It takes honesty to make records that are able to stand the test of time, Spin Doctors tell Jade Wright
CAN it really be 21 years since the release of the multi-million selling debut album Pocketful of Kryptonite, which reached number two in the UK charts, and launched the Spin Doctors around the globe?
The single Two Princes was also a massive hit and reached number three in the UK charts.
Spin Doctors were formed in New York in the late eighties and featured Chris Barron on vocals, Mark White on bass, Eric Schenkman on guitar and Aaron Comess on drums.
Now the classic line-up returns to Liverpool after working on a new album – If The River Was Whiskey.
Chris, Eric, Mark and Aaron have recorded 10 original blues songs at Aaron’s His House Studio with Aaron’s long-time collaborator Roman Klun – blues tunes that were mostly written before the band was popular and successful so that they could play little blues bars in NYC.
“The songs were lost and forgotten for about 20 years,” says singer Chris.
“There was always something special, from the very first time we played together. Even if we don’t see each other or play together for a while. It’s like riding a bicycle!”
Last year saw the 20th anniversary and re-release of Pocket Full of Kryptonite, and a tour to celebrate.
“When you get the four of us in one room, things just start to happen,” says Eric.
“It instantly feels like the old days. The identity of the group asserts itself.
“That’s a great feeling, and it reminds us that the four of us belong together.”
Spin Doctors honed their performing and songwriting skills in downtown Manhattan music scene that nurtured Blues Traveler, Joan Osborne and Chris Whitley.
“It was such an amazing scene at the time,” Aaron recalls.
“There was so much great music happening downtown in New York. It was a real family environment, amongst the bands and the fans. And Kryptonite and everything that followed came directly from us developing a following by playing live.
“I think we were really able to capture the essence of the band. We’d been playing clubs for three years before we made Kryptonite, and we’d probably played every one of those songs 500 times on stage.
“By the time we made the record, we were able to just go in there and do it.
“But some of the coolest moments on the record were developed right in the studio, like the whole drum/guitar intro to Refrigerator Car.”
Mark adds: “What I loved about being in the Spin Doctors is that we played shows constantly.
“I had been in a lot bands that rehearsed more than they gigged. I hated that.
“But the Spin Doctors was a whole other level, from confidence and attitude to musicianship.
“These cats really knew their instruments and had enough confidence to improvise and take chances.”
Their incendiary live performances won them a large and passionate following that routinely packed local clubs, winning the band a deal with Epic Records.
In January 1991, Epic released the live EP Up for Grabs... Live (recorded at the now-legendary Tribeca club Wetlands), which set the stage for the August release of Pocket Full of Kryptonite.
After a decade apart, the classic line-up regrouped on September 7, 2001 to perform a warmly received show at Wetlands, in honour of the club’s closing. That onstage reunion led the re-energised foursome to return to live performance, and to record a new studio album, Nice Talking to Me, released by Ruff Nation/Universal in 2005.
“Going out and playing feels amazing.” says Aaron.
“Records that stand the test of time are the ones that come from an honest place, and this one certainly does just that. It still feels great playing these songs.”
Chris adds: “It’s been so much fun because we haven’t played some of these songs in a long time. They’re sounding so great and so fresh and strange and new, but at the same time, it feels like we never stopped playing them.
“We’re really enjoying each other’s company, having a lot of laughs, and remembering how lucky we are to be in a band that plays so well together. A lot of great musicians go their whole careers without ever experiencing that, so I’m thankful that I get to do this.”
Eric concludes: “These are the tunes that we started with and the tunes that took us round the world, so to come back and revisit them has been really great.
“It’s a thrill when you’re riding the horse for the first time, when it’s not broken in and you don’t know how it’s going to go. But it’s even more enjoyable getting back on the horse when you know what you’re dealing with, and knowing that you’re in control.”
SPIN Doctors play Eric’s on Mathew Street on January 24.