Outgoing yet well-spoken, Fred MacPherson doesn’t come across as your typical indie-rock star. His band Spector have only recently released their fifth single, ‘Celestine’, and with debut album Enjoy It While It Lasts not due until mid-August, they played their first arena support slots around a year ago (the first was with Florence and the Machine at Dublin’s O2, which saw Spector perform to a sell-out crowd after arriving late and setting up in just five minutes). They’ve also become acclaimed through appearances on shows like Later… With Jools Holland and amid the hype of the BBC’s ‘Sounds Of 2012’ poll, prompting a quick rise into the public eye.
MacPherson, who started Spector alone in his bedroom simply because “the concept of having to get four members together in a room to record – to wait for your friends to be free to produce music – seemed so outdated these days”, is very much the voice of the band. His quirks – from obscure pop-culture references to the most English-accented of Americanisms possibly ever muttered (see ‘Chevy Thunder’, as well as his spoken outpourings) – already seem divisive, yet are inarguably rammed with charisma.
As open as MacPherson is, the ‘spokesperson’ role has never been one he’s entirely comfortable with, having once told NME that his band were “the by-product of social monotony.” Interviews have often stirred something in him: asked about his feeling on band promotion, he says, “After nine or ten interviews in a day, one of those press sessions, I just feel like making it fun for myself. It can get a little dull out there; I can turn into an interview zombie. I try to make it entertaining.”
Perhaps because of their heady early acclaim, Spector’s album has been a long time coming. That fact is not lost on Fred: “At this point I’m a little frustrated,” he admits. “The album’s recorded, and has been for a few months now. It’s May, and nobody will get to hear it until August. It seems like today there should be a system that allows people to subscribe to every track from a band or a label, and just get those tracks as soon as they’re ready to be heard.”
What we will hear, by Fred’s reckoning, is not quite the same as how Spector are viewed now. “At the moment people are very much looking at one chapter of Spector. We like indie, but we’re not an indie-rock band as such. The album, for example, has a lot of soul in it, and a lot of nostalgia. I’m an old romantic, really, and I think that comes through far more in the album than in the singles.
“The situation now is like listeners have got the main course, but if they haven’t seen us live – obviously they haven’t yet heard the album – then they haven’t really seen the entire picture. It’s like they’ve bought a book and only read the final chapter. It might be a good final chapter but it lacks the essential colour of the whole book; the build-up and the depth. The live show will give a different perspective. So will the album – ‘Grey Shirt and Tie’ and ‘Never Fade Away’ kind of hint at the more emotionally charged side of our music. It’s a tearful, ‘looking at your ex-girlfriend’s Facebook at 3am’ kind of angle, which will come out if people concentrate on more than just the singles.”
Though he has fun with it, the level of hype surrounding Spector clearly bothers MacPherson somewhat. It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy the attention; more that he’s well aware of the habit heavily-hyped bands have of being a flash in the pan. “We want this to last,” he explains, yet two minutes later he’s talking, tongue edged slightly in his cheek, of the band’s premature demise. “We’d like to go on and on, but there’s always a chance someone will walk.”
Mid-way through our interview, we introduce Fred to Dublin radio station Phantom 105.2’s ‘Hairy Panda’ version of ‘Chevy Thunder’. Guitarist Chris loads the panda dancing video in the background as Fred talks, and tells us that a similar version called ‘Heavy Chunder’ also exists. He’s pleased to hear the band have spawned a cult Irish following. “We played with Florence in Dublin last year, but this will be our first headline show,” he says. “I think I’m very English, but I loved Dublin last time. I have no idea what to expect.”
We suspect MacPherson might be greeted by a sell-out crowd in both Dublin and Belfast. Whether he’s able to fulfil those huge levels of expectation levelled at an album that will appear mid-way through a flurry of summer festival appearances remains to be seen. What’s certain, though – you only have to glance at one of the Coachella-filmed videos and witness smiles that couldn’t be faked to dispel any doubt – is that Fred and his band will make the most of every second. “If we suffer from misguided expectation, so be it. We always knew it was a risk, and you don’t know, we probably won’t make it through five years as a band. The main thing is to make the most of every moment we get.”
The album title ‘enjoy it while it lasts’ might well indicate a band already struggling with their destiny, then. More likely, it’s just another angle on Fred’s character: his own way to ensure the growing hype around his high-flying outfit doesn’t get too out of control. The way things are going, we wouldn’t bank on it.
Spector play Whelan’s, Dublin on the May 29, and The Limelight, Belfast on May 30.
As published in AU Magazine, May 2012