10Qs with Spencer Albee

Spencer Albee is a former member of The Rustic Overtones and leader of the bands As Fast As, Rocktopus, Space Versus Speed, and Spencer and the School Spirit Mafia.  Though he previously helmed a solo project under the monicker The Popsicko, he’ll be releasing a solo project using his own name later this year.  Spencer is releasing previews of tracks via his Pledge Music page, where the project was successfully crowd-funded in the fall of last year.

Spencer Albee, photo by Martha Bunker
Spencer Albee, photo by Martha Bunker

Where were you born?
Wentworth Douglas Hospital, Dover, NH. I grew up in York, ME.

What keeps you in Portland?
I’ve always been a sucker for a hard luck case. I’ve been fortunate to have seen the majority of America and to have visited many of it’s finest cities. I even lived in the other Portland for a time before returning to Portland, ME. There’s something about the Maine sensibility that keeps me here. I think it’s Mainer’s unwillingness to suffer fools gladly and our lackluster reaction to grandstanding that makes us special. I also think Mainers have a lot of heart. I think it’s the constant state of potential that, as frustrating as it can be, keeps me interested in Portland. Plus there is nothing more beautiful than summer in Maine.

Do you have a day job, and if so, what is it?
I promote events like my own original shows, Annual Beatles Night and Clash of the Titans. I also tend bar part time at Sonny’s.

What was your most memorable gig?
A few years ago, my former band AS FAST AS played their last “real” gig together opening for John Fogerty (of Creedence Clearwater Revival) on the Maine State Pier. Not only was the crowd incredibly gracious and kind, but after the show the local crew wouldn’t allow us to touch our gear. They carried all of our equipment off stage and packed it all up for us. It was the highest form of respect you could get from some of the hardest working people in the business. It really moved me.

What was your worst gig?
Same band. We were on a much deserved break after endless cross country touring. I was in my boxer shorts making a fish chowder (and trying to maintain a relationship back home) when I got the call that I would be flying out of Portland, OR the next morning to meet the fellas (having been torn from the pool side and driving from LA) in Albequerque, NM. We continued on towards Amarillo, TX where we were to “showcase” for Anderson Distributors who supplied music to the nation’s Wal Marts. As fate would have it, we hit black ice at 85 mph at 3:00 in the morning and went off the road. After being hassled by Texas’ finest, we waited in terror for AAA for 3 hours on the side of the road while tractor-trailers and cars whipped by on the now ice covered roads. Finally they arrived and towed us to our hotel where we quickly showered and headed to a business park somewhere in Amarillo. It’s now 8:00 in the morning, we have been traveling since 5:00 the previous day without sleep. We loaded in to a conference room and played our brand of indie pop acoustically for a 5 person panel of disinterested looking executives all of whom could easily have worked for a refrigerator parts company. Defeated, we were taken to a pancake house, fed, and then dropped off at our hotel to begin the process of repairing our van that had flown off the road. It was one of those moments where I said to myself, “this is not what I signed up for.” The only redeeming part of the trip was when we got to hang out with the local mechanics that got us back on the road. If you’re ever broken down in Amarillo, got see Sugar Bear’s. They’ll set you straight.

What album or artist has most influenced you as a musician?
It’s almost redundant for me to say Paul McCartney and The Beatles. With that out of the way I can list Jeff Lynne, The Kinks, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Beck, Tom Petty, David Bowie and Philip Glass and huge influences. To cite specific (non Beatle related) records I would choose “The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society”, “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”, “Who’s Next”, “Modern Guilt”, “Full Moon Fever”, “OK Computer” and “Glassworks” as my favorites.

What’s the one piece of musical equipment you can’t live without?
My 1976 Gibson J45/50 acoustic guitar. Even though I’m a keyboard player, that guitar and I have a great relationship.

Any advice for a musician starting out?
Start back, unless you’re ready to struggle with poverty, frustration and multiple brushes with addiction and death. This line of work is not for the feint of heart. Also, please learn how to sing and play your instruments. The world is overrun by people who claim to be musicians and hide behind their lack of craftsmanship and discipline under the guise of being “AMAZING”. Barf. As Phil Hartman once said while impersonating Frank Sinatra “I’ve got chunks of guys like you in my stool.”

What’s the origin behind your name/band name?
My parents chose it for me when I was born.

What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
I don’t have any musical guilty pleasures. I am a nerd and like what I like without guilt, shame, irony or apology. Movies however are a different story. Shitty Action/Adventure/Sci Fi movies. I know I should be watching Kubrick or Hitchcock, but sometimes “Deep Impact” or “The Day After Tomorrow” is just what the doctor ordered. It’s absolutely shameful, but I figure that otherwise I have a steady diet of great music and film, I just need some junk food once in a while.

Stephen Quirk
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