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September 2 2014

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FischerSpooner’s Next Act

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The first time Warren Fischer and Casey Spooner performed together live, in 1998, their venue was a Starbucks. In the years since, the duo’s career as FischerSpooner has taken them to rather more exalted halls—the Centre Pompidou in Paris, for example, and the stage of the BBC’s Top of the Pops. For a while, FischerSpooner seemed to have a special kind of superstardom in its grasp. The band notched a hit single (“Emerge”), fomented a scene (electroclash), and got Capitol Records to sign off on their diffident, frontally pretentious, synth-driven songs. It was all very unlikely, to say the least. FischerSpooner’s biggest fans were artists and its shows played like avant-garde theater. And yet by the time their 2005 LP Odyssey rolled around, Fischer and Spooner were in the studio with Linda Perry, the woman who wrote the Christina Aguilera tune “Beautiful” (and more ignominiously, introduced the world to James Blunt). And then: silence. “It was almost like we were starting over,” says Casey Spooner of his and Fischer’s approach to their new record Entertainment, which they are releasing on their own label next month. “We’d gone through it all, from nothing to an international record label, and I guess I’d say that the experience gave us a renewed enthusiasm for doing things on our own. Not,” he adds, “that we’re in exactly the same position as when we began. We do have a larger audience now.” This evening, FischerSpooner ends its lengthy hiatus with the first of three shows at the Performing Garage in New York City. Here, Spooner talks to Style.com about partying down, packing up, and Gareth Pugh.

Help me out here. Entertainment is the kind of album I always hated to review, back when I was doing that, because it’s almost impossible to pinpoint the thing that makes it signally different from the band’s other material. The difference is there, it’s just hard to extract. So, you tell me: What makes Entertainment new, for you?

Well, let’s see…We’ve definitely gone back to a more electronic sound, with this record. And this was the first time we’ve worked with one producer from start to finish, which automatically gives the material a different energy. I don’t know, I just think there’s more of a fun spirit. I had more fun, making the thing—our producer was Jeff Saltzman, who’s also worked with bands like the Sounds and the Killers, and maybe because of his rock background, he guided my vocal performances in a new way.

New how?

Frankly, when I track with Warren it can be kind of tedious. It’s kind of like creating architecture—the vocals are one element in the sound. Jeff is more invested in emotion.

Was there a particular emotion you were trying to express?

We were trying to make a party album. We can never quite do that, though—our records always wind up sounding more morose than intended. I guess Warren’s just built for drama that way.

Speaking of drama, you spent some of your time away from FischerSpooner working with the Wooster Group. How did that come about?

I had always wanted to work with them. Before FischerSpooner, when I was living in Chicago, I had my own experimental theater troupe; that’s pretty much what I did through my twenties. And then, all of a sudden, I found myself on a major label, trying to make radio hits. It was strange. I mean, it wasn’t out of nowhere, but long story short, after Odyssey, I felt this need to reconnect with my original artistic community.

Did you take any ideas for FischerSpooner away from that experience?

Sure, undoubtedly. The new show we’re working on is more like an experimental theater piece than a concert—set pieces, costume changes, dancers. It’s like a little choreographed music box. And no live musicians. Let me tell you, it’s been a real bitch, trying to figure out how to pull this off. On a budget, I mean.

People come to your shows with such high expectations—does that intimidate you?

The logistics are intimidating. The creative end of it, no. But it’s like, how do you take a show like ours on tour? I mean, we’re not Madonna—to get all those props and all that machinery into a truck, transfer everything onto a stage, pack it up at the end of the night, drive to a new city and start all over again the next day? Not practical. And do that six nights a week for two months? Uh, no. So it’s kind of like we’ve got an A show—the nights at the Performing Garage, for example—and a B show, which involves more video and fewer people. I suppose it would be a lot simpler if I were a kid in a T-shirt with a guitar, but, you know, boring. Who wants that?

Since you bring up clothes…I heard that Gareth Pugh is making a costume for you. True?

Yeah, that’s true. I’m excited. And we’ve actually got a lot of designers making stuff for us—I just had a meeting with Margiela, Manish Arora is sending us something, and Riccardo Tisci, too. And some other people. The way we’ve set up the show, we can add wardrobe as we go along.

Are there any songs from the new album that you’re particularly excited about performing? You know, one that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up?

Oh…some of these songs, we started working on them in 2006. You get to a point, you just can’t see it anymore. You’re too close; it’s all too familiar. But we played a little show in Bushwick not that long ago, just did a few songs for some people we know who hadn’t heard the music yet, and it was like, wow, this is good. It works. “Money Can’t Dance” seemed to get people excited. That’s kind of a party tune. And right for the times, I suppose.

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