On February 19, Rae Spoon released their eighth full-length album, Armour. Their previous LP, 2013’s Polaris Prize-nominated My Prairie Home, soundtracked Chelsea McMullan’s documentary of the same name that detailed Spoon’s experience growing up queer in a Pentecostal Albertan town. Armour, however, looks optimistically towards the future.
Between the two albums, Spoon got married, a life event that helped them re-embrace the idea of family. “You can hear that on the album, that family can be a good thing.”
Over the years, Spoon also learned to overcome despair by immersing themselves in their work. “I sorted something out by the time the film came out where I spent most of my life putting all my effort into music and into my career.” Still, they admit: “It’s easy to say you’re choosing hope, but it’s harder to live it every day.”
On Armour, Spoon also explores the idea of creating meaning for oneself, ultimately, concluding that “the attempt to construct meaning is itself the point of life.” Besides music, Spoon draws meaning from building community, be it amongst other musicians or the LGBTQ community. “That’s been a really cool thing to be a part of for so many years and watch it grow and have changes going on in there,” Spoon says of the LGBTQ community in particular.
Another revelation Spoon comes to on Armour is that there’s no instruction manual for healthy adulthood. They do believe it’s possible to achieve healthy adulthood, though, depending on how one defines it. “I grew up in a rather extreme situation, so at least I have that as a bit of a measuring point. It’s not like you’re going to feel good every day…. I think emotionally, it’s possible, although there’s always going to be change and chaos.“ Again, they point to the importance of their creativity: “I metabolize things through my art.”
This time around, with the new album, Spoon has focused on production, and the results are clear, literally. Armour is their slickest, most upbeat sounding album yet. But the songs didn’t start that way. “At first, I wrote a lot of more raw, slower, quieter songs like I did on My Prairie Home,” Spoon recalls. “But before that, I had been making more electronic music, so I wanted to go back to that, especially for live shows. I really like upbeat live shows. And I really like working with my friend who helped with programming and all the beats, so it just kind of happened organically.” Having just put out a really raw album, though, Spoon wanted to combine personal songs with danceability, “mostly just for my own enjoyment onstage,” they confess with a laugh.
Spoon has self-produced for years, but their handiness has reached a new level of sophistication on Armour. And though they’ve yet to produce a full record for another artist, doing so remains a goal, especially now that Spoon has established their own imprint, Coax Records. “I’m kind of working towards producing for other people, especially just bringing in the logistical end of it. It’s hard sometimes to know how could you pay for it, how do grants work, where should you record…. It’s pretty rewarding to help people make records that they might not otherwise make.”Vancouver can count itself lucky. It’s the only city where Spoon has booked two shows (the other being Toronto). In fact, those shows take place at the same venue, on the same night. On March 13, Skinny Fat Jack’s, the intimate backroom of Main Street eatery Slickity Jim‘s Chat ‘N’ Chew, will host an early set from 5-7 p.m. and a late one from 9-11 p.m. “I don’t know why I did that,” Spoon says of the booking decision. “I think I just thought it’d be really fun to play more intimate shows even though the album’s really poppy…. I like a show where you can have a pop song playing, but in between, it’s more like a folk singer, like you’re actually talking to the crowd and see people’s faces…. I really wanted to reconnect with my audience, and [playing intimate shows] was one way to do it.” Spoon predicts they will play a stripped down set, likely solo, to match the space’s atmosphere. But, they say, in no certain terms: “I’m sure I’ll come back and play at the Wise Hall or something again at some point.”
Spoon has also booked the early and late sets in consideration of their fans, to please both the usual half that really wants a late “show” show and the other half that wants a quieter evening. “Maybe if there’s two parents with a child, one goes to the early one, one goes to the late. I’ve seen people pass the child over the door,” Spoon says, laughing. “And I also think people just like when a show starts on time, so that’s the only way I can guarantee it,… You have to get out ’cause there’s going to be another one.”
Both sets are $15, although no one will be turned away for lack of funds. Enter through the back alley, or Main Street for wheelchair access.