Spanic Boys – Not on the road again
Torture, the Spanic Boys’ first album since the Internet-only 1998 collectable Walk Through Fire, is a strong assortment of dark odes and obscenely tight harmonies burnished with the stellar double-guitar sound that’s been the father-son duo’s trademark since 1986. But don’t look for them to come to a town near you anytime soon.
“It’s not that I don’t like touring, it’s just the whole climate has changed in the States from what it was nine years ago,” says Ian Spanic, 32, the fils of the pair. “A lot of the midsize places [500 seats] are just gone. It’s really hard to make ends meet out there….The cost of traveling, paying people, unemployment insurance — it’s just like a regular business. We’re not 18-year olds who can jump into a stinky van. We have responsibilities.”
The Spanics last toured two years ago, but since then they haven’t even played their hometown of Milwaukee, where both live. “Touring is just not viable at this time,” says Spanic pere Tom, 54. “I’ve come off plenty of tours taking money out of my own bank. I love to perform, I love the excitement of it, but that’s not the point.”
“I can make a way better living writing and recording a song and having it show up in a movie somewhere or a commercial or a soundtrack, and producing other bands,” Ian says. Spanic Boys tunes have been used in the movies Voice Of A Stranger, Body Chemistry 2 and Lewis & Clark & George; in ABC-TV’s “The Marshall”; in a commercial for Mello Yello; and in the video game “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?”
Ian also has produced records for the Riptones and David Todoran, among others. “I like sitting in a studio,” says Ian. “The only good part about being on the road is playing for the people. There’s nothing better than that, but all the stuff to get to that point is such a nightmare.”
The Spanics’ new record proves a dark exercise lyrically, with song titles reflecting the lyrical content, including “When You Fall”, “Little Lies”, “Your Heart’s Not In It”, “Be Long Gone”, “Over You”, “Loser Blues”, and, perhaps the strongest of the batch, “The Man Who Hates The World”.
Still, the music is not without its light and bright moments. The jangly guitar sound is recorded through vintage Fenders, amps and microphones, with Ian’s stinging lead lines followed closely by Tom’s creative Telecaster rhythm. If the solos tend to soar, the vocal harmonies take off into the atmosphere. It sounds as if both men sing every word of each song at the same time, with no multi-tracking.
“Harmonies always work out well in families, for some reason,” says Tom. “Family harmonies are going to be closer. The Everly Brothers knew what each was going to do, and Ian and I do the same. It’s second nature, knowing what the other person is going to do and how.”
Tom, a classically trained guitarist and teacher, gave Ian his first guitar when Ian was 8. When he was 16, Ian started a band with his dad. What’s the key to raising a guitar slinger?
“I told him, ‘Don’t play with that,'” Tom says of Ian’s early guitar days. “Reverse psychology. I wouldn’t show him a lot. If he was playing with Chuck Berry or Lonnie Mack [records], I’d show him a little and tell him to go get his ears working.
“He gets me there because I’m classically trained; you’re forced to do things like somebody else did ’em. You lose that skill. I’d show him enough to help him but then make him use his own ears.”