“As I get older there’s less fucks to give. I like to think I’ve always been making music for myself, but that feeling grows stronger as I get older,” says Jon Spencer during a recent phone chat. Spencer is perhaps best known as leader of punk blues trio The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (although also notable as a member and co-founder of Pussy Galore, Boss Hog, and Heavy Trash), who called it quits about half-a-decade ago, but last year once again made music nerd headlines for the announcement. “That was just something for a podcast, Kreative Kontrol. But when I was promoting the first record in 2018, I very openly talked about the band being over,” Spencer says, laughing, and admitting that he is still, indeed, a fan of that podcast. The album he’s referencing is Spencer Sings the Hits!, his solo debut (and not a best-of comp), which led to Jon Spencer & the HITmakers, whose debut LP (Spencer Gets It Lit) dropped last year, and who are currently on a US tour that will have them headlining Johnny Brenda’s this Thursday, February 2nd.
“Blues Explosion was done and I was kicking around with Boss Hog, but I was looking for a Rock N’ Roll band,” Spencer says about the time conceptualizing his first solo effort, going on to say, “I figured, instead of trying to put together a band, I’ll just make a record and then maybe the band will come along.” “I reached out to a couple people I know to play on it,” he tells me, landing on Quasi’s Sam Coomes on synths, M. Sord on drums, and Bob Bert of Pussy Galore as, “someone who bangs on garbage,” according to Spencer (The album’s liner notes list his instrument as “trash.”) However, the process behind writing the music was completely different from Spencer’s previous bands: “With Blues Explosion the three of us all wrote together, but with this I write all on my lonesome… The sound was all in my head. I knew what I wanted it to sound like, I knew the sound was gonna be synthesizers/bass.” He also admits that, at 57, the direct influences on his current music are less obvious than when he was starting out.
“Like, I can’t say making this record I really got into The Meteors, or Alex Chilton. It becomes less and less about a new flavor or new influence. When you get older it’s all more baked in… Like, yeah, I’m sure there’s a Devo influence on Spencer Gets It Lit… There are certain records that will always be a part of me.”
The summer of 2018 saw Jon Spencer & the HITmakers playing a number of shows supporting Melvins, and last year saw them play a double-headlining tour with Quasi, with Sam and Janet [Weiss, of Quasi] handling synths and drums, respectively, for both bands. For this tour, Spencer will be joined once again by Bert and Coomes (who returns to JB’s on March 17th for a headlining show with Quasi). On these dates Jon tells me, “We’ll play most of the songs off of the new record,” but also says that they’ll be playing select tracks from Pussy Galore and Blues Explosion. The Fishtown appearance will be their third-to-last of the tour (although the following night they’ll be playing Atlantic City’s Anchor Rock Club, for those who don’t mind a relatively short drive), before a bit of a break so that Sam Coomes can do some touring with Quasi (February and March in the US and April and May in Europe), but Spencer tells me that he & the HITmakers hope to be making some new music in the near future, and are currently, “entertaining doing some festivals over the summer.”
*Get your tickets here.