In a few short years, Spencer Krug has built a career that splits and forks like a family tree, connecting him to some of the brightest spots in Canadian indie rock. After a stint as Frog Eyes’ keyboardist on its 2002 debut, The Bloody Hand, Krug formed Wolf Parade with Dan Boeckner. Last year, he collaborated with Frog Eyes’ Carey Mercer and Destroyer’s Dan Bejar in the studio-only group Swan Lake. But it’s Sunset Rubdown that has been his longest running songwriting outlet, morphing from a home-recording project to a full band for last year’s superb Shut Up, I Am Dreaming.
Finishing up a tour with Xiu Xiu and Katie Eastburn of Brooklyn’s Young People in April, Krug is as busy as ever. But he recently found time to discuss Sunset Rubdown’s impending releases, Wolf Parade’s songwriting progress, and what he’s been eyeing on eBay.
How long have you been recording as Sunset Rubdown?
For maybe six years now I’ve been fooling around under the name Sunset Rubdown, but it’s only been a band for the last two or so, if that. It was a moniker that I could put any solo ideas under, whatever they were. All the first stuff was home recordings. Now it’s sort of more a “band,” so I may need another name for solo stuff down the road.
There’s been a huge leap forward since you first released Snake’s Got a Leg in 2005. Has the transition to a full band been challenging?
Snake’s Got a Leg was just me — at home. Then there was an EP of the same kind of stuff, just a little more focused. Then all of a sudden there is a full-length done in a studio with three extra people in there with their styles and ideas bleeding into the songs. So the sound quality and instrumentation and feel all changed drastically. The songs are still written, for the most part, by me. But their evolution onto tape or the stage is something subject to the hands and minds of four people. So the sound is not just mine anymore, which is good.
Obviously, you’re involved in plenty of collaborative projects. Is Sunset Rubdown the unfiltered version of your songwriting?
It’s the most unfiltered, yes, but like I said, it’s far from just mine. If I were to make a solo record in 2007 it would sound much, much different than any Sunset Rubdown stuff to date. It would probably be terrible and ridiculous and mildly fantastic.
Can you explain a little more what you mean by “terrible and ridiculous and mildly fantastic”?
Not really. And the “mildly fantastic” comment is, of course, just wishful thinking. I can’t tell you about it not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t know. When I do things by myself I tend to write things as I record them and let them grow as organically as possible, so things never sound like the original intention. What I can tell you is that I’ve been trying to buy a marimba on eBay and that lately I’ve taken to a teenage sort of joy in playing things as fast as I possibly can — just for the fun of it. No joke. So we could apply those two facts to any guesses you or I would want to make about what the next solo recording would sound like, if it ever happens…
How do you designate songs for different projects? Is it arbitrary or are you really trying to craft different sounds for, say, a Wolf Parade song versus a Sunset Rubdown song?
I don’t designate so much as work on whatever is in front of me or whatever I feel like working on at the time. I don’t write songs differently for each band so much as think about what band would best suit the music as it’s getting written. That said, Wolf Parade hasn’t been doing much. If we had been, there would be another record, but we’re still kind of just screwing around. There is not a lot of hard work going on there in terms of writing, specifically, but there is a strong focus on playing a great deal of music together: jams, for lack of a better word, and the recording thereof. We are trying to get away from the singular songwriter thing as much as possible. So for me to sit at home and write Wolf Parade songs would be silly at this point. Much of what I’ve deliberately written by myself over the last year and a half has ended up being Sunset Rubdown or Swan Lake songs.
What are you working on now?
Right now, it’s a bit of a lull. Sunset Rubdown just finished the newest record, so now we’re just rehearsing for the tour in April. Wolf Parade plans to actually start putting things to tape when I return from that tour, but until then we’re still just loosely writing things as a group. I’m working a little on ideas for another Sunset Rubdown EP that I’d like to poke at this summer as well.
You played piano on the new Frog Eyes record. What role do you play in that band?
In Frog Eyes, I only ever work on my own parts and try to be very respectful of the fact that it’s Carey [Mercer]’s baby. I rarely, if ever, get into discussions with him about the songs as a whole, i.e. what the structure should be or what other people’s parts could be. I basically just go in and play the piano, and try to play stuff that he and I are both happy with.
One thing I always find myself thinking of when I listen to your music is vintage glam: Roxy Music, Bowie, et cetera. But I hear it in things like structure and drama more than the actual music.
I don’t know. I have no conscious, chosen models to speak of. I think I’m mostly influenced by whatever is around me, my immediate surroundings: Carey [Mercer of Frog Eyes] and Dan [Bejar of Destroyer] from Swan Lake. They influence me, sure. Bands my friends are in. And shows, good or bad. Good ones are inspiring. Bad ones help confirm what I don’t like or want to do. I listen to whatever is in front of me that day, maybe sometimes too critically, and make note of what I like and don’t like, and then, on some lower level of consciousness, I’m sure those opinions are somehow applied to what I’m working on. All that said, I might like glam rock more than I should. I listened to a lot of Supertramp when I was a little kid.