DC instrumental trio Spectrums recently self-released its second EP, the aptly titled “II,” a stellar six-track collection of songs that ably demonstrates the band’s talent for building atmospheric soundscapes that are equal parts epic and intimate.
Not only is the music on the new EP uniformly excellent, the band has never sounded better from a production standpoint. Guitarists David Barker and David Nicholas, and drummer Simon Ley recorded “II” at the legendary Inner Ear Studios in Arlington, VA, home to some of the most iconic punk records of all time. They’ve also released a single, “Catching Dart,” on possibly the coolest music format of them all — the flexi!
“Catching Dart” highlights the band’s appeal — it’s a 3 minute slice of simple, melancholic guitar lines that bob and weave alongside some truly dreamlike chords, propelled by an almost jazzy uptempo rhythm. It’s calming, contemplative and otherworldly. And you’ll be humming it after only one listen.
Make no mistake. If you have a soft spot for the moodier, darker hued side of the 80s/90s UK alt scene (think The Chameleons UK, Comsat Angels and Ride), Spectrums just might be your new favorite band. If you’ve seen Spectrums live before, you know these lads have a knack for casting a spell on audiences.
Clearly, I had to get in touch with the band to delve further. Spectrums guitarist Dave Barker was only to happy to provide some answers to my questions via e-mail.
RT: First off – congratulations on the new EP. It sounds fantastic – both from a songwriting and production standpoint. What was it like to record at Inner Ear Studio, home to so many legendary DC punk recordings?
DB: More so than the Discord/punk bands, we were excited to work with Eamonn Aiken and his production skills. He gets many of the reference points we do, particularly “Starfish”-era Church and “Urban Hymns”-era Verve.
RT: Something I’ve noticed about both Spectrums EPs, but especially the latest one — these songs sound like they “belong together.” They work together as a whole as much as they do individually. I’m curious – to what extent are you thinking about the overall cohesion and feel of a release during the writing process?
DB: I think we wrote to our strengths — a blend of The Sea and Cake meets The Church if you will.
RT: Spectrums has carved out a niche in a musical space that is seldom explored by DC bands – the moodier, emotive side of the UK 80s alt scene, ala The Chameleons and Comsat Angels. I applaud the band for sticking to its creative guns and doing what it loves. What’s it been like to make music that’s a bit outside the norm for DC music, particularly as an instrumental band?
DB: I think the main thing is knowing that many of the Britpop/Brit Rock era bands have had small followings in DC. I remember seeing Starsailor play to like 50 people once and they were amazing.
RT: As a record geek, I am THRILLED that Spectrums released its “Catching Dart” single on a gorgeous orange flexi. Firstly, THANK YOU for doing this. The fact that “Catching Dart” may be my favorite track on the new EP makes it even better. What inspired the decision to go the flexi route with the single?
DB: Our buddy Dempsey who runs Mobius Records in Fairfax suggested flexis are the way to go. It was pressed in the Czech Republic and they did a nice job with the transparent orange artwork. I’m proud of “Catching Dart” as a single.
RT: Having seen Spectrums live several times this year, including at WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE, it’s evident the band line-up is really gelling. How do you feel the band dynamic is evolving in a live context? And what can you tell us about your recent and upcoming shows?
DB: More smart shows next year, and obviously returning to our favorite event We Fought the Big One.
RT: Thank you. Definitely looking forward to it!
Listen to Spectrums and buy the new EP, “II,” at their Bandcamp page.
Catch Spectrums on Sat. Nov. 17 at Jammin’ Java (227 Maple Ave E, Vienna, VA 22180). More show details here: Spectrums@Jammin’ Java