Built to Spill Interview
Even if you’re not familiar with Built to Spill, you’ve probably heard them in a skate video. They’ve been around since ’92 when Doug Martsch recruited the band with the intention of replacing them with every album. Now, over 25 years later, there has only been a few changes with Doug remaining as the constant. We killed some time
before their set talking about the band, the magnetic pull of Idaho and skate videos. —Jordan Joseffer
Why’d you name the band Built to Spill? Were you bad at holding drinks?
Ha! It was a game my wife and I played where we’d take turns writing a word. She’d write a word, then I’d write a word and we’d make up poems and stories. So when I was trying to come up with a band name we went back through them together to see if there was anything interesting and it was a part of that.
You’re from Boise and lived in Portland. What do you like about the Pacific Northwest?
Well, I ended up in Boise because I kind of grew up there and ended up following my wife back to go to school after I lived in Seattle for awhile. You know, if you’re from Idaho you kind of gravitate to Portland or Seattle, pretty much. Maybe San Francisco a little bit but those are the big cities that you move away to and I got sucked back. It’s alright.
Your music has been used a lot in skate videos throughout the years. Why do you think it pairs so well with skating?
I don’t know. We are kinda picky about who we do stuff with. We don’t like to license much to any commercials or very many TV or movie things, but we’ve always basically given it away for free to skate videos. Every once in awhile we’ve gotten paid, but skate videos, snowboard videos, surf videos, if anyone approaches us we say yes because that’s where we’ve gotten all of our raddest fans. I don’t do any of that stuff and I never did but some of my greatest friends and Built to Spill’s greatest fans have been people who are into that stuff.
Yeah, a lot of people find music through skate videos. That’s how I heard you guys for the first time.
It happens all the time. People will say, “Oh yeah, that song. so and so skated to it!” It gives them enough time for the song to get it in their head. They might have heard it once and been, like, whatever, but then they watch it over and over again and the song sinks in and becomes attached to something they’re excited about. It’s better than a music video for us.
Are you familiar with any specific skate videos that used your music.
Nope. People can’t believe I don’t know what they’re talking about, but I really don’t know.
I heard with each album you wanted the lineup to change. Is that an intentional way to keep the music evolving?
Yeah, the original idea was that and also I had been in a band for a bunch of years that was a real tight-knit group of people. There was a couple brothers in the band and there was some emotional issues—some fallout and stuff—and I wanted to avoid that as well. I wanted to be with a group of people where we were all enjoying each other’s company and not getting on each other’s nerves too much, so I thought it would help with that as well. Also, at the time, I was making a record in Idaho and I was planning on moving away from Idaho. So that was another reason. I was going to change the lineup anyway but I wanted to start to establish the band’s name. Over the years there has been a lot of lineup changes but not that many and not because of that reason. After we made maybe our third record, I was playing with Brett Nelson and Scott Plouf and I wanted to solidify the lineup so we could get good. Switching lineups overtime is hard. Everyone plays differently. I wanted to develop a sound and I wanted more contribution and people to have more of a stake in the band so I bagged that idea.
What are you plans for the future? New albums, touring?
We’ve been doing one-off gigs but we are going to tour a bunch soon. We are going all over the country. We’ve been working on songs for a few years and hopefully those will come together in the next year or so and the record will come out in a couple of years.
9/24/2022Australia's Skegss are the reverb drenched summer soundtrack you need. Read the exclusive Thrasher interview.
9/24/2022The music of Beirut has been featured in many skate vids over the years, most notably in Mark Suciu’s “Verso” masterpiece. Mark caught up with Zach Condon, the man behind the band, in this exclusive interview.
9/24/2022Angels & Airwaves was born out of Tom DeLonge leaving Blink-182. Here he talks about charting that band’s own path along with his thoughts on skating and UFOs.
9/24/2022Using musical chemistry, the band members of Greta Van Fleet extract the essence of various classic rock anthems. They combine the parts they like and create a sound all their own. These guys truly rock and roll.
9/24/2022The term "musical prodigy" doesn't quite capture the bass-playing abilities of Mononeon. It's more accurate to say he's one of the best to ever pick up the instrument. See for yourself.
9/24/2022Animal Collective blew up in the skate world when their song was used in Jake Johnson's Mind Field part—which is regarded as a masterpiece of skating/editing/music. The band's unique legacy and sound has only gotten stronger in the following years.
9/24/2022Thurston is a founding member of Sonic Youth and a guitar virtuoso. His various projects have created a rich musical legacy. He also has deep roots with skating and video-making. Here he describes the mutual affection between skating and his music.
9/24/2022Welcome gets the singer from Soft Kill on the line to discuss music, addiction and their recent collaboration.
9/24/2022During his 30-year career, R.A. has occupied both the spotlight and the status of an underground hip-hop legend. His song "Uncommon Valor" is regarded as a lyrcial masterpiece and he shows no signs of stopping.
9/24/2022After millions of album sales since the mid-90s, Third Eye Blind frontman Stephan Jenkins continues to make music without compromise or concern about radio hits and pop charts. He features Cher Strauberry in his newest video and she sat with him for an interview.