Doug Martsch, the mercurial mastermind behind Built to Spill, has always aligned himself with Modest Mouse, Caustic Resin, Unwound and other fringe rock bands. So it's somewhat surprising to find that his new record, Ancient Melodies of the Future, was inspired by artists who recorded before the birth of the electric guitar.
"I've been listening to a lot of blues and folk stuff from the '20s and '30s," Martsch said over a telephone headset while mowing the lawn of his Boise, Idaho, lawn with an antique hand mower. "I don't ever want to try to make those kinds of music because I don't really like versions of that music that aren't the real thing. But I definitely think that listening to that stuff affects what I do in my own music."
Indeed, new songs like "Strange" and "The Weather" are far from 12-bar blues workouts or strummy folk excursions, though they are more melodic and contained than Built to Spill's earlier sprawling guitarscapes.
"My whole aesthetic growing up was all about punk rock, but now it's just the opposite," said the man once known as Dug Martsch. "What I like most now is really simple music, beautiful melodies and good playing. Also, I like the fact that folk and blues stuff is kind of mysterious.
"When I listen to Modest Mouse I never find myself wondering what it must be like to be Modest Mouse. I know what it's like. Whereas with that old stuff, it just sounds strange. You don't really know what their lives were like or understand the reasons they were making music."
Built to Spill are getting ready for the second leg of their U.S. tour for Ancient Melodies of the Future. The tour starts September 4 in Minneapolis and hits major markets in the Midwest and East before wrapping up in Dallas on September 30.
"I like playing live, but I don't like being away from home for too long," Martsch said. "That's why I only go on the road for a month or so at a time. Otherwise, I really miss my son."
Built to Spill tour dates, according to the band's publicist:
- 9/4 Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
- 9/5 Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
- 9/6 Chicago, IL @ Metro/Smart Bar
- 9/7 Chicago, IL @ Metro/Smart Bar
- 9/9 Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall
- 9/10 Detroit, MI @ Magic Stick
- 9/13 Philadelphia, PA @ The Trocadero
- 9/14 Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
- 9/15 Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
- 9/17 Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
- 9/18 Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
- 9/19 Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
- 9/20 New York, NY @ Irving Plaza
- 9/21 New York, NY @ Irving Plaza
- 9/22 New York, NY @ Irving Plaza
- 9/28 Houston, TX @ Engine Room
- 9/30 Dallas, TX @ Gypsy Tea Room