The Spring Standards Interview
Indie-folk band, The Spring Standards, were destined to make music with each other. Heather Robb, James Cleare and James Smith first began playing together at sixteen but split when graduation came along. As fate would have it, a few years later they wound up living within a few blocks of each other in New York City and picked up where they left off. They were in several other bands together, including The Urban Wombats and Old Springs Pike with John Gallagher Jr. (A.K.A Jim Harper from the Newsroom), which later turned into The Spring Standards after he left.
The band is instrumentally multifaceted. All three members do vocals and drums, and between them you’ll also hear bass and acoustic guitar, harmonica, keyboard, glockenspiel and the key-flute. During a live show they’ll often play multiple instruments at once, and continually switch from one to the other. It gives the illusion that the band is much larger than it actually is, and adds to the energy that makes seeing a performance by The Spring Standards so much fun.
Their first EP, No One Will Know was released in 2008, co-produced by Rhett Miller, the lead singer from the Old 97s. Two years later they put out their first full length album, Would Things Be Different, this time produced by Bryce Goggin who has worked with groups like, the Ramones, The Apples in Stereo, and Phish. The Spring Standards began touring, appeared on Conan O’Brien and even played in the South by Southwest music festival. Their songs have been featured during shows on the USA network and MTV.
Last May, The Spring Standards gave fans a double EP entitled yellow/gold, produced by Dan Molad, who’s worked and played with artists like Elizabeth and the Catapult. yellow/gold features two very different sounds. yellow being the more melancholy and gold, energetic. The many layers and combinations of instruments and vocals really show that The Spring Standards are a folk-rock band to keep an eye on.
C. Emily Plae: The three of you started playing together back in high school. What about your style has changed most since then?
The Spring Standards: A lot has changed since then – we’re taller, we play more instruments, we’ve had more life experience – but I would actually say confidently that much of the core has remained the same. Every song still starts as a folk song with a lot of 3-part harmony. Our influences are still mostly American folk music and ’60s/’70s songwriters. Storytelling still wins out against most other things when it comes to song crafting and we’re still super ADHD.
CEP: What is it that makes The Spring Standards stand apart from other folk-rock groups today? What do you offer that others don’t?
SS: It’s really hard to compare yourself to other people – I think there’s a ton of great music being made these days and folk music is definitely seeing a return to the mainstream. I’d say one thing that sets us apart is that we certainly don’t limit ourselves to being just a folk band. As I said before, that’s always at the core of our identity, but we don’t let that stop us from experimenting with other genres. We can sing a song in 3-part harmony with one acoustic guitar and follow it up with a synth-based rock song a la Pat Benatar or Heart. We run the gamut.
CEP: What were you hoping to achieve by making your latest recording, yellow/gold, an EP with two very distinct sounds?
SS: As I mentioned, our writing is really all over the genre map. So we wanted to give ourselves the opportunity to create two different EPs with distinctive sounds that could contrast and compliment each other when they were juxtaposed. The idea of using color to describe or evoke that feeling was important in keeping it abstract rather than slapping basic adjectives on there – words like ‘loud’ or ‘quiet’ are limiting whereas the feeling of ‘yellow’ or ‘gold’ can mean a lot of different things.
CEP: Do you have a certain technique or approach when it comes to writing new music?
SS: Not really – I’d say that we almost always start with the vocal arrangement but beyond that every song is a different animal.
CEP: What’s on the horizon for The Spring Standards in the upcoming year?
SS: We’re finishing up a live DVD to accompany the live album we put out in May, “The Spring Standards Live from Delaware”. The footage looks beautiful and we’re working with some animation artists as well. We’re really excited about the project and hope to put it out early next year. Then we will be heading to SXSW in March and there’s a Spring tour in the works. We’re focused on writing and demoing right now, amassing a bunch of new material so we can select the cream of the crop for our next album.