Built To Spill Conserve Song Length For New Album

For soon-to-be-released Keep It Like a Secret, indie rock trio moved away from lengthy jams of last LP.

Indie-rockers Built To Spill went into Bear Creek Studio in Woodinville, Wash., bent on
slimming down their songs and moving away from the prodigious jams that marked their
last LP, Perfect From Now On.

Singer/guitarist Doug Martsch said getting away from jams was a top priority for the
Boise, Idaho-based trio as they worked on the 10 tracks that became Keep It Like a
Secret,
set for release Tuesday.

“About the only thing we really wanted to do was make the songs shorter than the last
record,” Martsch said. “That was about our only criteria for new songs.”

Recording in the converted barn, the trio worked with producer Phil Ek (Modest Mouse,
764-Hero) crafting such new tunes as “The Plan” and “Else,” that maintain Martsch’s
high-pitched vocals and the densely layered guitar-rock sound of past tracks such as
“Randy Described Eternity” (RealAudio excerpt) and “Kicked It in the Sun”
(RealAudio excerpt).

The difference is, the new tracks wrap up in closer to four minutes than six.

For the lengthy “Broken Chairs” — the lone exception to the otherwise concise approach
on the album — Martsch and producer Ek hesitated before opting for a protracted version
of the song, to close out the album

“That being the last song, I wanted it to be really long,” Ek said. “I was envisioning people
at a party listening to it and talking really loud. And it would fade out and they’d notice
they were talking loudly and the song would just get quieter as it fades for two more
minutes.”

Martsch and bassist Scott Nelson have known each other since they were paired on a
junior high debate team in 1981, in Twin Falls, Idaho. They played in bands together in
high school and reunited years later as Built To Spill. Former Spinanes drummer Scott
Plouf latched on and rounded out the trio in time for their 1997 release Perfect From
Now On.

Whether writing songs by jamming with bassist Nelson and drummer Plouf or working
solo on guitar, Martsch said he tries to put serious subject matter alongside more
light-hearted fare.

“I like … juxtaposing them together, like the Smiths, where they would have these
beautiful pop songs and the words were really depressing but also funny,” Martsch said.
“Or like Quentin Tarantino movies or something. I like things where you’re not sure if it’s
scary or funny or what.”

While sometimes borrowing a line or phrase from his wife, Karena Youtz, or pal, Uhuru
Black, Martsch employs his greatest graft in “You Were Right,” a song that lifts lines from
classics by the Rolling Stones, Kansas, John Mellencamp and Jimi Hendrix.

“There’s an example there too,” Martsch said. “It’s like they’re basically stupid songs, but
then ’Manic Depression’ [by Jimi Hendrix] is a wonderful song, and that’s kind-of like the
idea too.”