Built To Spill returns to the Woodward Theater this month in support of their new album “When the Wind Forgets Your Name,” due out in early September ‒ the band’s first set of originals since 2015. Recorded with former touring mates Joao Casaes and Le Almeida from Brazilian lo-fi psych rock band Orua, the upcoming collection harkens back to the band’s early days as a trio, emphasizing Doug Martsch’s songwriting, melodies and powerful guitar work.
Characterized by heavy garage rock anthems like “Carry The Zero” and “Liar,” the ever-evolving band welcomes Blood Lemon bassist Melanie Radford and Prism Bitch drummer Teresa Esguerra for this final month-and-a-half tour. I recently spoke to Martsch about his insatiable work ethic, the band’s early days in Boise, Idaho, and his experience touring Brazil.
Question: My friend told me that she sent you a letter and that you answered it personally. And you were particularly responsive in our thread. You must be a busy guy. If you have free time, how do you spend it?
Answer: I don’t have a lot of free time, and I guess I spend it working. I like to play a little hoop or watch TV. I like to follow the news.
Q: It’s dangerous these days.
A: Sure, and that’s the only time I like to follow him – when it’s dangerous, for whatever reason. I want to be there when shit comes crashing down.
Q: You are about to leave for a month and a half tour. How to avoid getting exhausted on the road?
A: I don’t know. We will see. I hope not. I think what keeps me from burning out is that every night people show up and they’re excited about it. For them, it’s not an everyday thing. So that energy that people bring – that excitement really fades and keeps us going.
Q: What was the Boise scene like when you started? Was there anything about Idaho that was formative for your sound?
A: Yes. Growing up, we were a bit apart. So when things happened, or when you found records, it was very special because it was hard to find – and finding cool people was the same thing. Things were special because it was rare, I guess.
But I grew up in cool weather in Boise. Punk rock was starting to arrive, and the hardcore scene. In the 80s, people were starting bands and touring, putting on gigs and putting out fan zines and stuff. It was an exciting time for me to be able to start playing in bands even though I wasn’t really a good musician. It was more about having the right attitude and doing it.
Q: Your guitar and your voice were what tied your catalog together. How do you see the role of collaboration in your music? And why did Le Almeida and Joao Casaes seem like the right fit for this iteration of the band?
A: I started playing with them because I needed a band and I was going to Brazil, and I had just separated from the other band members. I found them thanks to a friend with whom I corresponded in Brazil. She introduced me to their music, and they knew Build To Spill, and they learned a few songs. We got together for a few days to practice before the concerts in Brazil. I loved their attitude and the way they played. So we decided to shoot together for 2019.
I just wanted to work on the new songs, and I knew they could do that. And of course, I showed them the songs and they knew exactly what to do. It’s pretty simple and basic, what I want to do. I also played all those songs with the band before, and I loved how they played the songs. And it’s remarkably similar, the way these guys approach the songs is the way the guys before them had approached the songs without getting along.
Q: Do you have anything to remember from your stay in Brazil?
A: Yeah. I had a good time. I had traveled a little with the group, but not a ton. I’ve always liked to stay busy. He was always present at shows and continued right away. This is the first time I had a few days to hang around and enjoy the place a bit. And I totally fell in love with Brazil – the culture and everything. It was quite magical.
Q: You started off thinking you were going to have a different new band for every album you wrote. Do you find the lineup and then write the songs that you think play to people’s strengths? Or do you have songs and then do you have a team working with the sound of the songs?
A: For me, I just make up songs, and play with whoever. I never felt like the songs were – that only certain people would have a good idea for them, or would ever have musicians in mind. I never really thought of my music that way.
Built to knock down
When: 7 p.m., Monday, August 22.
Where: Woodward Theatre, 1404 Main Street, Over-the-Rhine.
Openers: Prism Bitch and Scrunchies.