It was only almost exactly a year ago that Spencer told his parents he was dropping out of college to give music a try. “It was very like, I mean, they were definitely thrown off by it. I intentionally botched my lessons because I was worried my parents would send me back regardless. They gave me like a year’s time, and said if it doesn’t work out within this year then you’ve got to go back. In that final year I really didn’t do a lot of work; I was focusing on making music and what my next steps were in terms of the career I wanted to have. In class I’d always just be writing down what I wanted my stage setup to be for shows, my goals for that year and whatever. It was always kind of what it was about.”
His first single ‘Automatic’, from a new EP scheduled for early next year, has only been out for a couple of weeks at the time of writing, but it’s already clocked up a few hundred thousand streams. You can’t see the invisible hand beckoning him back to economics class soon. It’s built around a propulsive drum loop that makes Spencer’s melancholic lyrics on unrequited love sound straight out of Steve Lacy’s Apollo.
“I think it’s only the second song I’ve ever collaborated with someone on,” he says, talking again about how the opportunity stemmed from an Instagram DM. “The internet is just a tool, man. A couple of weeks after I met Gus, these guys Beshken and José Benjamin Escobar asked if I was interested in coming to New York City. I got lost in the day and we had to reschedule. It got to about 9pm and yeah, I just walked in and they already had shit going on. I really fuck with those guys. They had this drum loop that they were playing and we just started messing around with it. From that day I had the sample of ‘Automatic’, and then in July I went to LA and re-recorded it.
“Playing live has always been my favourite part of it, though. I’d always see my idles playing these really big rooms and becoming friends with each other and collaborating. I just want to be in the same space as people, that was my idea of success,” he says, telling me what would have stopped him returning to school. Cosigns from Brockhampton and Omar Apollo followed his breakout song ‘Want U Back’, self-written, recorded and produced, transformed live by the four-piece band that shatters any image of the solitary bedroom Soundcloud artist as just one person and their Macbook. Spencer’s recruited a whole hostel full of bedrooms.
For a second he speaks very resolutely, still not breaking the laid-back voice at the end of the phone. “In my strategy to make a music career I was looking at Steve Lacy and Omar and seeing how they were interacting with fans online. It’s some sort of formula, I don’t know. When I was younger I was listening to a lot of older records, like Erykah Badu and Maxwell, and my dad put me onto a lot of RnB and gospel at a really young age. It was mostly about talent then, I guess. Now it’s kinda different. A lot of my taste is from the internet, and the people I look up to now are just as old as me.”
The great instant gratification salvo of internet culture can be a burden to a young musician, but Spencer is enjoying it. “In a way I think you can control how much you want to give away to other people. I can see it being intrusive if you’re Billie Eilish, you know, and people are seeking out details. But I feel like for the most part I have control over what they’re putting out. It’s fun, man.”
We end the conversation, coming back again to Van TV one last time. This is what he’s choosing to give us just now: a rolling credits scene where each band member has the word “van” in their name (Dick Van Dyke), and a “thanks” to Michael Cera for the music.
Support Loud And Quiet from £3 per month and we'll post you our next 9 magazines
As all of us are constantly reminded, it’s getting harder for independent publishers to stay in business, which applies to Loud And Quiet more now than ever, 14 years after we first started printing a magazine that we’ve always given away for free.
Having thought about the best way to support our running costs (the printing and distribution fees, the podcast and production costs etc.) we’d like to ask our readers who really enjoy what we do to subscribe to our next 9 issues over the next 12 months. The cheapest we can afford to do this for works out at £3 per month for UK subscribers, charged yearly.
If that seems like a bit of a punt, you can pay-as-you-go for £4 per month and cancel any time you like. European and world plans are available too, at the lowest rate we can afford.
It’s not just a donation – you’ll receive a physical copy of our magazine through your door and some extra perks detailed on our subscribe page. Digital subscriptions are available worldwide for £15 per year. We hope you consider this a good deal and the best way to keep Loud And Quiet in your life without its content, independence or existence suffering.