Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Residing on the periphery with Spector

24 November 2023, 10:00

Ahead of releasing fourth album Here Come the Early Nights, Spector’s Fred Macpherson and Jed Cullen tell Alex Dewing about the indie outfit’s winding journey and why their latest release is testament to their longevity.

Fred Macpherson, vocalist at the helm of Spector, sits with guitarist Jed Cullen pondering breakfast choices as he reflects on a review that once described the cult London quartet as “indie survivors”.

“It wasn't like ‘thank God they're still here,’ it was, ‘they're still here’... in a way that didn’t necessarily sound like we should have survived,” Macpherson shares with a laugh.

It’s been more than 12 years since Spector first released their debut album, Enjoy it While it Lasts, and the two certainly seem to be taking their own advice. Despite openly speaking about their less-than-linear career, Macpherson is quick to brush off the label “survivors.” Still, it’s a marker which encapsulates not just Spector’s longevity but their narrative which has felt the highs and lows of the changing musical landscape. With Here Come the Early Nights, and how the pair talk about the album, there’s a deep sense of appreciation that their journey has lasted this long, with no signs of bringing it to an end any time soon.

Spector are a band that’s familiar with adaptation. To them, their resilience is a strength – though some may call it stubbornness. It’s something that, perhaps, has kept them on the periphery of any specific music community. “I definitely say we’re part of a broadly larger indie scene in the UK,” suggests Macpherson, "even though we're from London, I don't think we've ever fully been part of that scene.” It’s hard to imagine the suit-and-tied singer upfront on a bill with some of London’s smaller, up and coming local artists – though it’s something neither would turn down – but Spector seem to prefer it that way. There’s a reason they’ve kept going this long. Content in not having to worry much about their wider place in things, they instead turn their focus on writing and recording, taking inspiration from the scene surrounding them, even if it's just a little out of their reach.


"Being from London, and having both grown up here, I think the city itself always plays a big part in music. I've started to find myself inspired by younger newer bands who play in London, and I find myself going to watch things again,” Macpherson remarks. “But no longer necessarily as a contemporary, because if you’re watching a 22-year-old on stage, suddenly you feel a bit like someone's grandma in the audience.” It’s this classic Spector self-awareness, tinged with humour, which captures their unique place amongst it all – neither fully embraced by the mainstream nor confined to the margins. It's a delicate walk, but one that they balance deftly – weighted on one side by relevance, authenticity on the other.

“Broadly, we’re too uncool for the cool bands, but definitely a little bit cooler than the uncoolest bands,” Macpherson smiles. “Cool people don’t want to be our friends, and we don’t want to be friends with the people who want to be our friends."

The group’s latest album,Here Come the Early Nights, emerged from the other side of a particular low, not only for the music industry but society in general – the pandemic. That isn’t to say they’ve started addressing politics or pent-up anger for a time lost, no more than usual anyway, instead they carry an excitement exacerbated by the lockdowns, a sincere joy for subjects that even early-Spector may have found too mundane: from family (“finally”) to titular early nights. “We can actually write about living life and being alive,” begins Cullen, musing on the difference between their new album and pandemic-released Now or Whenever. “The last album we wrote in COVID, and I think it was really hard to find inspiration. I like this one because there's been life happening. Fred’s talking about being a father and things like that."


While Now or Whenever came from a sense of stillness, Here Come the Early Nights represents a departure from that stasis for the band, capturing a re-emergence into a world that had been momentarily put on hold. "Everyone came out of COVID older. You know, did the scene change or did we change? Did they get younger? Did we get older? I think this is our first post-COVID album and also, I think, the first album of the second generation of Spector, in a way."

While fans shouldn’t expect anything too drastic, this “second generation” of Spector can clearly be felt in their latest release and through the ways Macpherson and Cullen refer to it. It’s still Spector through and through, but there is an intentional yet organic evolution in their creative process – pushed by big changes in their daily lives. After all, the band couldn’t stay 20-something dreamers forever. Macpherson recognises that they’ve captured something different on this record, aptly describing it as a “snapshot” of where they are in life.

