By Marty Mulrooney
I first heard The Changes when they were supporting The Dykeenies a few years ago. It was one of those wonderfully rare moments where you go to see a band that you know is great, then unexpectedly discover another one in the process. The Chicago based band blew me away with their signature anthem ‘Her, You and I’, making me rush to the small wooden desk at the back of the gig and buy their album ‘Today Is Tonight’ in a cardboard slipcase (for a fiver!) I have been a huge fan ever since. I was recently lucky enough to catch up with lead singer Darren Spitzer for a chat about the band. I hope AMO’s readers check these guys out! They’re innovative, unique and very alternative.
Hey Darren! Thank you for you time, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself please?
I’m Darren Spitzer, the singer of The Changes!
Who are the other members of the band?
David Rothblatt plays guitar and is the songwriter. Jonny Basofin plays drums. Rob Kallick plays bass.
You guys are from Chicago right? How did you all get together to form The Changes?
Dave and Jonny knew each other from high school and played a little bit. I met Jonny and the three of us clicked. Then Rob came in on the bass and we were a band.
Who writes the lyrics for the band?
David writes the whole song. He’ll come in to rehearsal with the entire idea, the lyrics and the melody all mapped out. Then he shows us the song and I ask him to teach it to me.
The last step is working our the best way to arrange his idea, that part is always the most thrilling.
You make or break a song by how it’s put together.
Like a conversation.
What other bands would you say have directly influenced The Changes’ sound?
The Police were a huge influence. And not on purpose. In our early stages when we created our first sounds and songs, that seems to be where we clicked.
The Clash is another, I guess because in the beginning we were very guitar-y. But also aesthetically… having everybody involved and bringing something equal to the table… like a gang.
Jim O’Rourke, his production and songs brought something earthy to the mix. Tortoise, Sea And Cake and Phoenix also were bands we all listened to and would go see play.
I originally saw you guys supporting The Dykeenies. I always remember drinking my pint at the bar and then being drawn over to the stage by the sound of ‘Her, You and I’ blasting out. I bought your CD at the end of the gig and was cemented as a fan. Does the song have a story behind it?
I think all of Dave’s songs have stories behind them. I know ‘Her, You & I’ does. He would tell it much better so I’ll just say something else about it…
‘Her, You & I’ from the very day it was introduced to the group became our set closer.
We closed every show we ever played with that song. It couldn’t go anywhere else. It is our most mysterious and powerful song. It has an undeniable quality when performed in front of an audience, it never failed to end our shows on a high note.
Our greatest weapon.
What other bands have you played with/supported?
We performed with many larger bands, my favourite was Stephen Malkmus. We got to talk to him beforehand, and I heard he dedicated a song to us.
That show was funny, it was a big venue and the place was packed… just before we went on Dave froze. He decided it would be a good idea to wear shorts instead of jeans. So we’re backstage and have to go on and he’s freaked out… he doesn’t wanna wear those shorts anymore, but there’s no time to change and who has an extra pair of pants laying around anyway, right? So we go onstage and the vibe is so weird, Dave and I are both looking down the entire set, but with all this crazy energy we played our asses off.
A great show.
What sort of feedback did ‘Today Is Tonight’ get from the press?
The notable feedback I thought on the album was that there was a lot of it. ‘Today Is Tonight’ was in so many magazines and websites and seemed to be all over the place.
The album did something that we always hoped for, it simply "was". Or it "is".
It exists, you know? People like you write to us all the time and share their enjoyment of the album with us.
That’s a great feeling.
What is your favourite song to perform with the band?
I think my favourite performances of songs were always new songs that we would debut, or songs that were out of the box, like cover songs that we would put together as a one-off for some show.
Do you ever do any covers by other bands for fun when rehearsing?
Absolutely, we’re always covering other bands. All the stuff we grew up on.
A couple highlights from our last rehearsal were songs by Don Henley and The Grateful Dead.
Any upcoming gigs our readers should know about? I would love it if you came back to the UK at some point!
Other than our show at Disney World in May? No that’s the only show at the moment!
The band has seemed pretty quiet recently… what have you all been up to?
The Changes are all growing up, and also growing closer than ever.
I really don’t know a band that has a friendship like ours.
Actually, there is none.
Can fans expect any new material / a new album in 2010?
Not sure about a new album but we always have tons of songs. There’s plenty of new material.
Thank you for your time!
The pleasure was all mine, Martin.