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


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."