Jim Eno is a respected album producer, engineer and drummer, as well as a founding member of the Austin indie rock band Spoon. But he may be best known in certain circles for one phrase: “Jim, can you record that? Record the talkback, Jim.”
On the band’s 2007 hit song, “Don’t You Evah,” Spoon vocalist Britt Daniel can be heard uttering those cryptic words over and over during the song’s intro.
Eno, who as part of Spoon will return to the Orpheum Theater on Thursday, chuckled in a phone interview when asked about “Record the talkback” and just what Daniel was referring to. Speaking from a recent tour stop in Boulder, Colorado, Eno said that Mike McCarthy, the producer, was going off on some tirade in the recording booth, and Daniel wanted it recorded.
“So I patched the talkback mic into the recorder, because what he was saying was so crazy,” Eno said. “One of the cool things when you’re recording on tape is you don’t actually go back and erase things as you’re doing multiple passes on different tracks. So (Daniel) just kept saying “Record that, Jim” at different times, because he could hear himself saying it before. So at the end we had this huge collage of all these different things.”
On Oct. 20, Spoon is releasing a 10-year anniversary version of its album, “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga,” which features “Don’t You Evah” and includes several bonus tracks. Even though it’s only been a decade, Eno said that the recording process has changed a lot in the intervening years, going from recording on tape to digital.
“It used to be a lot more fun,” he said. “It was more creative because on tape you’re not erasing everything. Now with ProTools, as soon as you do a vocal take, your first instinct is to get rid of all the talking.”
In a music world where bands come and go, and then come back to do a reunion tour, the members of Spoon will celebrate 25 years together in 2018. More significantly, fans and critics agree that the band has maintained its high quality over nine albums during that time, culminating in this year’s “Hot Thoughts.” “Nearly 25 years in, (the) group has made maybe their best record yet — a line that been repeated, accurately enough, with most every record they've made,” Will Hermes wrote in his review for Rolling Stone.
“We’ve been around for a lot of (other people’s) reunions. I feel like we’ve found something that we love to do together," Eno said. "It’s a really rewarding and great place to be in. I don’t take anything for granted because it’s taken us so long to do this stuff. I still feel like we have a lot more to do and a lot more to say.”
Eno said that the band puts an emphasis on songcraft, working in the vein of Elvis Costello, The Cure or The Beatles. He and the other band members work hard on their songs in the studio, making sure that their songs start strong and finish strong, and never coast in between.
“To be able to keep people’s attention for three or four minutes on a record is pretty difficult,” he said. “In a club you have that energy and the excitement of people around you. When you have someone just listening to music on earbuds, you have to create little surprises. You have to add things as they go.”
While listeners are increasingly coming across Spoon songs via streaming services like Spotify, Eno said the band still thinks in terms of creating albums.
“We want the songs to work from start to finish,” Eno said. “We are very much still embracing the album concept. We want the album to work as a whole. We want it to flow. But that being said, we want each song to stand on its own.”