Last week we chatted with the guys in SPIRIT ANIMAL during their most recent LA visit, where they opened for Phoebe Ryan and Say Lou Lou at the Roxy, and then slayed at the Bootleg opening for Roses; read about them here.
Spirit Animal is Brooklyn-based Cal Stamp (guitar), Paul Michel (bass), Ronen Evron (drums) and Steve Cooper (vox). Coining their band with a name deliberately open to interpretation, Spirit Animal serendipitously came together about 4 years ago, shortly after Steve moved back to the East Coast from LA, and have been cranking out funk-blues-infused rock & roll bangers with pop sensibilities ever since. Their loud, unique, nostalgic yet refreshing sound combined with intellectual lyrics, palpably energetic live shows, a lack of electronic production, and an Anthony Kiedis-circa-1991 spirit induces intrigue that few current bands have the capability of doing. Their sound is varied yet cohesive, and they seem to have carved out their own musical niche, denying critics’ attempts to pigeonhole them into a specific musical genre or scene.
The band recently signed with Wind-Up Records, joining artists from The Civil Twilight to LYKA alum The Griswolds, on a stacked rad roster. The label has been undergoing a revamp and rebranding, of which Spirit Animal has been an integral part. After a tip-off from the band Little Daylight and their sound engineer, Spirit Animal caught the attention of Wind-Up’s top reps while playing School Night NYC, and signed with the label soon after. Wind-Up has a history of working with big bands in the radio and live performance space, and saw Spirit Animal as a perfect fit and project that they would know how to work with. Additionally, the label has experience in reaching broader audiences and working beyond the bounds of the Internet which was a quality Spirit Animal was looking for, and the label has proven that their broader outreach strategy is integral to their plan for the band.
Spirit Animal is focused on (and successful in) entertaining audiences and keeping them on their toes. They strive to make every element of the Spirit Animal project - from filming a movie trailer for their upcoming EP, to each high concept video they release - varied in content but consistent in quality. This is also true for the Spirit Animal live shows, which you can always count on to be highly entertaining, full of arena-appropriate raw energy, and boasts dance moves for those who can’t dance (ref. their song ‘Black Jack White’ for context).
The band’s highly anticipated upcoming EP release titled World War IV (#WWIV), is due out on October 30th via Wind-Up, of which we can expect more of the high energy, fun and lyrically clever content they’re known for, along with more broad infectious pop influences and hooks. Their latest single titled ‘Regular World’ is a taste into what we can look forward to, featuring smooth, witty dialogue about finding satisfaction in normality, and punchy anthemic melodies that won’t leave your head.
Paul: "We focused on making the album as high energy as possible. We wanted to make the music sound like it does in the live act, which is high energy, really fun, all around bombastic over the top, genre switching insanity."
Spirit Animal is currently on a hot streak playing a slew of East Coast shows along with a few CMJ appearances. Check them out if you’re in the area, and stay tuned to LYKA for future show announcements where we can all poorly attempt to dance together. #WWIV. October 30. Boom.
Was there a defining moment when you knew you wanted to play music together?
Cal: Right now, actually talking to you guys. Haha.
Paul: Steve and I always knew we wanted to do music, and we’ve known each other for a while now, so we were all kind of attacking it separately, and when Steve moved back to the East Coast it just made sense that we’d continue. He’s such a good friend and we all have such a good connection that it just made sense to play together. It was super organic, super serendipitous or whatever you wanna call it, it was just a good opportunity for us to be friends in this together.
How has your sound evolved as a band?
Paul: Our sound has evolved a lot as we played and gelled together more. It’s a collaborative experience and writing process, so the more we got used to each other and go to know each other obviously the easier it got, and we were able to define our sound more.
Steve: The interesting thing is that toward the end of this process I would end up fighting for things to stay in that would’ve been the things that Cal would have been fighting to keep in two years prior - and he was arguing for things more like how I would’ve wanted it two years ago.
Cal: It’s not so much we’ve switched roles as much as tried to adopt the strengths of the others in the band.
What are you writing about when you write music?
Steve: So you think of classic songs like Raspberry Beret or Across the Universe - these are songs where the message is very basic, but they have that one thing that’s said in that one way. It’s not about something weird or some crazy relationship or being like ‘I was on acid...’ it’s not at that detail level. The message is bigger and you find the smaller details that the most people can relate to. Then ultimately, you hope that the music informs the message. You kind of work backwards sometimes. But there are some fun lyrics on the new record, you’ll hear them.
Cal: There’s a quote I read in the back of a book once - the book’s called Montana 1948, no one would have ever heard of that - but it’s ‘Be universal in your themes and original in your peculiarities,” and I feel like that’s pretty indicative of how we write music.
What has been your proudest moment as a band so far?
Steve: Sweet Life Festival was amazing, Lana Del Rey was there, Bastille was there, Foster the People, Hozier…The record deal was pretty sweet. And really lately, who we’ve been working with has been amazing. We mixed with this guy Mark Needham whose track record is bananas, he does all The Killers’ work - he’s just like the guy. So it’s been more like seeing other people gravitate around what we’re doing, for me, that makes me the most pumped.
Cal: Yea those little, tiny moments are the best. Not like oh, we’ve got this big show coming up, but more like when our publisher listens to our record for the first time or hears a little moment in a song and points out that he likes it - to me that’s it - somebody noticing something that I thought was valuable.
Your shows are super high energy, loud and raw - what process goes into recreating your songs for the live show?
Ronen: I see it as the opposite. What we bring is stuff from the live show into the studio. Our approach is to keep it as-is. Being in studio is more like surgery - you can get deep in there with little tools, but the energy is still raw, we take no prisoners. The cool thing is that we perform as who we are as people, we’re not thinking about it - how we perform is a part of who we are.
Guilty pleasure music?
Paul: I crank the new CHVRCHES... I guess that’s not guilty at all though. [everyone agrees]
Cal: The new Weeknd for me…. and Jason Derulo.
One of the best live shows I’ve ever seen - dancers, fireworks...haha.
Cal: Yea we saw him at a festival a few weeks ago, terrible festival but he almost redeemed the whole thing. Ha!
Paul: Honestly though we don’t really do ‘guilty pleasure’ music, if it’s good and we like it, it’s good.
Cal: If WE like it it must be good, haha.
What do you like to do outside of music?
Cal: We do a lot of hiking on tour.
Steve: Tons of outdoor stuff. Huge fans of football…
Cal: Undefeated in my fantasy league, WHAT!
Ronen: We like food… we like to cook.
Oh right, Steve, we hear you like to cook.
Steve: Yea there’s a lot of cooking that goes on.
Paul: He plays the asian-fusion card a lot. There’s some fish sauce up in there.
Favorite brunch spots in LA?
Steve: Square One for french toast, Du-Par’s for pancakes - just the sweets.
Paul: Does Taco Zone count as brunch?
Bloody Marys or mimosas?
Paul: 2 and 2 - great! You broke up the band.
Cal: Bloody Maria’s are what I’m in to. That’s with tequila.
Tequila in the morning, has a nice ring to it.