Spies: “Nowadays modern music is very disposable”
Who would have thought that one of the best pop-punk albums of 2023 would emerge from a crossover between an Austrian singer and a British producer? Despite bringing universal influences such as Paramore, Avril Lavigne and even Chvrches, Spies makes a very authentic and organic sound that will certainly place the band among the greats of the genre in a short time. At least if you depend on the repercussion of the first album, suggestively called “Playing with matches”, which brings 10 powerful songs that address youthful angst and the eternal battle of relationships, whatever their nature.
We had the same understanding of how a song should be structured and our personalities complimented each other.
Dan and Maggie on the “international” connection between them that actually built Spies
Having released 2 hit singles in 2022 (“Crawling” and “Speed of Light”) and one more this year (“Hurricane”), Spies is the new configuration of Raven Red, basically a pop band that limited Dan and Maggie’s rock yearnings. “We found the songwriting process very restrictive and this was not who we are. We are both big fans of rock music”, says Dan. But even if they gave a big chance to their punk-rock soul on the new album, the two tried to shape at least the length of the songs to reach the young audience used to TikTok dances. That’s why most of the tracks lasts for 3 minutes. “Nowadays modern music is very “disposable”, explain the musicians.
The same cannot be said for Spies’ irreplaceable debut album, as you will see along this article.
2 6 Things about Spies
RC – Hi Spies. How are things there?
S – Hello! Its very hot here in Vienna right now. But doing good!
RC – The first thing that stands out in your story is precisely this meeting between an Austrian woman and a British guy. Spies’ musical language is unique and powerful, so how was that encounter and when did you realize you had the chemistry to start a band?
S – We were introduced by a mutual friend who knew that we were both looking for a new project and writing partners. Our first meeting actually was our first ever writing session which turned out to be very productive. We had the same understanding of how a song should be structured and our personalities complimented each other. We released this song “Alive again” under our first band name “Raven Red”.
RC – “Playing with matches” is a very modern and well produced album. Dan, does it really matter that you’re already a renowned producer when it comes to creating your own album? How is that?
S – First of all. Thank you very much. Always appreciate people who like my work. I’ve always been a songwriter first and a producer second. I love working on other peoples music and trying to get the best out of their songs, but for me it’s important to have my own creative outlet and my own project. I don’t think that is so uncommon anymore that the line between artist and producer is blurred. John Feldmann is a very successful producer but always fronts the band Goldfinger. Jack Antonoff is also a super successful producer and has his band The Bleachers.
RC- Nowadays people don’t usually consume more than 3 minutes of music and, although the album tries to follow this “rule” strictly, do you have any fears that people won’t have the patience to listen to tracks 1 to 10?
S – Nowadays modern music is very “disposable”. Most people are consuming music via tiktok is 30 second chunks. We were for sure conscious about the length of the songs and tried to keep everything under the golden “3mins” or “3.20mins” for radio play… especially the songs we had earmarked for singles. When it comes to the amount of songs on the record, we didn’t really care. We just had a goal to write an album and these were the best 10 we wrote and were proud to share with the world.
RC – As for Spies’ style, it’s curious how difficult it seems to be to label. Because at the same time that we have a strong electronic side, we have rock and the so-called pop-punk. Was that deliberate between you at the time of composing each song, I mean, a crossover between styles that are a bit far from each other?
S – So with our original project “Raven Red” we did purposely try to lean towards the more pop side of things. But we found the songwriting process very restrictive and this was not who we are. We are both big fans of rock music. Dan grew up with Blink 182 and Green day and Maggie grew up as a big Avril Lavigne fan. In Between we had been listening to a lot of The Naked and Famous and Chvrches, who we are big fans of so that’s probably the electronic influenced elements came from. We decided to write an album that we would want to listen to.
RC – Finally, there have already been invitations to festivals, who knows, around the world? How about playing in Brazil someday?
S – Right now we’re pretty new to the scene and are trying to play live as much as possible. We’ve actually been getting a lot of attention from Brazil and would to come out and play there someday!
Track By Track: “Playing with matches” by Spies
Falling in a dream: The album opener sets the tone for what we are going to hear: crazy guitars and a lot of pop-punk influences from Paramore and Avril Lavigne with the traditional “singalongs”.
Waste my time: Dan’s dirty guitar here is very reminiscent of some of The White Stripes and Arctic Monkeys classics, but having a female vocalist totally changes our perspective for what comes next.
Wake me up: A delicious, energizing intro that is pure Paramore. I really love these kind of “fast” chords. Probably the most commercial song on the album.
Playing with matches: Here we have Maggie’s vocal power in the foreground. Hard not to get emotional with this chorus. I understand why they made this track the title of the album, because it’s one of the best not only on the album, but on a lot of things I’ve heard this year.
Hurricane: A license to Dan’s synth-pop and love for the Chvrches. Which still goes very well with the pop-punk concept that permeates the album.
Fly away with me: What sets Spies apart is that their songs work well with or without vocals. Merit of the composers. It’s perfectly whistling the tune of “Fly away with me” when you hear it for the first time.
Square one: Nowadays it is quite common for pop-punk bands to also intersect with the dancefloor. “Square one” is one such track.
Speed of light: A melody that is underscored by truncated guitar and a catchy chorus. A formula used a lot by Paramore, which gains another contour in the hands of Spies.
4 am: Another creative and desperate rock to be passionately sung in the places Spies will perform for years to come.
Paper thin: In the track that ends this great album, Maggie inevitably sounds like her idol Avril Lavigne, leaving a message of hope. Wonderful bass line, by the way.
See you guys around the world!