You’re From Where You’re From
Rae Spoon splices twang into electro
by Emmet Matheson
I Can't Keep All Of Our Secrets is Rae Spoon's third album since ditching the alt-country for an increasingly cosmopolitan electro-pop sound, but there's no denying the lasting influence of Spoon's original genre when you hear the opening line of "When I Said There Was An End To Love I Was Lying", the album's fourth track: "I was cold, like the town I grew up in."
It's a quintessentially country music simile; evocative of nature, powerful in its concision.
Spoon is quick to cop to the subversive act of bringing country elements into electronic music.
"Early on, as I was going to switch genres, I knew that I should not lose the stronger parts of myself," says Spoon. "As an artist, when you try something new, you need to have some sort of strength.
"It takes 10 years to get good at a genre, so I think trying to bring songwriting into it was really important to me."
Alberta-raised Spoon started the change from country to electro-pop with 2008's Polaris-nominated superioryouareinferior, which was a collaboration with electro musician Alexandre Decoupigny, whom Spoon met in Berlin while touring Europe.
"I didn't stop playing country music because I had a bad reception in Europe," says Spoon. "It was actually working really well there. But I ended up feeling like I can't really write about Alberta when I'm not in Alberta. So I started looking around Germany and writing songs about that more."
Though Berlin, Montreal (where Spoon now lives), and London (the setting of much of I Can't Keep All Of Our Secrets) dominate the lyrical content of Spoon's current material, the singer's Prairie roots are never from the surface.
"I think it's weird when people move to the big city and forget where they're from," says Spoon. "You're still from where you're from. I've never really tried to hide that or change it. I'm definitely a country singer that went to Germany for a bit."
I Can't Keep All Of Our Secrets is a nine-song cycle examining the complexities of grief, specifically the grief surrounding the sudden death of a close friend. It's also the furthest Spoon has gone into electronic music yet. For the first time, there were no actual drums used in making the album. Instead, Secrets is awash in programming by Decoupigny and Montreal's Lynne T (of Lesbians on Ecstasy).
"I was trying to write electronic music and I started out just trying to write party music and I realized I didn't like it," says Spoon. "I don't like to party, so that's the thing. I needed to write about something I care about - or else there's really no point.
"When people make art around a concept like that, you can't just pull the concept out of a hat," says Spoon. "It has to tie into something in your own life. In the past few years I've known a few people who've suffered a great loss and went through a grieving process. I became fascinated with the complexity of the grieving process. Grief isn't really much like the perception you have of it when you're not in it."
Spoon looks to be very busy in 2012. In addition to touring I Can't Keep All Of Our Secrets, working on a new performance collaboration with Vancouver writer Ivan Coyote, and hatching a plan to do a full-band tour "of all my faster songs" in the fall, Spoon will also launch a collection of short stories, First Spring Grass Fire, this year.
Spoon is pragmatic about this flurry of creative activity: "Part of what keeps me going is the thought that I can either get a job or go on tour."