I recently had the chance to sit down at Pinewood Social in Nashville for a fantastic coffee-fueled conversation with Garreth Spinn of The Joy Of Painting; I thought I would share the highlights with you. Enjoy!
Eo8: You met at MTSU (Middle Tennessee State University), and you played around Murfreesboro a lot in the beginning, at places like Wall Street and Bonhoeffer’s…
GS: Man. That’s where we played our first show. Probably in our first year or year and a half we played most of our shows at Bonhoeffer’s, whenever they’d take us. That was really cool of them because they were always cool with me as a songwriter playing there. I didn’t necessarily have the cleanest lyrics, and that place is run by a church, you know. They’d always just let me do my thing, and they’d never say anything. I’ve never really gotten to explicitly tell them that that was appreciated, but it definitely was. There was a very obvious split in the music that was happening in Murfreesboro; there were those of us playing at places like Bonhoeffer’s, where we would do songwriting circles and have tea and coffee. There was another side playing crazy house shows and experimental music, which was cool, but we just didn’t fit in that world. Our idea of hanging out was passing the guitar around.
Eo8: Do you consider The Joy of Painting a pop band?
GS: I think we’ve always labeled it as “garage pop” and we are trying to strip away some of the “garage” elements. The term “pop” means so many different things to me. When I think of “pop,” I think of everything from Buddy Holly to Katy Perry. It’s whatever is short and to the point and infectious. That’s pop music. That’s what I’m setting out to try and do. It’s a high goal for sure, but our band’s gotten really tight and we’ve started working with a really cool producer (Micah Tawlks) that I admire so that’s really exciting.
E08: What are you listening to these days?
GS: Well, I saw Against Me last Sunday night, and I listened to them on the way over here. Their new record is so incredible. I would highly recommend listening to it, it’s highly empowering. Arctic Monkeys always, just kind of everyday or so, kind of can’t escape that. I like everything about Arctic Monkeys, every album is wildly different, but still sounds like them. Even if you took all the “B sides,” the stuff that didn’t make the record, and just listened to that, that would be a highly satisfying catalog. The fact that they have full albums and an array of unreleased material or side-released material, it’s like an endless treasure trove of music. I feel like I’ve grown up with them, and every time they put out a new record, it feels like it lines up exactly with what I’m into at the time. I’ve never missed a tour. I love that band. I’ve been listening to the new Vampire Weekend album; it’s funny, I had a youth pastor when I was growing up in the Presbyterian church, he was always a hip guy. He got handpicked by Princeton to work at the seminary there, he’s like a really smart guy. I told him about the new Vampire Weekend record right when it came out, it has a lot of Judeo-Christian themes, very interesting record. I wanted to put it in his pipeline, I was sure he’d get something out of it. Now he’s working with an editor to write an article for Princeton about the album, and he’s having a friend and me help him write about it. It’s really exciting, it’s like the ultimate nerd-fest, I have a solid excuse to talk endlessly about music, it’s great. There’s also a new St. Vincent record coming out, a Beck record’s coming out, it’s already looking like a good year for music.
Eo8: What’s the band up to right now?
GS: I am trying to write, and we are trying to arrange, and we are also playing a lot of shows. We’re going on the road, on a short tour with another Nashville band. We just got a booking agent so we’re going to be playing a lot more, so that’s exciting. We’ll be playing a lot of weekends, and as impatient as I am, as much as I want a new album, I don’t think it’s going to happen for a while because we’re going to be very preoccupied with shows and things like that. As a listener I get very impatient, and I think “it’s your only job to write and record music, why can’t you put out a new record once every year like they did in the 60’s, like Dylan and the Beatles used to do?” I understand now why bands can’t pump out more records than they do, it’s very time-consuming to do.
Eo8: Since you’ve been involved in and around the music industry, has there been something that’s really excited you or disappointed you, or do you still approach everything with wide-eyed wonder?
