Interview: SPINDRIFT On Longevity, The Wild West & More

David Haynes December 11, 2021 Features, Interviews No Comments


Photo Credit: Charles Mallison

SPINDRIFT is not your average band. They don’t even operate on the same wavelength. They’re always taking us to wide open spaces – to outer space or the wild west.

Formed in Deleware in 1992, SPINDRIFT began making country-western influenced psychedelic freak-out music. Sticking to their DIY and punk roots, the band favored 4-track and 8-track recording over polished studio work. Though the recordings were made without the grandeur of studios, it was always cinematic in scope. They have since contributed music to a Quentin Tarantino film and even had a film made based on a concept album they made in 2003. Almost 30 years later, Spindrift is still surprising us with new, innovative, and highly original work.

We recently caught up with SPINDRIFT founder and head honcho Kirkpatrick Thomas, who had a lot to say about the band’s history and their new single, “Dil Gira Na De.” Check out our interview with Thomas below!

Your newest single “Dil Gira Na De,” out now on Divine Droid Records, is a collaboration with Bollywood stars Bivas Biswas and Sapna Gandhi. It still has a very Western, cinematic feel, but also combines influences from Indian music. What was the recording process for that single like?

The whole process from start to finish was like non-other we had ever recorded or written since. In 2014, we attended a Hollywood premier for a film we scored called Dust Up (Directed by Ward Roberts). Sitting right next to me, was the lovely Sapna Ghandi. We got to talking and of course, soon realized we shared a similar love for song, dance, soundtracks, and all things Bollywood. I sent her what was then the instrumental version simply titled the “Bollywood Song” and asked her to jot down some lyrics.

We realized quite soon that we needed to add a male counterpart to add that classic interplay like Lee and Nancy but Bollywood style. Sapna contacted actor Bivas Biswas and with some collaboration we soon finalized the first take of “Dil Gira Na De (Don’t Fall For Me)” The lyrics had a playful, back and forth, male to female, catchy stop and go type feel while the middle instrumental section features tablas, Moog, fuzz guitars, and vibraslap. After a full on lineup change in 2016, we went to the newly re-developed all analog, historic Valentine Recording Studios.

The place is a dream. A beautiful picturesque 50’s era studio with live reverb chambers, 2 separate recording rooms, a lathe, and all the vintage tubes, compressors, mics, and tape machines you could imagine. It had been previously used by The Beach Boys, Bing Crosby, and such but when the 90’s digital era came along and hair metal died, nobody wanted to look at a vintage North Hollywood studio any more. Along came our manager Nic Jodoin, who made this discovery when he was looking at the vintage car shop next door and talked with the owners about reviving it. We were one of the first to get in there much like Hicksville Trailer Palace in Joshua Tree where we spent 2 weeks tracking in 2010 after a US Tour.

We recorded the track (16 analog tracks, no more) then mastered it with Dennis Moody and sent it off to my buddy (who is also Hindi) Sonny Mishra who runs the Seattle based Divine Droid Records. Sonny could get both USA and India airplay so we knew there was a unique opportunity here. Resident SPINDRIFT artist/DJ Carlos Colon (who had designed LP art for Death Waltz Records previously) did the art in the style of the famous SHOLAY promo poster.SHOLAY is basically like Bollywood’s “Once Upon A Tine in the West” and the art is very reminiscent of the era. We’ve been pushing the single backed with the Georgio Moroder style B-side “Algae on the Rocks” since Feb 2018. We released it along with European Tour with a video done by director Mike Bruce who we reunited with finally after filming The Legend of Gods Gun together from 2005-2008. The only question now is, how are we going to make it over to India and tour?!?!

How have you seen the DIY ethic change over the years? What did DIY recording look like in 1992 versus now?

Before smart phones. Thats what it all comes down to if you really look at it. Back then, flyers, mailing lists, and posters were king of promo. Funny, even back then the general public regarded CD’s as a shitty listening source. Our first Singles were released on cassette and 7′. We had to cold call every club to try and book a DIY tour. We were forced to make a scene…A REAL scene otherwise we’d have nothing especially coming from Delaware. Recording was actually better because you HAD TO use analog, 1/4″ or 1/2″ tape or (my fave) cassette. I actually refused to graduate from using my Fostex 4 track all the way up til 2004 where I recorded half the songs on the album The Legend of Gods Gun. One of our best tunes “Speak to the Wind” is a 4-track recording still heard on the actual recording/album! I’m still very much a lo-fi limited track type dude. All of our albums still have not exceeded 16 tracks. It’s just the only way to keep it raw, real, and capture more believable performances.

How has the rotating lineup affected the band’s live presence over the years?

Up and up and up. Me being at the helm, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it grow all through the years with the added experience to know how to continuously adapt, overcome, and improve. Though I have to say, very proudly, that STILL, ever since day one, I’m still friendly with every single member of the band. Like I have 20 brothers and sisters now. We always strove to make our live shows something of a “religious experience” whereas “you’ll never be the same again once you’ve seen this band”. That was always our motto since the start and although we’ve switched up lineups many times it’s always been kick ass through all the years, if not better and better. It’s fun to watch old VHS tapes of early performances. To see that we are just as out of control now as then and that the crowd participation is/was the same too.

