Rae Spoon’s Prairie Home

Calgary-born singer-songwriter bridges sonic gap on new album

Rae Spoon lived a while in a small German town about a half-decade ago. Their (Spoon doesn’t identify as male or female hence the pronoun) partner was finishing up some post-secondary and Spoon was getting gigs when possible. But there was one point of awkwardness when contending with the local music scene — Spoon didn’t appreciate electronic music. That can be a considerable problem in the homeland of Kraftwerk.

“I was kind of snobby about it” says Spoon chatting from Seattle. “I was a bluegrass purist for a few years and I hated reverb and stuff like that. I was weird. Going to Germany helped break me out of that. I got the basics of computer music and it’s just as hard as anything else.”

Much has changed since then. SuperiorYouAreInferior written while they lived in Germany featured the first signs of a novel balance between electronic influences and their typically folk/country sound. Later releases continued capitalizing on that interest with Love is a Hunter and I Can’t Keep All of Our Secrets integrating progressively more synths. To top it all off Spoon taught a three-day computer music class to a half-dozen students in August (in Wells B.C. of all places). It’s been quite the journey.

But Spoon’s launch into the realm of electronic music has come to a temporary suspension with their latest effort My Prairie Home . The exceptional album — which features the same deeply personal David Bazan-esque lyricism that marked previous releases — demonstrates an incredible return to their former days of writing integrating country gospel and folk (and even a little bit of grunge). But it’s all for good reason: it’s the soundtrack to a Chelsea McMullan-directed National Film Board musical documentary about well Rae Spoon.

“I would have felt weird writing electronic music about growing up in Calgary” Spoon remarks previously noting in classic Canadian understatement that “electronic music is not as present in Canada as places like Germany.” However it’s clear that Spoon’s upbringing in the folk and country traditions of the city have paid off with My Prairie Home exhibiting top-notch musicianship and production courtesy of Spoon’s sharp ear and Lorrie Matheson’s ever-consistent work behind the boards.

“I just picked a horn player from Vancouver a cello player from Kamloops and a piano player from Montreal” Spoons says. “I was travelling with microphones for a while.”

The album’s obviously been in the works for a few years with half the recording happening way back in 2010. Such a setup’s a bit of an anomaly for Spoon; they’ve typically released a record every 18 months or so with I Can’t Keep All of Our Secrets written in three months to keep fans satisfied until the release of My Prairie Home . But the delay makes sense to Spoon.

“Films take a lot longer to make than albums usually” Spoon says. “They’re a lot more expensive. It makes me feel like making albums is cheap which is kind of weird.”

The album finally premièred at the Vancouver International Film Festival in September drawing the lengthy process to a close and snagging some excellent reviews from critics. But there’s much more happening in the coming months for Spoon — along with the upcoming tour they’ll be working on a book with Ivan Coyote called Gender Failure (based on a performance the two have been doing for about a year and a half) and an eventual sequel to their excellent debut book First Spring Grass Fire . And of course there’ll be many more recordings.

“Maybe next week I’ll have a new album” concludes Spoon laughing.