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Spottiswoode, Jamming with His Enemies

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Spottiswoode, Jamming with His Enemies

Studio Sessions

Spottiswoode, Jamming with His Enemies

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It must be a universal truth at some point, everybody dreams of being a rock star. You string together a few musicians, a few notes, hopefully a few bucks, you practice in the garage, and what next?

The NYC band Spottiswoode and His Enemies has been doing that what-next part for 10 years now. They are not mainstream, and they don't strive to be, but they're a staple of the New York club scene. Here's "Muscle Man," from their latest album, "Salvation."

(Soundbite of song, "Muscle Man")

Unidentified Man (Member, Spottiswoode and His Enemies): (Singing) The muscle man, he walked in, and he beat you. He didn't even try. The money boys, the whistler(ph) came to meet you, didn't even wave goodbye.

Unidentified Men (Members, Spottiswoode and His Enemies): Don't they wave?

STAMBERG: Spottiswoode and His Enemies just celebrated their 10th anniversary with a show at Joe's Pub in New York, and they released two albums to commemorate the big anniversary: "That's What I Like" and "Salvation." Jonathan Spottiswoode, lead man for the eponymous - I always wanted to use that word on the radio - band Spottiswoode and His Enemies joins us now from our studios in New York. Hi.

Mr. JONATHAN SPOTTISWOODE (Member, Spottiswoode and His Enemies): Hello, Susan.

STAMBERG: You didn't bring your enemies along? What's the matter, are you chicken?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: Yeah - no, I try to avoid them as much as possible.

STAMBERG: So this band just released these two albums. One was not enough?

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: No, no in fact five would have been too few, but we ran out of resources.

STAMBERG: But just tell us about that process because somebody told me that you and your band recorded 29 songs on these two new albums, and how long did it take you to do that?

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: We actually went in and recorded 33 songs in six days, and then we cut a few out. We did a little bit of extra over-dubs after that, but the bulk of it was recorded in six days.

STAMBERG: Wow, but do you get any sleep, Jonathan Spottiswoode, because how could you do that much writing?

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: The writing's the easy part. Everything else is difficult.

STAMBERG: What do you mean?

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: I mean, well working with my band is lovely, and rehearsing is nice, and recording isn't so bad, but the dealing with manufacturing, duplication, you know, the music business, all that tiresome stuff, that's the hard part.

STAMBERG: Yes, I'm sure. Well, right now you're in our studio in New York. Would you play something for us?

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: I'm going to play an old song of ours.

(Soundbite of song, "Building a Road")

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: (Singing) They're building a road from the moon to the sun. Then they'll build another road, yeah when that road is done.

They're working so hard, but they've only just begun building that road from the moon to the sun, and everybody, everybody wants to succeed, and everybody, everybody longs to be free.

And everybody, everybody's looking for love, so they're building a road from the moon to the sun. Yeah, they're building a road from the moon to the sun.

STAMBERG: Jonathan Spottiswoode. I want to ask you about one of the lyrics, everybody wants to succeed, and you've certainly had some of the joys of fame. You played Lincoln Center, you had some write-ups in the New Yorker magazine. Now, you work at this full-time. Some of your band members have day jobs. Do you consider yourself successful, Mr. Spottiswoode?

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: It depends on the day.


Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: I think the song - I didn't realize when I wrote it - it became a parody of the journey that I'm on with my band because it's a difficult road, and I feel incredibly blessed and successful. I kept these amazing musicians together for the last 10 years. We put out records, and I'm doing my work, and that's all an artist can ask for.

But sometimes it's difficult. Sometimes it's difficult, and scraping a living is not so easy.

STAMBERG: The difficulties are getting bookings, having tours?

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: Yeah, all the different things, you know, trying to make money doing your art. And I mean, I think that's something that maybe there was an illusion that was created in the '50s and '60s and '70s where there were these huge bands making tons of making tons of money, and there still are a few, but I think maybe the old-fashioned way, where you just, you're an itinerate musician, and you depended on the kindness of stranger, is maybe that's the path again these days as things kind of implode.

And as long I've got my Enemies around me, I'm fine.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STAMBERG: A man is only as good as the strength of his surrounding enemies, eh?

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: Absolutely.

STAMBERG: Let's listen to one of the songs from the album now, title track, "That's What I Like."

