‘Manchester understand us’: London band Spector talk the North, drug references and the ‘state of Britain today’

Ahead of British band Spector’s show at Gorilla on Saturday, frontman Fred Macpherson chatted to MM about the North, ‘cringey’ drug references, and the ‘state of Britain today’.

Released three years on from debut Enjoy It While It Lasts, Spector excited their cult fan base by releasing follow-up, Moth Boys, in August, after the release of singles All The Sad Young Men and Bad Boyfriend.

As the London four-piece come to Manchester to play Gorilla on Saturday, MM spoke to frontman Fred MacPherson.

He said that although the band comes from London they’re happy to be get outside of the capital for a UK-tour.

“We are from London, but actually on our tours Manchester’s usually the one of the venues that sells out first,” said Fred.

“So I do feel like although we’re from London, in the North people get us a bit more. I feel like they’re less worried about how things are tagged and how things are perceived.

“In London people either think we’re not a proper pop band or we’re too pop to be hip, or too hip to be pop, or whatever.

“Whereas when we play in Sheffield, or Leeds, or Manchester, people seem to not care.”

Talking about the lyrics in his songs, Fred admits that his word often come from ‘analysing tiny banal details of life over and over’.

“I think I think about things more than I need to and I think people who do that as well might think our music chimes with them,” he said.

“A lot of our album is about moments where you take in alternative realities to avoid dealing with the emotionally overwhelming situations that being a young person growing up throws at you.

“Even in relationships I find it tough to talk about things, because I don’t feel comfortable with overt sincerity. To me that seems embarrassing even though it shouldn’t be.

“I think another reason why our music’s quite British is that British people deal with sincerity and straightness a lot less well than say, Americans or emotionally in-touch Europeans.”

Although the album makes frequent references to drugs and alcohol, Fred comes across more the unsure, self-loathing protagonist of a Kafka novel, than a rock ‘n’ roll cliché.

When asked about whether he found writing the drugs reference cringey, he says he didn’t, but that that ‘cringeyness’ in writing often comes from not addressing issues like drugs directly.

“I think it’s about how you write about [drink and drugs], I can see why it could be a bit cringey,” he says.

“But to me cringeyness is when you talk about something in an indirect way. You try to be poetic about it, but you end up just failing to say what you’re saying and have some heavy-handed hint at it.

“I think talking about drink and drugs directly makes them lessglamorous than if you allude to them as some special, magical, mystic thing. That’s when the glamour gets involved.

“To me drugs are just something that force chemical imbalances in your brain. That’s the ultimate sterile, fake unglamourous thing.

“So that when we talk about them it’s in a depressing way. In the same way that we talk about people who are addicted to using their phones. There similar things to me.”

Many of the songs on Moth Boys seem to hint at a sadness in modern life, but stop short of expressing the melancholia outright, out of what Fred describes as ‘self-consciousness.’  

“The way we write, it’s not just a lyrics thing, it’s what it’s like in real life. And obviously the lyrics are an extreme version of that,” he says.

“The way which I’m singing about situations is how I’ve experienced them, where it feels like you’re kind of leaving your own body and looking at situations from the outside.

“Feeling uncomfortable with every conversation being had. And ridiculing your own language that you use and seeing it as pathetic.

“It’s kind of just getting lost. When you know being self-conscious to that extent is negative but you still end up doing it in a situation.

“Which I guess is why people drink or create online branded versions of themselves, so they can be something or someone they feel more comfortable.

“Rather than the neuroses where you scrutinise every decision you make, for no helpful reason.”

That’s Spector’s essential appeal to their fan. Unlike the feel-good vibes of chart music, Fred’s lyric articulate the growing-pains and neuroses of young adulthood, framed in context of what Fred calls the ‘state of Britain’ today.

“I don’t think I’d call this album political, but I think it shows the beginning of what I hope will be a more aware perspective that we write from,” he says.

“I think right now music is too apolitical and we need more direct responses, especially to England and the state of things right now.

“I think this album hints at it, because there is a disenchantment and a discussion of the generation that we’re in and the state of things.

“London has been turned into this ultra-corporate playground where you have these buildings worth billions of pounds, occupied by people who aren’t even in the UK and never will be.

“It feels like a particularly alienated, lacking in community. A ghostly city, almost like an empty theme park or something.

“And meanwhile people are struggling all over the UK, yet people still vote for a party that essentially promotes self-interest.”

Fred says he’s not sure whether the band’s music will evolve over the next few years to become more political or less self-conscious, but that they just need to ‘keep playing music to people, and hopefully they will like it and tell their friends about it.’

When I ask about recent descriptions of him as an enigmatic frontman Fred laughs off the idea saying he’s just somebody who, ‘gives long answers to short questions.’

So what does he think it is that led to his and his band’s cult following?

“These days it seems like so many are essentially faceless and aren’t really interested in engaging and don’t necessarily have opinions of their own,” he said.

“They don’t feel comfortable in sharing them because it might be at the stake of their success.

“So I guess maybe ‘enigmatic’ is someone with a bit of personality, who isn’t just a one liner type of thing.”

Image courtesy of Adam Shoesmith, with thanks.

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