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Bollywood-Inspired Spiral Beach Take Their Music to the Streets
Posted on Dec 9th 2009 2:30PM by Drew Berner
Some bands seclude themselves while they’re writing music, carefully guarding their creative process from the outside world. Spiral Beach are not like those bands.
The quartet, known for their exceptional approach to performance, regularly workshopped the songs they were writing for their recent album, the awkwardly titled ‘The Only Really Thing,’ on the streets of Toronto’s hippie conclave, Kensington Market.
“We wrote a lot of the songs over last summer and we were just trying them out in front of people to see if they worked,” drummer and co-songwriter Daniel Woodhead tells Spinner. “That’s always a test — if it’s a good song, it’ll get a good reaction regardless of whether you’re on a stage 20-feet high or if you’re right in front of them in a park.”
The barely-out-of-high school group is renowned for their unique live shows — they regularly build their own stage setups with traffic cones, Christmas lights and cardboard-cutouts and go to great lengths to involve the crowd. The CD-release party for their previous album, ‘Ball,’ involved face-painting, tricycles, a tire swing and grilled cheese sandwiches for their fans. But it’s not as if they’re putting on eccentricities for the crowd — these kids are about having fun even if no one is watching.
Woodhead recalls playing many shows to sparse attendance, but most memorable was a gig in Dallas, Tex. that happened to fall on Thanksgiving. “There were literally zero people at this show,” Woodhead recalls. “It was a very ‘American’ city on the biggest American holiday — everybody’s at dinner. I guess being a Canadian band we didn’t realize it, so we ended up just playing whatever [we felt like]. Joel [Gibb] from [tourmates] the Hidden Cameras came and played on a song of ours, the sound guy came and did a guitar solo on one of the songs. Then we played the first song that we ever wrote together — it’s seven minutes, the longest song we ever wrote.
“When it comes down to it, we’d rather play in a room where people are interested in music, whether it’s full or empty doesn’t even matter,” Woodhead insists. “We played in Minneapolis to maybe eight people, but they were so ridiculously into it — we got the them all onstage so it was like a total dance freak-out. The only 12 people in the room are onstage and the bartender and sound guy were so confused.”
This carnival atmosphere crosses over into their music, which Woodhead insists was more heavily influenced by Indian films than the freak-folk of blogger-sweethearts like Animal Collective.
“The main influence that we were trying to make an obvious connection to is the Bollywood sound from the ’60s and ’70s — all these ridiculous, crazy songs that are unknown on this side of the world,” Woodhead explains. But they weren’t just trying to be different by infusing their music with obscure references.
“It has a sound to it that I think we connected with anyway, I felt like it was close to what we were doing in some weird way, even though we’re not trying to sing in Hindi or anything.”