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A simple sound is complex for the band Spiritualized

Chad Swiatecki

Listen to a Spiritualized album — there are seven of them, all ranging from "good" to "stellar" — and it's easy to cozy up to the notion that front man Jason Pierce loves nothing more than spending two or three years at a time composing epic, symphonic space rock anthems. It's no great leap, since Pierce's songs feature layers of vocal overdubs, choirs, orchestras, reverb, samples and more, and getting all those pieces to fit and sound not only listenable but perfectly natural takes the patience of a true studio rat, someone who's OK with not seeing the sun for days at a time. Right?


"I'd love to get them done in a week, but that never happens, and, to be perfectly honest, I don't really like making records all that much," Pierce said by phone recently from a tour stop in Minnesota.

Talking about the newest, just-released Spiritualized album, "Sweet Heart Sweet Light," Pierce said he set out to make a straightforward "pop record" free of all the embellishments of classics like 1997's "Ladies And Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space," but the songs kept demanding more elements. Judging on a curve, "Sweet Heart Sweet Light" is fairly streamlined for a Spiritualized album, but it would still be more grandiose than just about anything British rock contemporaries Coldplay or Blur have given us.

"The idea was to come up with a Beatles sort of record, something very direct and simple, but then I realized those aren't the kind of records I like all that much," Pierce said. "I didn't want to hide behind all this distortion and other stuff, so the songs were all about plain melodies and harmonies, and that does make your job a bit harder. Once you start you have to take enough time to make sure they come out right."

Pierce said what came out was his take on efficient but powerful songwriting by heroes like Alex Chilton and Link Wray, where it wouldn't be necessary for a listener to be well versed in free jazz or avant garde music to appreciate the bits of those forms that are strung throughout.

"I didn't want to ask too much of the listener, or make them feel like they had to know about all this other music first, because that gets to be kind of like emperor's new clothes," he said. "These songs all kind of lean against one another, and we lead you in and back out of everything we're doing."

The one good thing about recording; it lets Pierce get back on the road with the eight-piece band he'll bring to Emo's East this week. And while it'd be easy to think the comparatively stripped-down lineup would have a tough time presenting such ambitious music live, Pierce said live shows are where the music gets a chance to grow.

"What's on the album becomes a kind of launch pad for what we do with them live, and it's liberating to get out there because it becomes about finding the energy," he said. "Once you finally get the record done and all those little bits are tied down you go and do it live and everything is in constant motion. It's a bit like playing in a waterfall."

Spiritualized with Nikki Lane