Issue 115 of Bido Lito! is out now. Sign up as a member to get the issue delivered to your door.
On their new EP, SPINN loosen the roots to their established sound but continue to search for the light within the dark.
Conversations surrounding SPINN always go hand-in-hand with tales of their chaotic charisma. Today, it still seems like they’re feeling the effects of being up early and having a camera lens aimed at their faces. It’s only after the question “would you rather never cut your hair again, or your nails?” is put forward that their infectious energy becomes abundantly clear.
It’s afternoon at the Baltic Fleet, and myself and the band are huddled around a small wooden table. Pints in hand, Louis O’Reilly (drums), Luke Royalty (guitar) and Sean McLachlan (bass) dive into the conversation. Questions, quips and counterarguments erupt. The debate becomes palpable across the lightly beer-soaked table. “Is this just gonna be a would you rather? Should we just do that instead [of the interview]?” says Johnny Quinn, the group’s frontman. There’s a fleeting silence before a definite, decisive answer. “Teeth for hair,” they all agree. “You could cut it all off! Be a bit of a painful procedure, mind,” laughs Johnny.
The debate is continuing while the city slowly grinds into life and an underlying sense of excitement emerges. It’s the weekend of the much-awaited test events across Liverpool, and the first real taste of live music in the UK as a whole. The buzz is restless and addictive – feeding into Spinn’s animated tendencies wonderfully, as they constantly pass compliments, insults and general chatter between them. As we watch the early partygoers make their way to the weekend’s events, the conversation turns to the city’s live scene.
It’s clear that the grind of getting established seems a world away from the group now. However, with the closure of so many of the city’s staple music venues, the emotional resonance sticks. “Our first gig was the The Zanzibar, but we also played Phase One and Sound quite a bit. Smaller venues really are a home for upcoming artists and so many of them are gone now, the community will have to find new places again,” Luke reflects.
“I guess that’s just the nature of things though, isn’t it? The music scene will always change,” Johnny chimes in. “When we started, indie was just blowing up, but Liverpool was still full of psychedelia. That’s died off slightly, and so has the indie scene. Everyone’s into post-punk now, dressing in black and talking about England. When something closes, it just ups space for new creations.”
Like the scene they grew up in, Spinn have gone through a number of iterations throughout their career, with a number of previous bandmates having departed from the group over the years. “We played throughout the city when we were coming up, it’s strange to see it changing,” notes Sean. “We played for a few years, and then the old drummer quit to join the police. We soon met Louis, though, while drunk in a bar. That was the proper start of everything. We’ve gone in very different directions, mind.”
While the scene they came up in may be a thing of the past, Spinn’s take on sun-kissed indie remains as prevalent as ever. Epitomised by shimmery synths and lulling, heartfelt vocals, the group’s music draws from the joy of old-school indie, while never flinching from the trends of today. Though, as Louis explains, like the band’s current line-up, it’s a sound that had to be carefully cultivated over the last couple years. “We spent years writing shoegaze music, which, although a nice enough genre, didn’t fit with our style as a band at all,” he explains. “It felt like one day it just all clicked and we started writing pop tunes,” Johnny nods. “When everyone’s homing in on one sound, only one or two bands will get big or ‘make it’ and, even then, it’s just luck. That’s why current trends don’t tend to influence us much. As far as we’re concerned, we just want to write pop music.”
Merging influences both past and contemporary, the group quickly achieved success, releasing their self-titled album back in 2018, to selling out Liverpool’s O2 Academy in 2019. Such successes have seen them emerge as a type of modernised boyband – epitomised by their dedicated fanbase and the band’s constant online voice that blurs the lines between a fan-and-artist relationship. But, as has become all too clear in recent months, the directness of instant communication comes with its fears. “People have tried to cancel us before, so it’s always a fear. We could be called Spinn scum!” laughs Johnny. “We’re so lucky to have a fanbase, but it is overwhelming at times, though, because it can all change overnight. People try to find your personal info, like finding you on Facebook and all,” he pauses. “It is cool though, it’s just about balance.” Louis chimes in: “I’ve had some amazing convos with people online. The other day I posted a picture of Penn and Teller and got a full discussion going. We do look a lot like them though, me and Luke,” he laughs. “We could support the band on tour!”