(Soundbite of song, "That's What I Like")

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: (Singing) Sly ones and strippers, shy ones in slippers, that's what I like. Farmers' daughters, engineers' wives, girls who throw parties, girls who throw knives. Spinsters who've made the most of their lives, that's what I like.

STAMBERG: I love the list, although it does tend to include everything, right, big old fat ones, ladies from Boston with college degrees. What's the rest, knobbly knees, pimples?

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: Yeah, it's funny, when I wrote the song, I thought that women wouldn't like it, wouldn't like this song, but I actually found that they really do. Anyone that doesn't feel conventionally beautiful seems to like the song. It's actually even become a lesbian anthem in New York. Who knew?

(Soundbite of song, "That's What I Like")

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: (Singing) …that's what I like. Brunettes, redheads, feminists, Dead heads, that's what I like.

STAMBERG: You get a very interesting sound. Sometimes it just sounds almost like it's in a bathtub on a bad phone line. Excuse me, I don't mean to…

(Soundbite of laughter)

STAMBERG: I'm not being insulting, I just mean it's such an intriguing, sometime old-fashioned sound.

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: I'd like to think some of it actually sounds pleasing to listen to, but all the songs, the band, the producer, we serve the song, so if it makes sense for the narrative of the story, then you know, we'll put in a bathtub, we'll put it on the beach, anywhere.

STAMBERG: Let's hear another song from this album. You call it "Sailing to Byzantium"

(Soundbite of song, "Sailing to Byzantium")

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: (Singing) Soldiers are eating caviar from a samovar, don't know who they are. Pheasants and capers, Turkish delights, women dressed in white on a moonlit night.

STAMBERG: This is a dying soldier's dream, and you're imagining him as a participant in a major World War I battle.

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: Sometimes when you write a song, you only figure out what it's about as it, you know, when you're three-quarters of the way through it. The last verse, I realized, you know, that it was from the perspective of a soldier who was dying, and so then I imagine he's lying on the fields of Passiondale, dying, and these are memories coming back to him as he's about to die.

STAMBERG: And the writing, flowers are blooming and so are the dead, and pharaohs of blood through fading eyes.

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: My grandfather fought in the First World War, and he got a bullet through his bayonet, a bullet through his helmet, but he survived, luckily.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song, "Sailing to Byzantium")

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: (Singing) Flowers are blooming and so are the dead. Meadows are red in paradise. Steeples and scarecrows and wheels in the mud, pharaohs of blood through fading eyes.

STAMBERG: Did it ever occur to you, Mr. Spottiswoode, to have chosen maybe an easier path? You were talking about how tough it is. Or do you feel you are, for all the rough spots, living the dream?

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: And the nightmare, yes. I - my mother's been a very - you know, obviously very influential, and her message to me has always been to follow your heart, follow your passion, and it never takes you exactly where you wanted to go, but you know, at least you don't regret the fact that you followed it.

STAMBERG: Jonathan Spottiswoode, lead man for the band Spottiswoode and His Enemies. Thank you.

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: Thank you.

STAMBERG: Before we say goodbye to you, will you play one more song for us?

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: Yeah, I'll play a sweeter song.

(Soundbite of song, "In the Pouring Rain")

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE: (Singing) Well, the fog's coming down, and the moon is a blur, and you want something to eat so you're wandering the streets in the pouring rain.

And your friends are all there with a girl on each arm, laughing, smoking cigarettes, and you're all soaking wet in the pouring rain.

And everyone is smiling, everyone is beautiful. And there's a silver lining, silver lining in your soul, and everything is shining, everything is beautiful, oh, oh, oh.

All the policemen are drunk, but the night's just begun. The whole city's going to drown, and the wind'll blow you down in the pouring rain.

And everyone is smiling, everyone is beautiful, and there's a silver lining, silver lining in your soul, and everything is shining, everything is beautiful, oh, oh, oh.

And the girl at your side holds your umbrella high. She's got everything you need, and the kisses are so sweet in the pouring rain, in the pouring rain, in the pouring rain, in the pouring rain.

STAMBERG: More music from the new albums of Spottiswoode and His Enemies plus some new artists. Find them at our music Web site,, and you can hear WEEKEND EDITION Saturday any day of the week if you subscribe to our at-your-leisure podcast at

This is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Susan Stamberg.

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