First things first: Spod is a damned funny guy. Self-deprecating and insightful in equal measure, the Sydneysider has been in the music game for over a decade now, and with the release of his new record, Taste The Sadness, he has rather unexpectedly come full circle.
Written as a direct response to 2003 debut album Taste The Radness, the release is a graver collection than most would be anticipating. The electroclash is largely absent, replaced with piano-sad ballads ruminating on aging friends and abandoned aspirations. Upbeat stuff, in other words.
Despite the bittersweet tone that infuses his recent material, Spod turns out to be a pretty chipper guy. He has been sick for a while lately – “The first survivor of ebola,” he wryly observes – but jumps into each question with enthusiasm. Juxtaposed with his rather sombre voice, it makes a strange impression; he somehow manages to sound both delighted and depressed at the same time.
“Spod was actually started with me and my friend,” he recalls. “It seemed like a cool name for a band when you’re just two drunk young guys. But the other guy left, and I figured, ‘Well, I might as well just become the whole band.’ Since then there have been all these other meanings for Spod emerge. If you Googled ‘Spod’ now, the latest are these disgusting photos of what looks like a missile with holes all through it, and you fill it up with gunk and use it to lure fish. That’s the latest Spod sensation, but I was there first! You see it at my shows now. Everybody just puts fish in missiles and swings them around my head.”
Which is exactly the kind of audience interaction that has been missing from Sydney gigs (though sneaking salmon past security could prove problematic). Though he does have tongue firmly in cheek (we assume), Spod’s gigs have certainly developed a reputation as strange and energetic affairs – if somewhat toned down from his early days. As a result, his onstage persona, though not totally removed from his real-world self, has almost taken on a life of its own.
“I think it’s a nice way to allow yourself the liberty to perform how you honestly feel. Especially in the older days, I wouldn’t get up there and just give a straight performance. It was all really intense and I’d lose my mind a bit. It allows you that separation from yourself to disappear into what you want to be doing. That’s kind of the way I always planned it. You slip into it and become this hyper-realised version of yourself or what you’re trying to project. I would always do these intense party sets, and you know, often you can get up and [perform], then come offstage and find yourself thinking, ‘What in the hell did I just do up there? Should I feel bad about it?’ But it’s really all just one nugget of your personality that you chose to amplify. And then you go and hide and try not to look anyone in the eye for a while. Change back into civilian attire and try not to get bashed.”
Recently Spod recorded a video message lamenting the aging of his friends and the incumbent responsibilities of raising a family, holding down a job, and all of those other hallmarks of ‘grown-up’ life. These concerns are at the very heart of Taste The Sadness, and while he is not quite ready for the grave, Spod is acutely aware of the impact that age has on his music.
“Everything I was doing when I was young was about being youthful, you know? Not that I’m a complete old man now – Old Man Spod with his walking stick. But I love the idea of being the party guy back when he started, and now ten years down the track wondering, ‘What do you do?’ Especially if you’re not a huge commercial success, if you’re just doing something for your own artistic reasons. You have to chase what you think you need to be saying. People are coming to my shows now not knowing about my history, but they’re younger people and I guess I’m bringing a bit more honesty to it, rather than being that guy who’s all, ‘Hey, I’m still just like you guys, let’s party!’ That is the true sadness.”
Perhaps at the end of the day the real fear is relevance. Not being concerned with what you have achieved (or fucked up) in the past, but with the value of what you are doing in the here and now. It is likely a concern that sits at the core of most of us, to some degree: the enduring terror of purpose.
“I don’t really see the point in doing something unless you have something to say, and also I’m pretty slow at cultivating ideas. I like to be sure of what I’m doing, but I always wanted to make a kind of ‘adult’ record. I think it’s kind of hilarious, the idea you have of being an adult when you’re a kid. You think it’s such a bad thing, but it’s so much easier than being in your earlier twenties. There’s so much more to say and do. When I was in my twenties and I’d hear someone in their thirties talking about how great it is to be an adult, I thought they were just trying to make themselves feel better for being old. At the end of it, I just like to challenge the people who have liked me; I try not to do the same thing. But I think it all falls into the same world. I think I just tried to make ten points at once. Am I rambling about nothing? I really am Old Man Spod.”