Spandrels is an experimental rock duo based out of Indianapolis. Most recently, the band came to Champaign in September to play the You Are Not Alone benefit show at Institute 4 Creativity. Tonight, Spandrels make their way back to Champaign-Urbana to play a show with local acts Motes, Windmills and We Have Ghosts. Ahead of tonight’s show, buzz caught up with guitarist Casey Noonan and bassist Carrick McDonald to see what they’ve been up to.
»buzz: So far you’ve released your EP. Is there anything else in the works?
»Casey Noonan: Well, we have a song for a split that’s going to come out with a band from Evansville (Ind.) called Fatal Position. We don’t know when that’s going to come out yet because I hate everything I put on records, so I’m probably going to redo everything a million times. The track is about 75-percent done.
buzz: How recently did you guys move to Indianapolis?
» CN: I moved here in September and then Carrick moved here about a month after.
»buzz Why did you move there?
»Carrick McDonald: I think we went out with the pioneer spirit. We were going to go stake our claim somewhere new.
»CN: I had a lot of negative feelings about being in Evansville. I was there for about five years. I came there to be with one of my ex-boyfriends. I was living in my car; I had been living in my car for three months. I met my boyfriend through a friend and he moved to Evansville so I was like, “Well, fuck, I guess I’ll move to Evansville.” I lived there for two-and-a-half years and then Carrick moved there as well.
»CM: I think I came to Evansville under kind of similar circumstances. At that time, I was living with an ex-girlfriend and I had pretty much run all my money and resources into the ground and Casey sort of took me in at the time because I had nowhere else to go.
buzz: How did you guys meet?
»CN: Carrick and I have been best friends for like 12 years now. We had a mutual friend who was my best friend in grade school. Then, that friend moved away and I went to go visit him. And then, somehow, I heard about Carrick through our mutual friend and we started talking through Yahoo Messenger in the mid-2000s. We talked for a year before we got to hangout. But ever since then, I feel like we’re brothers now.
»buzz Have you always been involved in music?
»CM: I had been, off-and-on. I was in the concert band and my first instrument was the alto sax. I only really started taking music seriously when we started this band.
»CN: My father was a musician and he was in all kinds of grunge bands and shit when I was growing up in the 90s. So I grew up in that environment. When you’re small and there’s a rock band playing in your living room it feels like an earthquake. It was loud and crazy and I just fell in love with it. It was a very formative experience for me because I grew to want that.
»buzz When did you guys start up the band?
»CN: We started out two years ago, in January, in the basement. We were a duo for a very long time and then there were four of us. That incarnation of the band lasted a long time, we did a Midwestern tour but then things kind of fell apart with the guitarist. She had a lot going on and wasn’t able to commit. The drummer was already in three other bands so we just reached an impasse where we were like, “I think Carrick and I are going to continue on as a duo.” So that’s what we did and we were like, “well what the hell are we going to do, how do we make drums?” But we got our laptop and just started figuring it out.
»CM: It kind of got us back to our roots. When we were originally a duo it was very freeform and uncategorizable and there was basically no structure to the music and we kind of went back to that but now as stronger musicians. It was kind of like a reset.
»buzz How is the music scene in Indianapolis and how is your group being received?
»CM: Supposedly there are people like us up here but we just haven’t met them yet.
»CN: It seems like there’s lots of garage-rock bands and a lot of folk music. I’m not particularly found of either of those styles but we’ve just been received very well everywhere else except for Indianapolis. Part of the reason is because we are so new here and the music scene is very insular and I guess you have to know the right people. And part of the reason is yeah, we are just different than the kinds of bands that play here.
»buzzYou guys are coming to Champaign on Friday. What are you most excited for with that show?
»CM: Champaign has been really receptive.
»CN: Yeah. Oh my God, I love Champaign. Everybody is so open and the venues are great. It’s very warm.
»CM: People want you to succeed in Champaign.
»CN: We’ve never played at Mike N Molly’s, so we’re pretty excited to play there. We have a couple of new songs that we’ll be debuting. It’s precarious when you write songs from a place of hurt because performing it is like ripping off the Band-Aid and pouring a little bit of salt into your wound. But once you’re done, it’s like performing a little miniature exorcism.
»buzz: Would you guys say you get pretty into or emotional during your performances?
»CM: I think so. I’m not an overly emotional person most of the time so I try to put emotion in it. Usually the meaning of a song comes out during it. If I had to categorize the songs I write right now, I would call them confessions.
»buzz Why the name “Spandrels”?
»CN: A spandrel is an architectural feature when you create a pointed arch. Come with me on this visual journey inside your mind. So think of a pointed arch on the side of a building: The columns go up the side and then the arch meets in a point and it joins the ceiling. What you’re left with is a triangular space. It’s negative space that doesn’t serve any purpose, it doesn’t bear any weight, it’s just the byproduct of the other features of the design. So artists and architects would use spandrels to beautify the architecture. They would put paintings and statues in this negatives space. The idea of that, putting beauty into emptiness to beautify something, to make it better, to make it more enjoyable, was the concept that was really attractive to me and I had been thinking about it for a year. I was obsessed with the concept. Carrick and I started this band and didn’t have a name and we were just stumped. We were like, “What the fuck do we call this band?” So then eventually I just turned to look at Carrick, and then look at the wall and I was like “Spandrels.” And he was just like, “YES.”
»CM: It was born out of a long period of emptiness and searching on both of our parts.
»buzz How do you guys write your songs?
»CN: We both write the songs, we both sing, we both play the guitar and bass and we both program drums. At least on my end, my songs always come from a place of pain or anxiety or emotional trauma. I’m just compelled to write the songs, it kind of feels like it’s out of my control. I’ll just sit down with my cell phone and my notes and then I’ll vomit out all these lyrics. I wish the music would come out that easily but it doesn’t. The music is hard. Every song is a struggle in its own way. Because it’s coming from a place of pain or because it’s hard for me to find the right songs to describe it.
»buzz How would you describe your sound?
»CN: I don’t play in standard tuning on guitar. I made up my own tuning and I only play five strings on my guitar and two of the strings are tuned to the same note. When it comes to the sounds of the guitar, they are very droning and it’s very open sounding as well as dissonant. The drum sounds we like to use are stark, tribalistic and industrial. I think our sound is very cold. It’s not pretty but it can be. When we play live, we improvise a lot. The songs will have sections where we can do what we want and then it’ll flow into the next song. We’re working a lot with electronic sounds right now. For our song “Gun” we layered organ tracks over and over and over each other until we just got this big, blurry drone. Then we put two big drum beats that I improvised lyrics over top of it.
»CM: I know that going into it, we were both at the time interested in amorphous sounds that would disintegrate into each other in a seamless way that would make a flowing a piece of music that was also stationary and artificial. There’s no way we could replicate that song with live instrumentation. It was interesting to use our newfound status as a duo to create something that was knowingly artificial and impossible but also beautiful and uplifting in a way.
Spandrels will perform at Mike N Molly’s on Friday, December 18 with Motes, Windmills and We Have Ghosts. Doors at 8 p.m. $7. Ages 19+.