Dad Rock: Spoonboy Discusses The Papas
The man behind The Max Levine Ensemble's politically conscious pop punk is putting out a new solo record. In fact, you can already grab Spoonboy's newest record, The Papas (as well as acoustic versions of the same songs), for free online. After several weeks of touring, Spoonboy is bringing the record to life tonight at The Black Cat with a full band. He heads out for more touring in just a few days, but he stopped moving for a moment to chat with Arts Desk about gender, zines, and staying punk rock.
Washington City Paper: Why put out a solo record?
Spoonboy: I have been playing solo for about six years, as just a good way to write maybe slightly more toned down, personal songs. It’s also a really great way to travel and work on my own schedule, so those are the motivations. As I’ve written the songs with the intention of playing them by myself, I realized they sounded good with more instrumentation as well. There’s a band that plays on the record, and a different band we just formed that’s gonna play the show with me tomorrow.
WCP: Who’s in the band?
S: Michael Cantor, who’s opening, is playing bass. Alex Attas, who plays in Beast Wars, is playing drums—this is his first time playing drums in a band—and Brandon Moses from Laughing Man is playing guitar as well.
WCP: Who plays on the record?
S: Well, I recorded the record in Athens, Ga., with a bunch of friends mostly from the band Nana Grizol, but also from Hot New Mexicans, Elf Power, and Defiance, Ohio. So, a bunch of great musician friends down there.
WCP: Does the new record have a physical release or is it all digital?
S: It’s now out on vinyl, CD, and cassette. Me and my friends started a record label [Fuck You Is a Seven Letter Word], and we co-released all the formats. A couple other smaller labels helped us put it out. Plan-It-X Records from Indiana are doing the vinyl and tape. Discount Horse Records, a record label based in the UK, helped put out the CD. Shout Out Loud Prints, based in Columbus, Ohio, helped put out the record as well.
WCP: You’ve put out a lot of records. Will you ever run out of songs?
S: I haven’t run into that problem yet. I wake up with more ideas in my head than I can write down. Melody comes to me in abundance.
WCP: How does this release compare to The Max Levine Ensemble?
S: It’s still my vocals and my style of melodies, but it’s more like a power-pop, indie-pop kind of vibe, rather than a fast punk band. Also, the lyrical content on this record is really themes of gender and identity, fatherhood and masculinity.
WCP: Actually, I was just going to ask about that. What were you dealing with when you were writing so much about masculinity and fatherhood?
S: They’re things I’ve thought about for a long time. I started thinking about my childhood experiences, and what my friends told me about growing up. It’s a little more emotionally raw. It’s catchy so it’s always gonna have that lightness to it—that’s just how I write music—it just seemed more appropriate to do it like this. I couldn’t imagine playing some of these songs in a loud punk band.
WCP: Would you say this is a feminist record?
S: It’s definitely a feminist record. It comes with a zine that includes some of my favorite feminist essays. I don’t think there’s any particular song that puts out a feminist manifesto, but it’s all about the way I approach gender issues, and it’s very much informed by feminist texts.
WCP: As a male, is it ever awkward or challenging to try and write from a feminist viewpoint?
S: I don’t think it’s challenging at all. I think that men have as much a reason to be invested in feminism as anyone. I think patriarchy affects men negatively in what expectations it places on how they express their gender. I think anybody who wants to live in a world where people treat each other fairly and equally is going to want to stop patriarchy and the systematic oppression of a group of people in our culture. I really don’t buy the idea that patriarchy is good for men, it just turns them into abusers and that’s not a healthy place to be for anyone.
WCP: How have women in your life responded to the record?
S: I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from both men and women in my life. I definitely know some women that really appreciate the fact that I, as a male-identified person, use energy to speak out against patriarchy, but I’ve also heard from men in my life that it expresses something they can relate to.
WCP: Obviously, there’s satirical intent, but do you ever worry that song titles like “Kill Yer Dad” are over the top? Or that certain fans may not be in on the joke?
S: I think if anyone stops to listen they’ll get the idea. It’s still a punk record in spirit, so you have to be a little bit inflammatory.