Disclaimer: There will be no jokes about Delaware in this article. There will be no obvious references made to the Wayne’s World movie, and as far as I am concerned, Delaware will now be known as Coolest Frickin’ State Ever (instead of the Blue Hen State), since it somehow managed to produce the ridiculously fun and talented group of musicians that is the Spinto Band.
Ultimately, I was extremely nervous about performing this interview. My burgeoning pessimistic side was imagining me, the unassuming and somewhat dorky female, sitting opposite six up-and-coming male rock and roll stars, clutching my tape recorder and stumbling over my set of generic questions. Everything changed, however, when, as of 4:45 PM on the day of the show, I had not yet heard back from the group’s tour manager, and I began to wonder if my worrying was all for naught. As it turned out, the Spintos didn’t quite have the time for the full interview that they had originally thought, and in exchange, I was offered a phone interview with one of the guys and some time with another member after the show. I spoke with guitarist Jon Eaton, whom I took to hold somewhat of a leadership role in the band. I got this impression because at 24, he is the eldest of a relatively youthful group, and because he articulately replied to my questions with the air of a person who experiences and functions with the band from every angle, leaving him knowledgeable and honest in his reflections.
Through a somewhat awkward phone conversation (hey, it’s difficult to create a natural flow over wobbly cell phone connections), he and I managed to work through some of the nuts and bolts before he had to run off to do more busy rock and roll stuff. And I think I scored some bonus points as an interviewer when I mentioned that I almost attended the University of Delaware (I did, I swear), which apparently is where the Spintos began playing many of their shows before becoming famous enough to open for some band called the Arctic Monkeys (who? Oh, right . . .).
Jon described how their experience in San Francisco had been positive so far, despite the fact that it was unseasonably cold that weekend, and that they had managed to accomplish two staples of SF lifestyle: visit Amoeba Music (and play a set while they were there), and have a run-in with one of many eclectic old men, who mistook the Spintos for the Arctic Monkeys (for whom they were opening the next night) and therefore congratulated them on a great performance on Saturday Night Live.
But this story really begins back in the band’s home state, where the band lives and rehearses. However, Eaton admits that much of their time is spent on the couch.
“We tend to rehearse around 10:30 a.m. or so, trying out some new songs to break out of our old set. We then hang out and watch episodes of Spiderman and the Flash and any other old VHS tapes that are lying around,” Eaton said of the band’s rehearsal habits back in their home state.
Band members Joe and Jeff Hobson’s parents have also seen their house become the band’s regular hangout.
“Yeah, their parents are awesome, and their mom keeps their pantry stocked for us, especially with Nutter Butters and Rocket Pops,” Eaton said.
While on the subject of leisure, I asked what kind of music the band was listening to these days, Jon deadpanned with “the R. Kelly saga and Beyonce’s `Crazy in Love’,” an answer that he confirmed with another Spinto.
The Spinto Band’s latest, Nice and Nicely Done, is most likely the first album that most listeners outside of their home state have heard. However, the band has self-released seven recordings prior to this effort, displaying a strong sense of DIY spirit and an impressive prolificacy. However, Eaton confirms that this was the band’s first real, professional recording.
“Our other albums had been recorded on our own, with us kind of messing around – it was just really casual,” Eaton said. “Our new one, though, had input from a real producer and we were able to actually spend time arranging and editing our songs . . . it was a longer process, a real recording experience.”
On that note, Jon bid me adieu, and apologized for mistakenly calling me Dana (I told you the cell connection was wobbly).
I then found myself at the show, which for lack of more appropriate terminology, was totally awesome. The humble six came out onto the stage at Café du Nord and greeted the audience with a rather calm spirit, leaving us wholly unprepared for what was to come next. They proceeded to burst into song, completely matching the otherwise unmatchable noise poppiness of their album in perfectly orchestrated movements above the crowd. Everything they did was completely and naturally in synch, reflecting their many years together as a small town indie rock band. Their bodies gyrated back and forth in an exuberant and somewhat amusing fashion (in a good way), their transitions and changes were utterly seamless, and their overall energy was collectively spirited and absolutely contagious. Suffice it to say, the crowd responded with something greater than enthusiasm, and was amply disappointed once the show was over. Honestly, how could an audience not be enamored with a band that plays kazoos and insurmountably bounces around on stage? I can say without hesitation that the Spinto Band’s show in good ol’ San Francisco was one of the best I have ever seen.
After the show, I caught up with Joe, the youngest Spinto (at 19 years old), and we hung out outside Café du Nord to get some air. Despite the fact that a) I couldn’t help but mention that, at 5’8 in flat shoes, I towered over little Joe, and b) I kept forgetting his name, he was still nice enough to let me bum a cigarette and ask him a few spontaneous questions. Seeing as how just a few minutes earlier he had been the focal point of energy on stage, wandering rambunctiously around from member to member and jumping up to share the microphone with singer Thomas Hughes, he was serene and easygoing as we conversed. Our exchange included, but was not limited to, the weird products in those airplane Sky Mall magazines (“There’s so many hot dog sorters! There were like, there different products for sorting hot dogs and hot dog buns”), and if the interview would have been easier if I’d imagined him without testicles (. . . don’t ask).
As we leaned against the wall joking about such things, I came to the conclusion that this band has remained completely humble and unpretentious during their escalation to fame. Case in point – our conversation was frequently interrupted by members of the crowd stopping to tell Joe how completely amazing the show was, and he responded with a calm and modest politeness that I couldn’t help but admire.
Our discussion of the band’s pre-show rituals (“We’ve been playing a lot of So Doku lately, or we play pool . . . anything to just chill out, really”) and their upcoming plans (“I think we’re touring Europe again, then I think maybe we’ll make some more music, you know, whatever”) only supported the fact that the Spintos are essentially a group of close friends who have been playing together since Joe was in elementary school (!), and as a rather basic side effect have gained critical acclaim and a growing fan base along the way. In this current world where musicians tend to carry a reputation of arrogance and greed, the Spinto Band has managed to rise above that stereotype by getting excited not about touring the world, but about the deliciousness of San Francisco-made It’s-It ice cream sandwiches and getting home to hang out more in the Hobsons’ basement. All I can say is: Bravo, Delaware.