In melancholic ballad “Never Have Before,” Macpherson sings that “life is what you leave along the way.” It’s a line that epitomises both the new release and the new chapter of Spector in how, despite the often terrifying realities of getting older, one can’t help but impact the people and world around us, so may as well try make it for the better. “That line is a perfect example,” he explains, “Spector’s a bit like a weird teenage diary that you find in your bedroom every few years and add a few more pages to. It's mad to me that we're now making songs that exist in the same universe as songs that were written when we weren't much older than kids.” Now they’re singing about having kids themselves.

Previously, Macpherson has stated how he hates the word ‘mature,’ even if they have mellowed enough to leave the acoustic guitars in, but it’s a dislike that is understandable when it comes to Here Come the Early Nights and to Spector’s current state. It’s a lazy word to use. Though the London outfit have grown-up since they began their career, introducing more mature subjects into their lyricism, Spector’s evolution still feels securely tied to their roots with plenty of pontification, self-awareness, a frequent component in their music.

“99 percent of what we do, we think it's a good idea to do,” says Macpherson as conversation turns to the freedom of working under their own label, after going from Fiction Records to DIY-ing it before creating Moth Noise. "I think we've been really lucky in the timing of when we've been a band," he continues. In the early days, bagging a record deal was synonymous with distribution and dedicated support. Nowadays, crafting and sharing music is as simple as a few clicks for anyone with a computer or phone – a cause the duo passionately champions.

Cullen proudly talks about their own reliance on laptops for music making, adding "I think making an artist of everyone is a good thing. Why should certain people have access to these means that others don't?" The democratisation of the process empowering artists to independently shape their albums is a sentiment Macpherson reinforces, "the decision-making about what can go on an album, what an album needs to sound like, how long you spend on it, how much money you spend on it, how much you promote it, how much touring you do, is all basically in our hands." Continuing, he notes “there's that phrase that the artist Babak Ganjei uses: art is the thing nobody asked you to do. And when you're not signed to a record label, there's really no one asking you to do it.”


Highlighting collaborators Catharine Marks (mixer) and Dimitri Tikovo (producer), the pair appreciate not just the creative freedom of their semi-DIY approach but also the calibre of artists operating beyond the confines of traditional record labels. Despite the challenges in creating Here Come the Early Nights, including a 13-day recording turnaround with Tikovo, limitations unexpectedly played to their advantage. With so many years and so many experiences now under their belt, it’s comforting to know that Spector are still figuring things out. Reflecting on working with Tikovo, Cullen even notes a psychological shift, stating, "now I just look back and I think, wow, we could have done that album in two weeks, but we spent four months or something on recording, mixing, all this kind of stuff."

Lyrically, Here Come the Early Nights is no different to earlier albums in the way the group navigate this delicate balance; an intentional choice to temper self-deprecation without sacrificing their tongue-in-cheek approach to life’s problems. Seemingly, it’s the very reason why people have stuck with them over the years. "If there's anything I've learned about myself through this process, it’s that that’s who I am. I'm an emotional person who struggles to harness and control that emotion. I find the easiest way of dealing with it is to box it up in a world of jokes, and I think that's something we're all guilty of." As he sings about “second guess[ing] something successfully,” or musing how “everyone’s a DJ till somebody gets hurt,” the overthinkers and jokers don’t see something sarcastic or ironic, they know it’s true to them, just as it is to Spector.


There's a sense of being part of something unfolding in real-time when listening to the band’s latest release. The second generation of Spector beckons, and the anticipation is not just about what they've done but what they're yet to do. When asked what’s next? Macpherson answers simply: “To keep going with the journey of whatever ‘indie’ means in the 2020s and 2030s, whatever London means, and whatever our lives mean to us and our lives mean to the fans.”

While Spector might not have any aims to carve out a distinct place in London’s music scene, they seem earnestly excited to make and share more music, even if they can’t picture where it takes them. “We’re not very good at leaving things incomplete,” Macpherson admits, and whether you want to call that commitment or stubbornness, it’s precisely what keeps Spector interesting. Throughout the conversation, Macpherson continually mentions their music being their truth, caveated in that he doesn’t want to “sound too much like a yoga teacher”. In the end though it is this truth, even wrapped in quips and insecurity, that has laid the groundwork for their longevity, spurring fans on to collectively agree: thank God they're still here.

Here Come the Early Nights is out now via Moth Noise.

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