Spoon’s Britt Daniel on Greatest Hits Albums and Being Every Presidential Candidate’s Favourite Band

As Metacritic’s best reviewed band of the 2000s, Austin indie-rock stalwarts Spoon have amassed one of the most unimpeachable discographies in the last 20 years of rock music. So they figured releasing a greatest hits album, Everything Hits at Once, was in order. We asked frontman Britt Daniel about the band’s legacy of astute guitar music, and why they didn’t just make a Spotify playlist instead.

Some of the best selling albums of all time — ABBA Gold, Bob Marly’s Legend, The Eagles’ Hell Freezes Over — are greatest hits packages. But when a band’s entire catalogue is merely a search away, why bother curating your most popular songs?

The Eagles’ greatest hits still gets plenty of streams.

In the pre-streaming era, I think it’s safe to say the first album most people bought was a greatest hits compilation. Do you remember yours?  

My mom had The Supremes’ Greatest Hits and I listened to that constantly when I was allowed to use the record player, but the first one I bought was The Cure’s Standing on a Beach. I just wanted to find out about this band that I kept hearing about. I thought the record cover was weird. They weren’t on MTV, they weren’t on the radio. So this was my way of figuring it out.

Nine albums in, do you think you have a better understanding of what makes a hit?

I’ve had certain ingredients that seem like a good formula, but in terms of writing the actual songs you’ve got to get lucky. You still have to wait for some magic moment.

Your most recognizable song, “I Turn My Camera On,” was written after hearing Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out.” They released the similar sounding “Ulysses” shortly after. Is there a Beatles/Beach Boys thing going on between you and Alex Kapranos?

We used to bump into each other every now and then. He dated my ex (The Fiery Furnaces’ Eleanor Friedberger) for many years. I went out with her for maybe five years before she did music, then she started doing music and started dating him. So yeah, we’ve spoken, but not in a long time. I think they do good work. I think they’re a classy band.

Spoon made some unexpected headlines this year when a video of presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg warming up for an event by playing your song “The Way We Get By” on piano surfaced. You’ve performed at a benefit for Beto O’Rouke before, how did you feel about Mayor Pete using your music?

I’m cool with it. I didn’t know Mayor Pete knew anything about us until the morning that clip went out there. The only thing I thought was ‘this is a kick.’ What a cool thing, y’know?

Did his campaign reach out?

No, but I don’t always hear about these things. I remember there was some candidate that asked to use some of our songs at a rally. It might have been him. I can’t remember.

The Cut reached out to all the other candidates to get their thoughts on Spoon. Did you read that?

Yeah, I thought it was a silly little article.

Before you were in Spoon, you made sound effects for video games. Do you ever have a Sliding Doors moment where you wonder what life would have been like?

There was actually a time when I wanted to go back to doing sound effects because we had been dropped by our label and I needed a job. But if I think about it now if we had broken up I would have started another band. It’s just too much fun. Things worked out pretty good.