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Time Martsches on

Built to Spill tours again

Built to Spill know the secret to rock success: a 2:2 ratio - of facial hair.
  • Built to Spill know the secret to rock success: a 2:2 ratio of facial hair.

Doug Martsch was stargazing. "Um, well, there's Kindgergarten. White Zombie. Ronnie Dawson. The Hipsterz -- with a 'z. '"

Martsch was ticking off names affixed to some of the stars on the walls of First Avenue, the Minneapolis club owned by Prince and immortalized in the movie Purple Rain. It was there that Martsch's band, Built to Spill, an indie rockstaple that has left a ubiquitous stamp on the low end of the FM dial, recently performed the first show of its long-awaited tour.

They were to play the venue again the following night, so Martsch had only a few minutes to chat. The band needed practice, he said.

"We don't want a star. I don't want to be up there with all those shitty bands," Martsch said. "But I'm sure I'd love all those bands if we were up there with them."

Martsch wasn't being an asshole or working the faux-modesty angle; it's clear he truly has no interest in his name becoming affixed to any star, anywhere. He's almost startlingly indifferent to the indelible mark his work has made. After all, his songs can be heard on nearly every mixed tape ever produced by college radiophiles during the '90s.

Martsch rarely reads what's written about him ("The older you get ... it becomes a lot less interesting what other people think about you"); he doesn't pay attention to current music trends; and he prefers spending his time with his wife and kid, or watching basketball on TV at home in Boise, Idaho.

"I just don't think that any music is that important," Martsch said, then rephrased: "It's important in a personal way ... but some people get so excited that Modest Mouse is on the radio because maybe that's going to make entertainment in America better or something.

"First of all, that's not going to happen. Second of all, big deal if our entertainment becomes better. Big deal if the radio starts playing good bands. That doesn't mean shit. There's a lot more serious things in this world than the quality of our entertainment."

That may be, but ask any Built to Spill fan who's been waiting nearly three years for a new tour, and you might get a different answer. Although Martsch released a well-received solo album in 2003, Built to Spill, whose exhilarating live sets are revered on the indie circuit, hasn't produced a studio record since 2001's Ancient Melodies of the Future.

No longer. The band is currently halfway through mixing its as-yet-unnamed album, slated for a September release. From the clues Martsch has dropped in the press, the latest effort is likely to contain his signature guitar-grounded melodies, pleasantly dissonant key changes and idiosyncratic, disjointed lyrics delivered in his engagingly nasal voice. But he's also hinted at tinkering with open tunings, slides and rocking bouts of out-and-out jamming.

All he would reveal about the upcoming album during the interview, however, was that he harbors "a lot of pretty complex feelings" about it.

"For the most part, I'm satisfied," he expounded, slightly. "It's kind of been a long process, so there's been a lot of ups and downs. But right now, I'm in a pretty positive place about it."

-- Bethany Kohoutek


Built to Spill

Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder

Friday, May 27, and Saturday, May 28

Tickets: $17.50; call 303/443-3399 or visit for more.

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