturnblack.com) , or 20.00$ at the door.

 www.spindriftwest.com

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