It’s not easy being a musician in ‘these troubled times’. You can prep an album for one point and then anything from a global pandemic to vinyl manufacturing delays can force it to shift to another point entirely. That’s what happened to indie titans Spector, who were supposed to drop their new album ‘Now or Whenever’ last year, but found it delayed to the start of 2022.
Still, as the old saying goes, good things come to those who wait – and this is certainly ‘a good thing’. With the record finally out today (Friday 7th January), we asked the band’s Fred Macpherson and Jed Cullen to run us through what’s behind each track in our latest Artist’s Guide. Stream it and dive in.
When Saturday Comes
Fred: This was originally the intro to D-Roy but we changed the key and moved it to the front of the album so it could set the scene. I think the juddering tapey feel of it is a nice overture for everything that comes next. There was a flute on it that got cut much to Jed’s sadness, but hopefully the flute on This Time Next Year makes up for it.
Jed: The chords are straight from the original session that I wrote when I woke up in the middle of the night.
Catch You On The Way Back In
Fred: We wanted to make something banging in the most literal sense of the word. We had no idea it would end up starting the album but by the time we’d finished it it didn’t feel like there was anywhere else it could go. So many Spector songs are more chill in the verses and loud in the choruses so it’s nice to have something the other way round.
Jed: I didn’t know how much I’d miss the feeling of a pint being thrown on me under strobe lights until these last couple of years. This song was written at the height of the yearning for things to go back to normal
Do You Wanna Drive
Fred: I love this song because it’s more complex than it sounds, with a seven beat time signature in the verses and a six in the choruses, both of which are very unusual for us (pretty much everything we ever do is 4/4). And the harmonies are quite folky which ended up inspiring other vocals on the album.
Jed: There’s a certain bucolic almost folky atmosphere to this song that I think came from us being in the English countryside when we wrote it.
Fred: This is the second song we co-wrote with Jack Kaye from the Magic Gang. We’d already made Funny Way together but he was insistent we needed something a bit more epic with a lead synth line to recall the early days of Spector. It’s always a rewarding process working with someone who has an idea of qualities you have as artists that you don’t necessarily see in yourself.
Jed: Working with Jack was one of the smoothest co-write sessions we had.
Funny Way of Showing It
Fred: I think we’d been listening to John Lennon’s ‘Watching the Wheels’ the day we wrote this. It’s another one that touches on the slightly seventies folky/country sound that we’ve never really delved into before. Maybe we’re getting old.
Jed: The other song we wrote with Jack. I remember he came into the room while I was playing a solo and was asking me if I was making it up live and I tried to answer him while still playing. I don’t know what suffered more the solo or my answer but we left that first take on the record.
No One Knows Better
Fred: We wrote this in the same few days we wrote Catch You and Do You Wanna Drive. I think I’ll always remember them as our last few pre-pandemic songs when we were still riding high off the energy of our thirty-day 2019 tour. It feels like a million years ago now. Lyrically it’s one of my favourites on the album, and has cleared out a lot of images I’ve had hanging around in my head for a while.
Jed: I think it’s a hidden banger
I’m Not Crying You’re Crying
Fred: We wrote this with M T Hadley, whose ‘Janet’ is one of my favourite pop songs of the last decade. He has a jazzier approach to chords than us, but a sensibility that I think really suits. We got very lucky with the hook phrase itself coming to us very early in the process too. I always feel if you get a good title early you’ve got to step up. The video was also great fun to shoot, so if you’re reading this and haven’t watched it, please do!
Jed: M T Hadley kept talking about chords I’ve never heard of but I think we got there in the end.
Fred: This is the oldest song on the record, and one I wrote with Shaun Paterson who plays bass for Baxter Dury, Jamie T and occasionally us. Other Spector credits of his include telling me to cut the music under “chevy thunder chevy chevy thunder”, so I feel like he’s a voice we can trust. Subject matter-wise I think this one’s the most classically us, and one of a few times rain features on the album.
Jed: Something about this reminds me of the music that was about when Fred and I first knew each other as teenagers, it feels very nostalgic playing it.
Fred: Jed wrote D-Roy about a friend, but I like it because it feels like it could be about any friend. I tried to ban lyrics that “look back” on this album and write more in the present tense (the Now), but they start to creep in in the last few songs. It’s a bit emo but hopefully in a good way – pretty much our mantra.
Jed: I woke up in the middle of the night feeling sad about a friendship that was about to experience a lot of distance. I went in the other room and wrote an early version of the pre chorus melody and words. Fred really zoned in on the meaning of it and it came alive, one of my favourite tracks on the album
This Time Next Year
Fred: I really wanted to have an ‘acoustic’ track in a rock album cliché way, so I’m really happy with how this turned out. It’s just my singing, Jed on guitar and backing vocals, and our producer Rich Turvey on flute. All of it was recorded live with very little editing too. I don’t think we’ve ever had a song quite like it.
Jed: Fred kept saying we should do a song with just guitar and vocal and I kept rolling my eyes and then he sent the demo of this and i had to accept he was right
An American Warehouse in London
Fred: This song was our Everest, and we’re still not sure if it’s finished. Danny Blandy says the demo was better so make you check that version out on the iTunes deluxe and let us know what you think. Is it the longest Spector song to date? I loved how Moth Boys ended with Lately It’s You so we wanted to make sure we had something special for the end of this one. There’s lots of threads in it that occasionally work together and occasionally don’t. Like a lot of the album it’s about time, not just looking back at the passage of it, but the tragedy of the present always slipping through our fingers, and a future we can never quite get hold of.
Jed: We felt early on that this should go last as it had that undefinable end the album feeling. It also leaves me wanting to write another album, it takes you into space but never quite comes back to ground.
Spector’s new album ‘Now or Whenever’ is out now. Order a physical copy from the band’s website here.