Charles Spearin is the tallest member of Broken Social Scene, a Canadian indie-rock band. He’s also one of its founders, playing primarily bass but dabbling in other instruments on each of the band’s four full length albums. His own band, Do Make Say Think, a post-rock band whose long, intricate compositions recall Godspeed You Black Emperor, has also been rapidly gaining fans by touring with Broken Social Scene. On a rainy night before a concert in Providence, Spearin sat down for an interview with The Harvard Crimson, but one which he stipulated could not be explicitly about music—but turned into one anyway.
THC: Is there anywhere recently that you’ve been outside the United States?
CS: Yeah. I haven’t done any personal traveling for a while. I mean my wife and I flew out early to Ireland. We were doing a tour of the UK and we had a few days in London and then we went to Galway, which is on the coast of Ireland, which is really nice. The weather wasn’t quite good for it especially because we had two little kids—a two and a half year old and a ten month old. And you know the Aran Islands aren’t really great for a little kid.
THC: They’re always harsh. It’s like a rock in the middle of the ocean.
CS: Yeah. I would love to go but it’d be rough on the whole family. In a couple years maybe. Get them to appreciate nothingness.
THC: That’d be a good value to instill in children. (Pause) Is that something that you look for when you travel? Something like that desolate nothingness.
CS: Yeah because there’s not too much of it. I mean we’re traveling cities all the time. It’s hard to see nothingness in life. I mean I spent some time in the fall and I used to live in cape Breton in a tiny little part of Canada, northern Nova Scotia. Lived there for a couple of winters and there’s a whole lot of nothingness there. (Pause)
Landscape over structure. Rather than a building, we’re talking about the landscape. So there’s no vocals, there’s no solos-
THC: The sonicscape –
CS: Yeah. There’s a record store in Toronto called Soundscapes. And that’s what we’re talking about.
THC: So that’s what you’re trying to create?
CS: So the nothingness has nothing to do with somethingness, though. Like somethingness is like, you can say that a big complicated structure has more somethingness than an empty field – that’s not true. You know there’s as much nothingness involved in a complicated structure as there is in a big empty field. So the nothingness that we’re approaching here is kind of like—it’s as present in pop music as it is in anything else except in this case it’s kind of pointing towards it. It’s saying this space here listen—it gives a little bit of intelligence to the listener as far as attending. Where you can actually let your mind listen from one thing to the next thing to the next thing without saying hey, hey look at me look at me, look at me.
It lets your mind listen to the right cymbal for a while and then ok the bass is doing that and then you can jump back and forth. It’s kind of like letting the listener’s own discrimination become part of the music.
THC: As a maker of that music do you also at the same time like being a listener of it? Is the feeling that you go after in your art something that the listener gets or it something that the maker gets, if there’s a distinction?
CS: Yeah. I don’t think there’s much of a distinction. For one thing it’s a group [Do Make Say Think] it’s not a single person. But even if it’s a single person, there’s a sense of playfulness in the art itself – like if you’re a painter and you paint something and you can step back and look at it and go oh I see that now. And then you’re never on your own no matter what, even if you’re painting by yourself. There’s kind of a little dance that goes back and forth. Like when you’re listening to something in a studio. You listen to things over and over again and you start to hear the little harmonics and things like that and that’s not something you created, that’s something you discovered. So it’s like oh then we can go with that and that and that and the next thing you know you’ve got way too much shit all recorded. So you start scraping it away.
THC: Is that scary? I mean someone listening to your music might say is that it? That can’t be art.
CS: I don’t feel that myself. That’s laziness, to not find beauty in simple things. Everyone’s got the potential, everyone’s got a mind.
THC: So show me the beauty here. I’ve been walking through Providence and I’m depressed-
CS: Come on!
THC: It’s been raining-
CS: Rain! (pause) Rain! Like (tussles THC’s hair). That feels good!
THC: Thank you.
-Staff writer P. Kirkpatrick Reardon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.