Built To Spill Takin’ it Easy as the Group Settles into Middle Age

:: Bluebird Theater :: September 21 ::
:: Mishawaka Amphitheater :: September 22 ::

By Hap Fry

The basketball Built to Spill frontman Doug Martsch takes on the road with him has found its way inside many a gym across the continental United States.

You see, aside from being a basketball junkie, Martsch is a card-carrying member of the YMCA. Whether it’s the day before, after, or even the day of a show, there’s a good chance Martsch could be running the court at the local YMCA in whatever town his bandmates and him have occupied.

“There’s some real good Y’s out there,” Martsch said matter-of-factly during a recent phone interview with The Marquee from his Boise, Idaho home. “I definitely remember the Denver one. I’ve played there a few times. I really like that Y, but it is pretty ghetto – really small gym, and I don’t think they use the AC too much in it. I’ve had some great times in that gym, though.”

While Martsch is best known as a whirling dervish, guitar-playing virtuoso, don’t think choosing between playing music or basketball is an easy choice. “To me, it’s just as enjoyable,” Martsch said. “It’s just as good as sex or as good as anything else that you can just get lost in. I guess things changed when I was 30 and quit smoking. I went down to the park and started shooting a few hoops, and then I started watching it. For some reason, all at once, I just became obsessed with basketball, and it hasn’t shown any signs of stopping. I love every single moment of playing basketball accept when I’m getting torched.”

For the record, the Portland Trail Blazers is Martsch’s team of choice. Favorite player? That, of course, would be none other than Elizabeth Cambage of the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock.

“You should check her out,” Martsch said. “She’s an Australian big lady. She’s just like this big bruiser. I just like her look and her attitude.  She was a rookie last year, but she was just always smiling and laughing, and she has half her head shaved.  She’s not quite punk looking, but she has a wild, care-free demeanor.”

That same demeanor certainly could be used to describe Martsch, in particular, when he started Built to Spill twenty years ago under the guise that he would bring in different players every time the group went in to work on an album. After giving that a try for a while, Martsch (guitar/vocals) has been content with the current lineup of Brett Netson (guitars), Jim Roth (guitars), Brett Nelson (bass) and Scott Plouf (drums).

“Initially, that was the plan,” Martsch said of constant lineup changes. “One reason was because I thought we were temporarily living in Idaho. And then, I thought it would be really interesting because all the records would be really different sounding. I wanted people that were coming together casually to play music. I wanted our personal lives out of the equation. But after we did a few records of changing lineups, I was playing with Scott and Brett, and I was like, ‘These guys rule. I don’t want to lose them.’ I want people to have a stake in the band. You know, if you’re going to have someone collaborate with you, then they should have a stake in it. I also wanted a band that grew and became tighter.”

Powered by Martsch, Built to Spill’s sound is tight, but they’re also not driven at a pace that radiates in other groups. Simply put: Built to Spill isn’t in much of a rush. They’re not in a big rush to tour – their last extended tour was in 2010 – and they’re definitely not in a hurry to put out a record after releasing There is no Enemy in 2009.

“We’re working on an album right now, but they take a lot longer to make than they used to, maybe a couple of years from now we’ll really be done,” Martsch said. “I think there’s times when you have to apply some pressure, but I’m not at that point yet. I like to take my time to make sure everything I’m doing is something I can live with.

“The older I get, the more I like to double check things. I’m definitely in less of a hurry. There’s no hurry at all for another Built to Spill record. That’s kind of a nice thing about being this age. We don’t feel that kind of pressure to be on the scene and all that shit. It’s not like we’re a band where you just can’t wait for the next record to come out. There’s so much fucking Built to Spill shit out there that people don’t need anymore,” he said.

Don’t take it that Martsch hates his day job. That’s not it at all. With age, comes a little more perspective. And on this day, Martsch would just as soon spend time with his two dogs and son, who is about to head off to college at Western Washington, as talk about the upcoming tour.

Well, maybe nothing except shooting a skyhook at the local YMCA and watching a little Tulsa Shock basketball.


:: Built To Spill ::

:: Bluebird Theater :: September 21 ::

:: Mishawaka Amphitheater :: September 22 ::


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