Despite lineup changes Built To Spill’s still spilling
Indie-rockers Built To Spill have been consistently active for over two decades, but the recording of their latest album brought about a seismic shift in the band’s status quo.
Drummer Scott Plouf and bassist Brett Nelson, both long-running members of the band, departed under amicable circumstances during sessions for Built To Spill’s new LP, “Untethered Moon.” Frontman Doug Martsch reworked and rerecorded the album with new drummer Steve Gere and bassist Jason Albertini, who had toured with the band previously.
“It was frightening when those guys quit,” says guitarist Brett Netson. “Make no mistake. It was like, ‘Oh my God. What the hell are we going to do?’ ”
Although Plouf and Nelson’s departure was one of the bigger shakeups in Built To Spill’s history, change is nonetheless a constant for the band. Martsch has been the only consistent factor since Built To Spill, known for its propulsive guitar melodies and existentially angsty lyrics, formed in 1992. Even a founding member like Netson has woven in and out of the lineup over the years. He’s performing on the “Untethered Moon” tour, which stops Thursday at Saint Andrew’s Hall, although he doesn’t appear on the album. Netson says the band’s new lineup worked “long, long hours” learning both “Untethered Moon” material and much of Built To Spill’s back catalog, and the resulting live performances are imbued with a fresh energy.
“If you change anything that drastically you get a new perspective on stuff, especially creative endeavors,” he says. “At least half of the whole situation changed. The chemistry changed. Everything.”
Netson says the new lineup is planning to “tour like crazy and just play like mad” through this winter. Netson has mixed feelings on the touring experience after over 20 years on the road. He says he doesn’t feel aging has taken any toll on his ability to tour, asserting that he still has the same energy he did in his twenties. He even feels he’s gotten better at life on the road with the realization that “you can’t just party 24/7.”
But some of the more corporate aspects of the live music business have worn Netson down. He says he’s become disillusioned with the way many venues seem to exist only to sell “as much beer as they possibly can,” and bemoans the way some of his favorite long-lived venues have been co-opted by major entertainment corporations.
“History goes away and it doesn’t come back,” he says. “Without a historical reference it’s really easy for all of that bull---- corporate influence to tell us who we are, to tell younger people ‘Here’s how it is,’ instead of a bunch of crusty weirdos at this rock club telling kids how it is. You don’t want that. You want people that love music and love life to tell the next people that come along, to tell the young people what’s up. You don’t want Live Nation telling people what’s up.”
However, without any prompting, the Boise-based Netson singles out one of his favorite venues that is still maintaining its historic character: Saint Andrew’s Hall.
“That’s a Live Nation place, but it’s still Saint Andrew’s,” he says. “It’s still that place. It’s got people working there that are keeping it cool.”
Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.
Built To Spill
with Clarke and the Himselfs
7:30 p.m. Thursday
Saint Andrew’s Hall
431 E. Congress, Detroit