Words by David C. Obenour
Necessity is the mother of invention, but so is a restless creative spirit and a little bit of free time. In the case of The Wind-Ups, circumstances aligned for Jake Sprecher with a recently acquired TASCAM 388 and a mandated need to stay at home. Making the best of all of this time, equipment and desire to create, Try Not to Think is a bedroom bop album that bounces around its confines with energy and volume. Slowing down provided the space to speed things back up again.
Off Shelf: The press release talks about Try Not to Think being born out of boredom and a recently acquired TASCAM over COVID. Boredom will only get you so far though, what did you find exciting about the album that kept it going?
Jake Sprecher: “Boredom” is definitely a silly way of me actually saying “time I wouldn’t normally have had.” There was nothing boring about it to me. In November of 2019 this dude had randomly given me the 388, and I’d just gotten it tuned up when Covid hit. You make the best of your situation, and that meant learning to use this amazing machine that I’d had no prior experience with. I have a 38, which is 1/2″ tape, but that’s a different unit entirely without the built-in mixer and pre-amps. So the process of learning as I went was thrilling, because this is the exact sound I’ve always wanted to have on a record. Honestly, I’ve told my friends this many times in the last year-plus, but I don’t know what the hell I would have done with all those hours of my life had the 388 not been at my disposal. It saved me from going completely cooped-up Covid-crazy.
OS: Are there any other TASCAM projects that you experimented with over quarantine?
JS: Yeah my other band, Beehive. We did our first record live to the 38, so my initial ventures on the 388 were messing around with Beehive stuff. Most of that I came back around to later on, once I honed the craft a bit.
OS: I want to read into it a number of ways, but can you talk about the album name a little? How did you arrive on it and what resonates with you in going with it?
JS: Well, like many people, I have spells where I simply can’t turn my brain off. I’m a night owl, oft prone to staring at the ceiling till god-knows what hour, thinking about life and personal shit over and over and over again. It comes and it goes, but when you’re in the throes, all you can do is try not to think, which pretty much never works. [laughs]
OS: What do you think accounts for the staying power of “Ramonescore” almost a half century later?
JS: It’s hard to put succinctly, but I believe it’s simply one of the greatest styles of pop songwriting ever created. They took all the hooks of their ’50s and ’60s youth and rebuilt it on foundations of sass and speed. And for me, it’s the most fun I can possibly have playing any form of music. And clearly a whole lot of people still feel that way. Loud hooks and speed… a winning formula that will never, ever die.
OS: A genre notorious for its more straightforward structures and simplicity, how does it appeal to you when playing it?
JS: I think first we need to qualify “simplicity” as it applies to the genre, because there’s a lot of clever quirks, tricks and idiosyncrasies that are easy to pass by because of how catchy a song might be. Since we’re on the topic of the Ramones, let’s just pluck two tracks – among many – as quick examples… “Pinhead,” though easy to sing along with, is a totally odd arrangement when you count its measures and phrasing. Something similar can be said for songs like “I Don’t Wanna Go Down To the Basement,” which cycles through the same intro/pre-chorus/verse/bridge three times with no variation, like it’s a time-keeping exercise or something. That’s not how most people choose to arrange songs. So while the parts are easy to play in a vacuum, there’s often more going on than meets the ear, in my opinion.
But I think what appeals to me most on the whole is ripping them off rapid fire live. Nobody wants to see a band with 90-second songs tuning and gabbing at every stop, so just count it off and go!
OS: It’s also a loud feeling record. Can you think of the first time that an album hit you with that same feeling? What about it resonated with you?
JS: Absolutely a loud record, sonically speaking. I really appreciate you mentioning that because it was very intentional. I wanted to hit the tape hard with pretty much every track I recorded, using the tape itself as an instrument. It’s hard to say when that style of production initially grabbed me, but a couple examples that immediately come to mind when I stop and think are the guitars on the Nervous Breakdown EP, and the self-titled King Khan and BBQ Show. I remember “Waddlin’ Around” really blew my doors off when I was like 24. The bass sounds like it’s going to blow your speakers out and the vocals are constantly peaking.
OS: There’s a set live lineup for when shows are possible again. What made these guys come to mind?
JS: You know, I’m actually going to wind up having multiple band members in multiple locations. I’ve got my dear friend and Terry Malts bandmate Phil down in San Francisco, as well as our friend Blaine from Spiritual Cramp for this first show coming up. But I’ve also got a full band here in Chico, too, as schedules and availability are always in flux. The aim for the not-so-distant future will be touring, so whoever can make it makes it. I’ve been that guy for bands in SF and LA in recent years, so it feels pretty normal to me.
OS: Have you had a chance to practice with the live lineup yet? What are you hoping they’ll bring to the songs?
JS: We have! I’ve had practices with both my SF homies and the Chico gang. It’s going to be loud, steady and fast. Those are the only requirements onstage!
OS: Who did the collage for Try Not to Think’s cover? Did you have much direction for what you wanted? What about it appeals to you for the album?
JS: My friend Heather Kelly did the collage art for the record. She’s really talented, and you can find her on Instagram at @sickpleasure. I gave her a handful of hi-res images, and she took it from there. Heather rules, and is also a wonderful person. She’s both an artist, and a supporter of the arts. Ultimately what appeals to me most is that internal basket case feeling it represents. You know, when you look good enough on the outside but inside you’re a total mental patient. [laughs]
OS: Now that the first record came together so naturally and serendipitously, what do you hope to do for the future of The Wind Ups?
JS: Oh man, I’ve already got half of the next record all done and recorded. My biggest goal is getting back to international touring, which was the biggest thrill of my musical life thus far. I really, really wanna get to New Zealand and Australia, and of course back to Europe. And it’s also an extra special dream to tour Japan, which is probably the loveliest place I’ve ever encountered in my personal travels. If I can accomplish any of those things, I’ll be a very happy boy.