Since its inception in 1992, Built to Spill founder Doug Martsch intended his beloved band to be a collaborative project, an ever-evolving group of incredible musicians making music and playing live together. “I wanted to switch the lineup for many reasons. Each time we finish a record I want the next one to sound totally different. It’s fun to play with people who bring in new styles and ideas,” says Martsch. “And it’s nice to be in a band with people who aren’t sick of me yet.”
Following several albums and EPs on Pacific Northwest independent labels, including the unmistakably canonical indie rock classic, There’s Nothing Wrong With Love, released on Sub Pop offshoot Up Records in 1994, Martsch signed with Warner Brothers from 1995 to 2016. He and his rotating cast of cohorts recorded six more, inarguably great albums during that time – Perfect From Now On, Keep It Like a Secret, Ancient Melodies of the Future, You In Reverse, Untethered Moon, There Is No Enemy. There was also a live album, and a solo record, Now You Know. While the band’s impeccable recorded catalog is the entry point, Built to Spill live is an essential FORCE of its own: heavy, psychedelic, melodic and visceral tunes blaring from amps that sound as if they’re powered by Mack trucks.
Now in 2022, Built to Spill returns with When the Wind Forgets Your Name, Martsch’s unbelievably great new album (and also his eighth full-length)... with a fresh new label. “I’m psyched: I’ve wanted to be on Sub Pop since I was a teenager. And I think I’m the first fifty year-old they’ve ever signed.” (The rumors are true, we love quinquagenarians…)
When the Wind Forgets Your Name continues expanding the Built to Spill universe in new and exciting ways. In 2018 Martsch’s good fortune and keen intuition brought him together with Brazilian lo-fi punk artist and producer Le Almeida, and his long-time collaborator, João Casaes, both of the psychedelic jazz rock band, Oruã. On discovering their music Martsch fell in love with it right away. So when he needed a new backing band for shows in Brazil, he asked them to join. “We rehearsed at their studio in downtown Rio de Janeiro and I loved everything about it. They had old crappy gear. The walls were covered with xeroxed fliers. They smoked tons of weed,” Martsch says.
The Brazil dates went so well Martsch, Almeida, and Casaes made the decision to continue playing together throughout 2019, touring the US and Europe. During soundchecks they learned new songs Martsch had written, and when the touring ended, they recorded the bass and drum tracks at his rehearsal space in Boise. After Almeida and Casaes flew home, Martsch began overdubbing guitars and vocals by himself.
Martsch, Almeida, and Casaes had planned to mix the album together later in 2020 somewhere in Brazil or the US, but the pandemic kept them from reuniting in person. “We were able to send the tracks back and forth though, so we were still able to collaborate on the mixing process.”
What emerged is When the Wind Forgets Your Name, a complex and cohesive blend of the artists’ distinct musical ideas. Alongside Built to Spill’s poetic lyrics and themes, the experimentation and attention to detail produces an album full of unique, vivid, and timeless sounds.
The spare, power trio guitar riff in “Gonna Lose” is an anxiety-fueled joyride in song (“What could be more disorienting than being on acid in a dream?”). “Spiderweb” and “Never Alright” are classic-sounding, guitar-driven odes to REM and Dinosaur Jr (“No one can ever help no one not get their heart broken”). If there is such a thing as a Built to Spill sound, “Rocksteady” is maybe the band’s furthest departure from it yet with its reggae and dub-inspired instrumentation.
The album also contains bittersweet songs like the lo-fi ‘60s-style anthem “Fool’s Gold,” with its mellotron strings, and bluesy, wailing guitars (“Fool’s gold made me rich for a little while”), and “Understood,” a song about misunderstanding, which also takes inspiration from Evel Knievel’s failed stunt in Martsch’s hometown when he was a child. (“The deaf hear, the blind see. Just different things than you and me.”)
Martsch was also able to champion his love of comics by recruiting Alex Graham to illustrate the cover of When the Wind Forgets Your Name. “Alex published Dog Biscuits (Fantagraphics Books) online during the pandemic and it really spoke to me. I was thrilled when she agreed to paint the album cover.” What evolved was even better than he had imagined, with Graham also drawing a fifty panel comic strip for the gatefold. “I just asked for a painting and a comic. She created it all completely on her own.”
Almeida and Casaes have returned to their duties in Oruã, and Martsch has begun playing with yet another Built to Spill lineup that features Prism Bitch’s Teresa Esguerra on drums and Blood Lemon’s Melanie Radford on bass. Built to Spill and Oruã are currently touring and have a string of shows planned together in September.
Martsch concludes, “Making When the Wind Forgets Your Name was such a great experience. I had an incredible time traveling and recording with Almeida and Casaes. I also learned so much about Brazilian culture and music while creating it. My Portuguese was terrible when I first met Almeida and Casaes, but by the end of the year it was even worse.” (He also learned that when Billy Idol sings “Eyes Without a Face” it sounds like “Help the Fish'' in Portuguese.)
It may have taken us 30 years of obvious fandom and courtship, but on September 9, 2022, Sub Pop Records is unabashedly proud to finally release an excellent new album from Built to Spill: When the Wind Forgets Your Name. Sometimes persistence pays off.