I guess I’m the binding tie here/there but with every lineup change, I’ve sought to always improve the live presence and overcome previous setbacks. I actually know for a fact that the current lineup is the most compatible, least dramatic, most diverse, and hardest working of the lot. We’ve changed up our sound, style, added light shows, fog, and stage projections through the years but thats more based on the conceptual style of each album and lineup. When you strip all that away, it comes down to the bands interaction with themselves, the venue, and the fans we meet and perform for. In the beginning, we had strobe lights, fluorescent blacklights, fuzzed out TV screens, and overhead projectors complete with psychedelic transparencies of various optical illusions. Then we moved on to the more cinematic visual projections with spaghetti western trailers and Karel Zeman films (this is when we started adding the light up cow skull and Frankie would wear his light up sombrero) THEN on to our own current home made style stage light show with backlighting accenting our silhouettes and lots of desert sunset deep blues, bright reds, and soft yellows. All controllable from the stage. More streamlined you could say its become. After doing hundreds and hundreds of shows…Its going to inevitably take on its own course.

Your sound owes a lot to the Spaghetti Western greats like Ennio Morricone and Sergio Leone. What has fascinated you about their work, and what keeps you returning to their soundtracks?

I’ve always been an escapist. I’ve wanted to travel to the stars, outer space, fly through the galaxy, across the great divide, visit exotic worlds, traverse hostile environments, uncover ancient cultures, like Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom or Han Solo in the Mos Eisley Cantina. To me, when I’d listen to Morricone’s works, he really took me there. To the unwanton desert. Gritty and never ending. “Once Upon A Time In The West” really was the one that spoke to me. Told me more of the environment rather than the story. So, from there I continued to search out and write more spacious wide reverb’d out, twangy, big, epic sounding works. Mariachi inspired trumpets and guitars, Bull fighting music, Native American studies, exotic Hawaiian bells and calls, the Polynesian styles Elizabeth Waldo used in her compositions, and the far out pioneers of electronic sound design like Bruce Haack, Joe Meek, and Raymond Scott all come to immediate mind.

You’ve crafted soundtracks for movies as well, including Tarantino’s Hell Ride and a movie inspired by your record The Legend of God’s Gun. What do you see as the relationship between film and soundtrack? Why are soundtracks so vital to our experience of a movie?

We all know the importance of the musical score in film. We’ve all seen how it can even overcome (overshadow) a picture as well. Powerful stuff. I’m especially fond of the title or theme song where a piece can stand on its own without the visual accompaniment. Thats one big reason we’ve released the Classic Soundtracks libraries. So we can highlight each film we’ve done very quickly and make it work as an LP album. Vol 1 came out in 2010 (Xemu Records), and we are currently working with Jello Biafra (ex- Dead Kennedy’s, chief of Alternative Tentacle Records) and many various new film makers on Vol 3. Each volume highlights our works in all the various film placements over the years. A film score resume so to speak. It helps to solidify what SPINDRIFT does best…Write short epic film themes so memorable and melodic they could be easily played on the radio as a single (in another dimension aka Top 40 in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s). I’m a big fan of just writing simple catchy instrumental melodies. An art I feel which has been lost in popular culture now that everything is based on lyrical content and who is doing what to whoever and who is most popular in the pop wars and blah blah blah….Just write me something I can sit back and sing along to! But they can’t! It’s so messed up! What’s really messed up is that now we are subjected to a institution that basically forces us to listen and pretend to enjoy. We have no choice because its everywhere!

Sorry…Anyway, another project we did in 2012 is SPINDRIFT: Ghost of the West. Whereas, instead of following the mythical Italian version of the Western, we turned around and focused on our own American West and the folk songs and film songs which related to the “real (or reel)” West. The album is a soundtrack to the road trip documenting the “Ghost Town Tour” of 2012. We toured about 21 different ghost towns, historic spots, national parks, and tourist traps across Route 66, all the way up to Deadwood, and back down to the O.K. Corral. The film is a surrealist psychedelic historic journey across the West. Directed by Burke Roberts, it will finally see the light of day in 2019 on Indican Pictures.

Spindrift has been touring for a long time. What is the craziest thing that has happened on tour? Feel free to give a couple, if you can’t decide!

Speaking of the Ghost Town Tour of 2012, you can only imagine the haunted, weird, wild, crazy shit we’ve seen. Not to mention going on a tour to specifically play to an audience of ghosts, we had the unfortunate pleasure of running into a giant elk. In Area 51 we had flying saucers fling themselves right across the front of the van. We got the van stuck in a dry river bed of the Sonora Desert while being swarmed on by killer ants, and coming upon the Manson Family’s (Charlie’s signature) etched in a Death Valley area old town court house turned squatting place/hideout. I remember an especially tough tour when our van died in Palm Springs, added new carb, van dies in Austin, added 2nd new carb, van dies in Nashville, we leave it there due to the transmission dying. We went from town town to town uhaul to uhaul box truck continuing the tour (with band members sleeping in the back of the truck on all the gear) til we finally got help in NYC. Another good one is the time someone put regular gas in the diesel rental Sprinter while in the middle Spain during of a European tour. Oopsies!

4,000 euro. Not me btw. But still, its all by far worth it. This band is so incredibly lucky to still be around, bringing the good word of song to the masses, and to have a unique, uncompromising vision all the way along. I’m just happy we’re still doing it and can keep afloat aside all the rough spots. Gotta give it all up to the many ex-band mates we’ve had and the currents ones Riley Bray, Becca Davidson, and Joe Zabielski. So, come say HI at a show folks! Support ALIVE & ORIGINAL music everywhere. Give them some props. They deserve it and you need to get outta the house!

Keep up with SPINDRIFT’s crazy work here.

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