GS: Well, the problem with all of us is that we were overly-educated at MTSU, so I don’t really approach anything with wide-eyed or child-like wonder because I think MTSU prepped me pretty well for worst-case scenarios. Bad things have happened in the music industry since it began, so why would I think it’s going to be different for us? I’m just trying to work hard and do the very best I can, and hopefully someone has a little bit of faith in me and my friends, and will let us do this forever.
Eo8: I recently interviewed the band Leagues, and asked if there were any particular songs that were moving them or wrecking them at the moment. Lead singer Thad Cockrell said he liked that I asked about songs rather than artists because “artists are of this world, songs are not.” Are you the type of person that’s totally devoted to a band and will buy their albums, and love all of the songs just because you like the band, or do you judge each artist/band by their individual songs?
GS: I get fanboy-ish about particular bands, I’ll go see them anytime, anyplace, like the Arctic Monkeys. I’m not a super-spiritual person, but one of the spiritual things I believe is that the best songs are “received.” That’s why I love songwriting so much. When you write something that really resonates with yourself it’s a very strange feeling that can’t be replicated, at least nothing that I’ve experienced. Like when the band finished writing “Dontchu Wanna,” man, that felt really good. Somewhere in the depths of my email, there is a recording of us playing “Dontchu Wanna” for the first time, and all of us are just losing it, and going ‘oh my gosh I can’t believe we just did that,’ it was great. That feeling, even if it only comes once in a while, makes it so worth it. It’s the most rewarding thing, even if no one else ever hears it. I’ve talked to a lot of people who really get down on pop music and pop songwriting, but it is very difficult to write a two and a half, three minute, three and a half minute song that resonates with a vast majority of people. Like, you may think this a lame example, but that song “Roar” by Katy Perry, that song is incredible.
Eo8: Is listening to Katy Perry one of your guilty pleasures?
GS: Not a guilty pleasure! To kind of prove the point about how great that song (“Roar”) is, one of the first times I ever heard that song, I was at Santa’s, this doublewide, smokey bar with a karaoke machine, and this big dude, like 6′ 6″ and 300 pounds, this massive dude whose head touched the ceiling, he got up there and rocked that song so hard, and just killed it, and the place just went insane. It totally doesn’t even matter who sings it, that song’s amazing. Going out to karaoke bars has really pushed home the power of pop music, and what it does to a room, it speaks to what songs can do to people, it’s great.
E08: Do you have mission or a goal for your band? Tender Age has been out almost a year now, are you still touring and traveling to support it to spread the Joy (see what I did there)?
GS: When I was a kid going to see punk bands, and remembering how careless I felt, the way I felt as a kid watching those shows, that’s how I would love to make other people feel. There’s no limit to that. I’m not going to say no to anything, ultimately I want to do this for however long I can do it. When we play a show and I see that people are having a good time, and they have big grins on their faces, that’s what makes me feel good. It doesn’t matter how many people, if we drive five hours to play in St. Louis and there are ten people there and two people are really enjoying it, that’s what makes it worth it, not financially worth it, but it’s worth it for the sake of making music. We are trying to travel farther out; obviously there is a vast majority of people in this city who haven’t heard of this band, but you don’t want to only play in one place and oversaturate the market. The shows get incrementally bigger every time, but I want to get experience going out on the road and playing shows everyday, I’d rather space things out as opposed to playing locally all the time. So far the farthest we’ve traveled to play was Pontiac, Michigan. Touring is not even hardly about playing music, it’s about meeting people and making new friends, and you have a support system when you one back around, and that support system gets wider. The first time we went on tour, I learned that on the first day. You play music for like 30 minutes and the rest of the time, we make friends. We don’t have money for hotels, so we have to make friends with strangers, and be like, ‘hey, can we sleep on your floor?’ or ‘hey, we’re from Nashville….long pause…we don’t have anyplace to go tonight after the show…long pause…’ Sometimes it’s really hard, but it’s ultimately what I love.
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