Built to Last

Is there no rest for the weary? After canceling their tour last spring due to front man Doug Martsch’s retinal injury, seminal indie-rock outfit Built to Spill is on the road again. Disproving the myth that nothing good came from the 90s, Built to Spill has influenced bands of today while continuing to release new music. Much like Pavement and Dinosaur Jr., Built to Spill has become a staple in the indie music catalogue. Brett Netson of BTS told the Cynic his views on touring, knighthood and the current shape on the world.VC: It’s been about a five year music hiatus since you’ve released any albums. What did you do in that time?BN: Was it 5 years? Like with anything you get kind of burnt out at some point…Doug [Martsch] did a solo record thing. It was kind of done before the last Built to Spill record. He released it and then did a solo tour of the West Coast. VC: I can imagine getting pretty burnt out.BN: Music is so all-encompassing. It’s amazing people don’t get burnt out more. I guess some people that genuinely want to do it their whole lives, they end up lasting a while.VC: So are you those kinds of people?BN: Oh yeah. Evidently. Things have turned out that way. We kind of like what’s going on so we’re gonna keep doing it till we get everywhere done and then probably record next summer. We’ve been recording already and then we might do Europe in the spring and then in the summer we’ll just completely focus on maybe finishing up the record.VC: Where’s your favorite place to tour?BN: I like the east coast a lot. I like it all. We’ve done the West Coast so much it might be a little boring. I like Georgia and Alabama and Tulsa. A lot of variety, a lot of culture. That’s what I like.VC: What can you tell me about the music video for your single “Conventional Wisdom?” Was the man a real medieval knight or just an actor?BN: It was a real knight actor. The directors that did that video, they’re younger, from L.A.. They’re not your average L.A. sleazebag types. They came across that guy, his name is James, he lives up in the hills outside of L.A.. He does that for a living. He puts on shows and travels around the country. His big thing is to revive jousting as an Olympic event. That’s like his ultimate goal. That’s like his whole life is jousting and his horses. When he was younger he did circuses and all these types of things.[The video] had a good sense of humor. It was kind of funny without corniness and not at anybody’s expense really. It was taking a big chance going up there and doing it. Just to fly out there and hope that everything turned out okay. With a video you really don’t know if it’s going to turn out terrible. VC: What can you tell me about your writing process? I know you’ve been around for a while…do you ever run out of ideas?BN: No, that’s all we do so even if you run out of stuff there’s always something old you can pull out and redo. If you’re unsure about it, you can finish it up. When you do it all the time you kind of have a stock pile of songs. You always want to do the newest ones ’cause they’re the freshest and fun. Normally it’s Doug that writes the songs but more than ever on this one though the band wrote the songs together. VC: Is there any pressure to write political songs or to be the next Bob Dylan and lead us to a revolution?BN: No pressure. How can you not? People try not to for so long. You don’t want to be that person that comes out and says something too dramatic or sound like you’re complaining or something. Nobody really wants to come out and say that stuff. Plus, you can look like an idiot. Especially when the whole right wing and media is kinda demonizing stuff with just the wave of their fingerVC: What do you think of music these days…is the direction uphill or downhill?BN: Oh, it’s horrible. I don’t think it’s hopeless. I think that everybody is dealing with this huge information revolution. The Internet is just really changing peoples lives in a really big way. It’s really unsettling and chaotic and it’s really information overload and I think it’s gonna take a while for it all to settle down… when it kind of settles down, becomes less of a novelty I think things might start to get real cool again. Maybe they already are…VC: I don’t know about that.BN: Yeah, who knows. Our government might completely destroy us too at any minute in the next year. Who knows? (Laughs)VC: It’s tough to be optimistic.BN: Yeah…its so up in the air right now its just too hard to say…But you know what I really like is it seems like younger people really do support a lot of the great bands of the late 80s and 90s. Clear channel started up all those commercial alternative stations. They put up all that money to put up all those stations so that all the major labels could just have a field day with promoting everything that they want to promote and they completely had their way from then on. So you’ve got all the Calvin Klein cocaine-rocker bands, skinny kids wearing their tight t-shirts and all this shit giving all this music that is just good enough. They’ve really engineered it down to a science: “That’s me. Oh that’s alternative. I’m different.” And they’ll just buy it. Without knowing anything about Butthole Surfers, or Survival Research Laboratories or…they just don’t know. Built to Spill is “doin’ it” at Higher Ground Oct. 1.