Spoken is a band that should be finding its way to your ears in 2013. It’s a big year for the band who have been around for a while but are literally going through nothing short of a complete rebirth and transformation at this moment. Their latest album, Illusion, was released through EOne Music (Zakk Wylde, Overkill) and they are spending the next couple weeks gearing up for their coveted opening slot on this spring’s Volbeat/Danko Jones tour. Anyone who reads LRI regularly already knows exactly how excited I am about this tour and now I’ve come to find there’s not two but three must-see bands on this bill. Spoken’s new album could appeal to literally anyone from super heavy screamer metalheads to college-alt crowds to general rock fans. “Illusion” has genuinely affective song structures, lyrics and hooks all filtered through amazing production values, it is more than capable of blowing your mind and definitely makes you want to see the band live. I talked with singer/guitarist Matt Baird, bassist Ryan Pei and drummer Oliver Crumpton about the tour, the album and more, read on…..
LRI: Spoken has landed the support slot on the upcoming VOLBEAT/Danko Jones tour which is already a hot ticket. You guys have obviously done a fair share of touring prior to this but are you excited about this coming spring??
Oliver Crumpton: We are really excited. This tour is going to give us the opportunity to introduce this band to a market previously untouched and we’re just looking forward to what the future holds.
LRI: Your cover art is interesting for your new album, “Illusion” and almost suggests a theme of rebirth as well as illusion. How important are music videos, album covers and the visual medium to the band?
Oliver Crumpton: There are a lot of different elements of meaning behind the album art, and rebirth is definitely one of them. This album really is a reinvention of the band. We approached it that way. I think at this point in the band’s career, the visual aspects are becoming a much bigger part of things than in the past.
LRI: There is a lot in SPOKEN’S lyrical content that could relate to anyone… Do you think the best way to expose your music to the masses is just to write what you feel?
Matt Baird: I think with any band important to write what you feel. It’s difficult sometimes to write a song if you really have nothing to say, or you’re trying to write about something you’ve never experienced. Spoken is a band that loves people, loves music, and believes that we’ve been given an amazing opportunity to use music to let people know that there is hope. We’re just lucky enough to use music to do that.
LRI: The band has gone through lineup changes, label changes and even some stylistic changes but are still reaching new fans (and journalists) with each new move. Have there ever been times during some of the adversity where you have been tempted to pack it in and move on to something else?
Matt Baird: We’ve definitely had plenty of hard times as a band, and as individuals. We’ve always said we are “Dedicated Beyond Reason” which basically means stupid (laughs). We love what we do, and we never want to take it for granted. A long as people keep coming to shows, and we have opportunities to play for new people, why stop?
LRI: The single “Through It All” is melodic, heavy and everything that a good radio track should be. It also comes across as a bit biographical. What was the inspiration for writing this song?
Matt Baird: “Through It All” was one of the songs that we revisited a few different times while recording the record. It wasn’t until a few days after the Joplin tornado, that the song took it’s current form. We felt like the song deserved another shot. The Joplin tornado had hit a couple of days before we hit the studio and it was definatley on our minds. I went upstairs and started watching YouTube video of the destruction, and some of the news interviews. It was hard to watch, I felt every emotion. “Through It All” was inspired by heartache, loss, perseverance, and something we all need, hope.
LRI: This album and the songs on it were not slapped together quickly by any means. It has been more than a couple years since your last album. Sometimes that much time can make a band start second-guessing things but in this case it seems to have served you well. In your opinion, how much has the material changed during production of the record?
Oliver Crumpton: Some of the songs went through multiple changes and are very different from the first draft. There were also a lot of tracks or ideas that were cut completely. I do believe that bands can take too much time and over think things for sure. In our case, I think we needed the time. We went through a development process with the band looking at what we needed to change to make things better than ever.
LRI: How important was the touring you’ve done this past five years to the longevity or sanity of the band and was it at all frustrating to not have a new record out while doing those shows?
Ryan Pei: It was extremely important. We not only love being on tour, but it was necessary for the sake of keeping the band alive. As long as we remain a band, we will always be on the road no matter what position we are in. As part of being in this band we all feel we’re supposed to be out reaching and meeting new people and sharing our music with everyone and anyone. At times it got frustrating not having a record out. Having a record and touring off of it always generates a new sense of excitement with the band and fans that we we’re missing at times. But, we’re definitely lucky to be able to still tour as consistently as we did for those five years without a new record and don’t take that for granted.
LRI: The band has origins in Fayetteville, Arkansas, a town I actually spent a lot of summers in years ago. Are most of the people back home supportive of the band or following your travels all over the globe?
Matt Baird: I have people all the time that I went to school with, hitting me up on facebook saying how much they love Spoken and are so proud of us. My mom, brother, sister , and other relatives still live in the northwest Arkansas area.
LRI: What do you think the biggest misconception your supporters or detractors have about your band?
Ryan Pei: That we’re no longer a band, or haven’t been touring, or have been on a break since the last record came out. We have people say to us “you guys are still a band?” or “you guys still tour?” all the time. When in reality, we have toured non stop, almost every month out of the year since always, and have some of the most exciting things this band has ever been a part of happening right now.
LRI: This album is loud and very well played, performance wise. Do you also enjoy stripping down a lot of these songs and playing them acoustically in a more intimate setting?
Ryan Pei: The past couple of Decembers we decided to do an acoustic tour since it’s either that or taking the month off like usual. It’s a fun experience for us getting to be in a relaxed setting and playing these songs while telling some stories and interacting with the audience more than usual. We definitely love playing our usual aggressive set, but it’s cool to change it up and do something not all bands can or choose to do.
LRI: Matt, you’re the singer/guitarist but if you will, play armchair psychologist for a second. What does the personality of each member of SPOKEN bring to the table and chemistry of the band?
Matt Baird: I think one of the best things about each member, is that we’re extremely easy going. We all love playing music, performing, and writing songs. We have a really good chemistry. It also helps that we’re pretty hilarious (laughs).
LRI: Thanks for talking with us guys, we hope to check out the Chicago show and see these band firsthand. One last question about the live show. You have been a band long enough to have your own quirks about gear set-ups and equipment type stuff. Is there any one element of your sound that absolutely, positively has to be spot on or you won’t enjoy the show?
Oliver Crumpton: I’m pretty particular about the sound of my in-ear monitors. When they don’t sound how I want them too, I’m pretty annoyed most of the show (laughs).