Progress Report

Progress Report: Built To Spill

NAME:Built To Spill
PROGRESS REPORT: Doing final mixing for There Is No Enemy at Kingsize SoundLabs in Los Angeles with producer David Trumfio

About five years went by between the release of Built To Spill’s fifth album, Ancient Melodies Of The Future, and 2006’s You In Reverse. By that measure, the wait for There Is No Enemy seems short. Still, Billboard reported that Doug Martsch, along with his new lineup, were ready to wrap up their album back in May — 2007. As you might guess, Martsch says their schedule was pretty relaxed: The band began recording in March last year, but, after recording 15 songs in Los Angeles, they re-recorded them at an old theater that was converted into a studio. “And we tried it there because we were going for a live sound. We even had a little show, invited some locals and performed the songs live in front of people and recorded those as well,” Martsch explains. “But we ended up not really using that.” The band returned to their original studio once every six weeks or so to do overdubs, vocals, and additional instruments before leaving for a tour last year. Martsch spent the last few months returning to the studio without the band to work on mixing. “And that’s where we are now,” he says. “It wasn’t a year of hard work. It was a year of every once and while coming out and working. I like to sit on stuff for a while.”

If you saw Built To Spill on tour last year, you heard some of the new album tracks, slower, pared-down songs like “Done” and “Hindsight.” Martsch, says he’s been working on these new songs too much to know if they’ll sound as they did last year. “I don’t think they’ve changed very much, but they probably have changed a lot because change is so gradual and I’m just working on it all the time,” he says. While he wrote all the songs on his own, he says the rest of Built to Spill helped the tracks evolve over the recording sessions. Members traded off parts seamlessly, meaning that, if you followed Martsch as well as related Built To Spill bands like Caustic Resin, you might be able to pick out guitar players. At other times, Martsch says he couldn’t tell you who was on each guitar. And because BTS edited via ProTools for the first time, Martsch had unlimited tracks and takes to use, making it even harder to pick out individual takes or players. But the band only used ProTools to edit and mix; Martsch says all the recording and effects were put on tape: “I’m pretty careful not to overproduce things. The time we’re spending is not being spent tightening things and making things more pro at all, making them more slick.”

That final recording may be the first chance everyone else will have to hear There Is No Enemy. Martsch says the band will likely not play any new songs this summer since they haven’t had a chance to rehearse them: “Like I said, some of these songs have changed a bit. We never bothered learning them, so we kind of have our old songs to work with.” In fact, he says he had a peek at some of the songs in contention for their Pitchfork Festival Write The Night show, and he was happy to see that most of the songs people voted for were “basically just the stuff we always play all the time anyway,” without requests for newer songs. But that’s just fine for Martsch. In fact, it also explains why he likes to take his time with recording. “We have a bunch of records out. There’s no hurry for us to sell music. We can put out a a record every five or six years, and that’s plenty of Built to Spill music. The world doesn’t need a new Built to Spill record every year,” he says. “A new band, I could totally see that. It’s exciting to hear them put out a couple records in a hurry, but a band like us, we’re just fine.”


If there’s a band you want Progress Report to drag out of the studio, or bed, for an update, e-mail [email protected].

[Photo of Doug Martsch from ATP NY ’08 by Amrit Singh]