Q&A: Spindrift

Spindrift: Classic Soundtracks Vol. 1 (Xemu, 5/10/11)

Spindrift: “Theme From Confusion Range”

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Mixing influences from Italian-western composers like Ennio Morricone with elements of psychedelic rock, Spindrift has pioneered its own brand of western music. Its style is manifested through a diversity of sounds, including guitar, organ, pedal steel, flute, autoharp, sitar, tabla, and bass, but its musical résumé is more than merely instruments.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Spindrift recently recorded an album of unreleased movie themes and new material.  That album, Classic Soundtracks Vol. 1, captures the band’s eclectic nature and cinematic tendencies. Here, founder Kirpatrick Thomas elaborates on the forthcoming album, the impact of the desert environment on the band’s music, and the similarities between western scores and psychedelic rock.

What inspired you to use Kickstarter for Classic Soundtracks‘ fundraising as opposed to other, more traditional means of establishing a budget?

For us, Kickstarter was a great way to raise a recording budget and get friends, fans, and family directly involved in the making of our next album. We realized that we needed $5,000 and had a seven-week US tour ahead of us, so, along with touring and promotion, we created awareness about our upcoming project. At every show, we performed the new songs, then, after seven weeks, we had our goal and jumped into the studio to record. We had the time of our lives recording this record, and we wanted it to translate.

Classic Soundtracks was recorded in Hicksville Trailer Palace, and Spindrift was the first band to record a full-length album there. Can you explain why you chose this particular setting for recording?

Many of the songs that we’ve written for Classic Soundtracks were birthed in the desert. Thus we wanted to lay them to rest (as in the final recorded track) in the desert as well. We actually would write and rehearse for a bit in the Gram Parsons death room at the Joshua Tree Inn. Keeping true to faith, Hicksville is a stupendous facility for being relaxed, isolated, productive, and creative. It’s a beautiful place, and recording in Joshua Tree was a dream come true. Highly recommended!

The album showcases various soundtrack themes from imaginary movies. Can you elaborate on one of these imagined films?

A few years ago, I was in the shower, and the album title, cover art, and concept all came to me at once. It was the idea to create a musical résumé of all of our soundtrack works from all different types of cult films that we have scored and would wish to score. It’s a collaboration on many levels, involving different directors creating unique twists and turns in the songwriting process. It allows our band to be expressive to no limit. That’s why this is Vol. 1. The subject material can be all over the place. We’ve got Bollywood, film noir, a Mountain Men film, westerns, and all kinds of weird B-movie, sci-fi, secret-agent stuff going on. The idea that a film companion could come out with the soundtrack compilation was a mammoth vision, and now it is coming to completion.

Where do you feel that vocals add a necessary component to your material? Is there a stronger pull towards using them as “instruments” or as a storytelling device?

My personal view on a memorable song is based off of melody; that’s what I’m initially attracted to. Lyrics come later, if there is something worthwhile to say. Otherwise, use the voice as an expressive instrument. About half the songs on this record have no lyrics, and the ones that do tell some wicked stories. But generally, if you can’t write a good melody, then why even have a song? Beyond that, people talk too much BS and don’t shut up these days. I’m just trying to do the world a favor. If you’ve really got something to say…please do. Otherwise, write me a melody like John Barry, Morricone, or The Ventures, and shut up. The days of instrumental music on the airwaves is long over, yet, once, instrumental pop songs were top-10 hits. Guess that shows where radio and the industry is at these days. Lame pop garbage.

What similarities have you found between Italian-western scores and psychedelic rock?  Which of their respective elements work best together?

Most of the Italian-western soundtracks have incorporated some surfy, twangy guitar. Sometimes ’60s fuzz was used. Morricone himself has done quite a few psychedelic records. It’s also psychedelic in the way that it makes you feel like you are in another time and place when you listen to it. I’ve found that if you add super reverb and delay to it and then make it 10 times more spooky and atmospheric, then….bam! Extra-psychedelic western cult-film music!

You’ve recently added pedal steel, Native American flute, and autoharp to Spindrift’s instrument lineup. How have these additions expanded your material? Are there any plans to include more instruments? If so, which ones?

I’m projecting trumpet is next. Lots of it. Sasha [Vallely] has been talking about saving up to buy one…any donations?? Also, I could see us getting more stripped down and into a more folky, campfire-acoustic-mariachi approach. On the other hand, we tend to experiment with electronic music more than you would imagine, so I could see this expansion also. Psychedelic pedal steel crosses the genre into crossover-country music, and Native American flute brings a vitality to the sound. Adding exotic sounds from the autoharp and oud gives the music a worldly feel.

Spindrift played a large role in the motion picture The Legend of God’s Gun, as the film was inspired by your album. Can we expect full film scores from Spindrift in the future? Or is a Vol. 2 of Classic Soundtracks more likely?

Vol. 2 is highly likely. There are still many leftover soundtracks that we haven’t fully exposed yet. There are several still in production that we are composing for. The options are endless. As far as entire scores…that is expected too.

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