Spencer Krug: Hardest working man in showbiz? It might sound a little ridiculous, but there’s no denying the busy schedule he keeps. Having songwriting duties in Wolf Parade, one of the more popular groups to break out of the indie-rock landscape in the past few years, would be enough for most, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg for Krug. He’s recently rejoined the ranks of Frog Eyes (at least on a part-time basis) and has started working on an upcoming project called Swan Lake with Frog Eyes frontman Carey Mercer and Dan Bejar of Destroyer and New Pornographers fame. And he’s also turned his former solo project called Sunset Rubdown into a proper band. (Wolves, frogs, swans, lakes and sunsets: If this music thing fizzles out, he’s a shoo-in for a park naturalist gig somewhere.)
Sunset Rubdown’s Shut Up I Am Dreaming, released by Absolutely Kosher in early May, is the first to feature the new lineup, which includes Jordan Robson Cramer, Michael Doerksen and Camilla Wynne Ingr. In the weeks leading up to this release, we talked with Krug about how he thought his two main groups stacked up against each other and what he thought about the comparisons that were bound to ensue.
When exactly did you decide to take what was essentially a solo side project and transform it into a full-fledged band?
Spencer Krug: It was a slow process. I asked Mike to contribute first; I think it was New Year’s 2005. Then Jordan joined a little while later. It wasn’t really working with just the three of us, though, but thankfully Camilla came and fixed everything. [laughs] I really just wanted to be able to play the songs live and play with people that I liked.
There’s obviously going to be comparisons made between this group and Wolf Parade. In your eyes what sets the two groups apart?
Spencer Krug: Well, it’s all different musicians, obviously, and there’s different instrumentation. I think it’s less overt, more subtle, but I’m not saying by any means that I think the music is more intelligent. I’ve always used this project as an avenue for things that either just weren’t suited for Wolf Parade or for things that I didn’t want to subject to the formula that it would have inevitably become a part of by working with the same people with the same musical styles. It doesn’t matter how much you try to steer something in a particular direction; if the same variables are always in place, you always end up with the same sound, which is “Wolf Parade.” In the end, they’re just these pretentious little differences, because it’s all just rock music, right? But the differences are big enough for me that it justifies having two bands.
That said, though, do the comparisons made between the two bands bother you? Do you wish this group could steer clear of that?
Spencer Krug: The idea of it bothered me at first, but not so much anymore. We’re not idiots; I know that things have happened quicker for Sunset Rubdown than they may have otherwise. I don’t know if Absolutely Kosher would have signed us or if anyone would pay attention to us, really. With Wolf Parade already existing, though, there was that channel there already. As a band, we know that exists. In one sense, you want people to listen to this work in its own right and have it be something that can survive independently on its own merit. On the other hand, though, it’s pretty lucky to be able to put out a record and have a tour booked.
I think the real reason it doesn’t bug me, though, is that I feel the band is getting to the point where we are justifiably “good enough,” for the lack of a better word. If we sucked it would feel really dirty, like we were using Wolf Parade to get something out there that doesn’t really deserve to be out there. I’m pretty critical, so I barely feel that we’ve reached that level. But that I feel this way at all makes me fine with the comparisons and with the idea that people might only check out our band because of Wolf Parade at first.
Was there any particular reason the group signed with Absolutely Kosher? Was there any kind of interest from Wolf Parade’s label, Sub Pop, or was that something you wanted to avoid?
Spencer Krug: I don’t really feel comfortable talking about that, but Sub Pop has never tried to strong-arm me into having Sunset Rubdown on the label.
Assuming there was interest from Sub Pop, was there be a reason you didn’t sign with that label? Was it to maybe avoid some of the obvious comparisons?
Spencer Krug: It wasn’t about comparisons; it was more about not taking the easiest route. I feel weird talking about this, but I never even sent any of our stuff to Sub Pop. I just never really wanted to. Not just because it would be the easiest route, though. Also just because Sub Pop is a pretty huge machine and sends things as high as they can go, as fast as they can get there. And I didn’t want to subject not only myself but the rest of the group members to that for this project. Also, I thought it would be nice to not have Sub Pop not be that huge of an influence on my personal life, to the point where I’d be talking to them every day and stuff.
So is it safe to assume you’re happy there hasn’t necessarily been a huge amount of buzz surrounding you guys yet?
Spencer Krug: Happy, and I might even go so far as to say that it’s been deliberate. It’s being controlled as much as you can control those kinds of things. We’re trying to avoid a huge fuss. We want to gain attention because of the work, not because of anything else. We have a MySpace profile, but we didn’t make it and we never would. It’s like some random weirdoes who did that. It’s not that I think it’s bad or anything; it’s just not something I’m interested in. I know a lot of bands do that, and I’m not saying it’s dirty or wrong or anything. It’s just not for me.
So I’m guessing you and the rest of Wolf Parade had nothing to do with that MySpace profile either?
Spencer Krug: Nothing at all. I bet Sub Pop made that one, though. And maybe Corey from Absolutely Kosher will make an official one for Sunset Rubdown eventually. I mean, you can’t ask a label not to do that; that’s basically asking them not to do their job. But, we won’t have any part of it personally.
With all the projects you’re a part of now, do you ever worry that you’re going to burn yourself out, physically, emotionally or creatively? Doing Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown seems like a lot, but you’re also recording and touring with Frog Eyes again, and you have a new project with Carey Mercer and Dan Bejar called Swan Lake.
Spencer Krug: I’m not worried. If I didn’t think I could do it, then I wouldn’t. And with Frog Eyes, it’s Carey’s material — I just show up when I can. It’s really more of a physical exercise. Creatively, the well hasn’t run dry yet. That said, I’m not about to start anything else at this point.
Sunset Rubdown site: http://www.absolutelykosher.com/sunsetrubdown.htm
Absolutely Kosher site: http://www.absolutelykosher.com/
Sub Pop Records site: http://www.subpop.com/
“Stadiums and Shrines II” MP3