Fears of cancellation aside, the group’s charm and willingness to adapt have led them to release a collection of kaleidoscopic pop-fuelled offerings across their four-year journey. It’s an impressive discography and yet, true to their ever-changing nature, the group have their eyes on the horizon.
Their upcoming EP, Daydreaming, marks a new era for the group, who are keen to show off changes in their sound to its fullest extent. “We showcase different sides of ourselves on the EP,” explains Louis. “There are tracks that are heavier, some dreamy indie stuff and pure pop.”
“I’d also say we’re a bit more mature now, composition-wise. The music we wrote at the beginning wasn’t bad, but we’ve definitely improved the way we write,” Johnny admits. “On certain tracks, we worked with four different producers to get it right. We wanted to make sure the release was the best it could be.”
The energy of the EP is fuelled by unadulterated optimism, as it bounces between genres and subject matters with blissful ease. The Things She Says To Me deals with affection teetering on sappy, as Quinn recites love-filled lyrics over a chiming acoustic melody. “It really goes back to old-school Spinn, I think. It’s about recommending books to your loved ones, proper wholesome,” says Johnny. “I’ve got such a good feeling about that song,” Louis discloses. “I just love a banger!”
While Daydreaming sees the band branch out, one thing that remains central is the group’s saccharine demeanour. Even on the title track – a song about unrequited love littered with echoing guitar riffs and unstoppable drums – Spinn’s sweetness simmers throughout, mellowing it entirely. This outlook could be taken as part of the band’s natural charm. But as Johnny elaborates on his songwriting process, it becomes clear that the air of positivity is a deliberate, integral choice. “Recently, I’ve been trying to centre my songwriting around positive affirmation. Even on tracks that deal with darker stuff, I still want to create proper upbeat pop tracks,” Johnny explains. “I think it works with our identity as a band. This EP is as heavy as our sound gets and, even then, it’s still pretty boppy.”
Perhaps the track that feels most evolved from the group’s origins is Billie, a melts-in-your-mouth offering that features vocals by Christie Simpson of Yumi Zouma. True to indie-pop, hazy synth leads dominate the track’s backing, while Simpson and Quinn’s vocals add new-found textures for the group’s sound. “It’s interesting to [hear] someone else’s vocals on it,” Johnny ponders. “The structure of the track was there to begin with, but to have a different harmony on it transformed it completely. We’ll definitely move forward with stuff like that. Plus, she’s a proper lovely person, so it was the best of both worlds really.” “Johnny’s the only one who’s actually met her though,” Luke quips. “So many people think she was in the studio with us, like it was Elton John and Kiki Dee on Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”
It’s afternoon now, and faces begin to dominate the city streets. It’s a welcome sight, although the newness of it doesn’t escape anyone. It’s a stark contrast with only a few weeks before and it ignites a level of reflective thought in the band. “Lockdown has really slowed down the output of music,” Luke explains. “Live music has always been the centre of releases for most groups. You release a track in line with doing gigs, the whole thing revolves around live music. Even us, we only released one song last year and we had to cancel shows. It’s as if no-one knows how to fathom it. I worry it’ll be hard for new bands to find spaces to thrive. So much of live music relies on ticket sales, that it will drive new bands out or make it harder to get noticed.” There’s a pause, and then a final breath of optimism. “But now that people are starting to write music again, you don’t know what the next trend could be. People will hopefully appreciate live music a bit more,” he smiles. “That translates to all music – smaller artists hopefully, not just the bigger ones.” Johnny dives in with a reminder: “Yeah, we are lucky we were established beforehand because we have that security. I used to play loads of gigs but never actually go to that many, which will obviously change now. Though we’ve forgotten how to play everything anyhow,” he smiles.
With the future so uncertain, questions of what’s next are always hard to pin down. Spinn, however, remain ever enthusiastic about their trajectory as a band. There’s an air of mischief that sits between each of them, seemingly desperate to give away secrets about what’s in store. “Really, we just wanna have fun, like Cindy Lauper!” Johnny laughs, as the band agrees, wholeheartedly. “We’re just four young lads, we have our whole lives ahead of us. It’s been pretty swell so far though.” It’s an admission that holds the weight of Spinn’s accolades and brings an air of satisfaction that sits between each member comfortably. “All we need now is a Wiki page,” he declares, with a gleam in his eye. “That’s all I ever really wanted.”
Daydreaming is available from 30th June via Modern Sky.