Idaho’s own indie-rock star behemoths, Built to Spill, took time out of their busy schedules to talk to New Raleigh on the eve of their set at City Plaza for this year’s Hopscotch Festival. Spill’s leader, Doug Martsch, sat down with Isaac Weeks to discuss the differences between foreign and domestic foreign crowds, audience expectations, and working relationships.
New Raleigh: You guys are originally from Boise, right? Is that still your home base?
Doug Martsch: Yeah, three of us still live in Boise, two of us are now in Seattle.
NR: What’s the music scene like in Idaho? For some reason I just picture Insane Clown Posse tribute bands competing for playing time.
DM: Eh, with the internet, every area has a good chance at having a diverse amount of influence. Boise has a pretty tight scene; the community is very supportive of new bands, the same as it was when we were starting out.
NR: Your band has been under contract with Warner Bros. Records since 1995. In this musical environment, it is frankly amazing that one side of the relationship didn’t want to end it during the preceding near-20 years. How is strong is your business relationship with the WB?
DM: From our side, it’s been great, because we have had the freedom to do pretty much whatever we have wanted to do. They’ve never promoted us a ton, but I’ve never wanted them to, either. I’ve always felt that if we could get a little money to just make the records, and have them put a small amount of publicity behind us…we don’t have a manager hassling them to give us a huge budget on either of those things, so we’ve never been a loss for them. We sell enough records that they make money off of us. They don’t make a ton of money off of us, but we’re in the black.
NR: So you guys take the stage tomorrow night at Hopscotch. Are we in for a certain setlist, like a specific album being focused on, or just a mix of your better known stuff with some of your new songs you’ve been working on thrown in?
DM: We’re going to play a little from all of our records. We really haven’t played much over the last couple of years, other than a show here and there. It seems we’ve been playing the same 20-25 songs for the last few years, so we practiced ten of our older songs that we haven’t played in years; we’re going to dust those off for the crowd. We’ll stack it with songs off of our most popular albums, since that is what people come out to hear. The set will definitely have some good upbeat songs that play well live.
NR: You guys have played extensively overseas through the years. Have you ever noticed a difference between the crowds there compared to here?
DM: Hmm…not really. You know, we do much better here than we ever have over there. We’ve played Europe a handful of times, and we’ve been to Australia once, and that’s it. We are definitely more appreciated here. We go over there to promote the band, and barely break even once the tours are over. Fans of music are the same no matter where you are. Drunk people jumping around, feeling the music, have the same connection whether it’s here or there.