"I quite like [the word queer] as something that is quite malleable and can move with your identity and other people’s identities."
Nye Todd of The Spook School.
The Spook School have spent the last several weeks touring across America (with Diet Cig and Great Grandpa), following the release of their latest full-length record, "Could It Be Different." We caught up with the four-piece in a supply closet at their recent show in Lawrence, Ks. and chatted about writing pop music in a politically tumultuous world and staying warm in the tour van.
How has your song writing matured as you’ve grown into yourself as a band?
Nye: Last album, we’d been writing about some of the same themes but with a detached viewpoint. In this album, we cover some of the same things but from a more personal perspective. There are a lot of bands in the UK, like Trust Fund, that write pop songs that are really honest and quite vulnerable but still so much fun. I think we got lyrical inspiration from other bands like that. We could put a little more of ourselves and our experiences into the lyrics this time around.
In both the UK, where you’re from, and the US, where you’ve been touring and spending a lot of time, there’s been some recent political and social turmoil. How has it been to experience both of big cultural changes unfolding in such different ways?
Nye: From talking to UK-based friends, I think a lof of them have had a similar reaction to the Trump election with Brexit. You just wake up and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, what has happened?’ It seems like an incomprehensible thing. Obviously there are lots of parallels between them, and there are always these scenes that are very welcoming and accepting, and that’s the bit that we’re experiencing. It gives us a slightly skewed sense. Our impression of the US is that it’s filled with lovely queer people.
So as you wrote this album, how have you felt personally affected by these big shifts?
Nye : Even though we’re trans and queer people, we’re fairly privileged as being both white and able-bodied. A lot of the stuff with Brexit has affected our friends who don’t have things like UK citizenship. All of us have got friends that are very worried right now by stuff that’s happening. With Trump coming in, there are big implications with queer policy and trans policy. One of the songs on the new album is called ‘Bad Year,’ it’s kind of about that. It’s personal reactions to it. We’re all interested in politics, but we know that we’re not experts. We’d be a bit scared of writing an actual political song. But I have so much envy of people who can do it.
As someone whose using their place or privilege to be vocal in the queer community, is it important for you to speak up about some of these experiences that others are sharing with you?
Nye: It’s definitely important, especially with where you play shows and who you plays show for, and what you ask. We always ask for gender neutral bathrooms. There’s things that you can do and should do, and we’re always looking for other things that we could help to do. We try to do anything we can to use the platform that we’ve got.
"For me it’s a spectrum. It covers so many things, so it also then means community."
Niall McCamley of The Spook School
What’s it like on the road?
Niall: It is so much colder than I was expecting. A sound engineer at a previous show in Wisconsin felt sorry for me and gave me some really warm gloves. And I’m really hoping that someone will give me a scarf. My neck is very cold.
Nye: Our feet are always like icicles. My feet have not been a normal temperature for a long time.
Adam: I’ve been really looking forward to playing shows mainly just so my feet will warm up for half an hour or so.
Where does the name The Spook School come from?
Adam: We basically stole the name. Back about a hundred, hundred-fifty years ago there was a group of artists based in Glasgow called The 4, it was 4 people. Also known as the Glasgow school. Their critics referred to them as The Spook School disparaging, because the vaguely gothic style they used at the time wasn’t really in fashion at the time. I saw that when I was reading about them and stole it.
What does the word “queer’ mean to you?
Nye: For a long time, and still now, I don’t identify as a binary gender. I quite like it as something that is quite malleable and can move with your identity and other people’s identities. I like the political aspect of it as well.
Niall: For me it’s a spectrum. It covers so many things, so it also then means community. It’s a way for people who feel marginalized to find community and oneness and for once to not be on the periphery of society. It can be a really inclusive and welcoming thing.
Catch The Spook School on the last leg of their tour with Diet Cig and Great Grandpa:
2/27 - Carrboro, NC
2/28 - Washington, D.C.
3/1 - Brooklyn, NY
3/2 - Allston, MA
3/3 - Philladelphia, PA