More than a decade since his group’s inception, Casey Spooner still doesn’t know what to call Fischerspooner. “It’s not a performance group… it’s not a collective, it’s not a duo. It’s not even electro,” he told Flavorpill in a recent interview. “I don’t worry about what to call it; I let other people think about that. I just tell them what it’s not.”
Regardless of what exactly Fischerspooner is now, it may never escape the initial tag of electroclash. A loaded label, the term has stuck with the group even as stylistic changes have rendered it obsolete. In the wake of a new album, and new direction, we sat down with Spooner to talk the advantages and disadvantages of labeling, avant-garde theater, and the mysterious appearance of Madonna.
While definitions can become too set in stone, finding a “scene” of like-minded artists was once liberating and affirming. “We were pretty much working in solitude, and then we started hearing people like DJ Hell and Ladytron doing all these great things that are kind of similar, and that was great and exciting for us. We basically went from being isolated to being part of this community.”
Despite its role in their ascent, Fischerspooner did not have any qualms about moving away from the electroclash of their first album, #1, and, unsurprisingly, the appellation itself. “It has become sort of an albatross, with the associations people hang on to,” Spooner says.
Fischerspooner’s second LP, Odyssey, branched out but it wasn’t necessarily willful: “We definitely weren’t conscious to the shift, we just didn’t want to hear the same sounds anymore.” Now that the hype has faded and the backlash has died down, Spooner reflects on what it was like to be a part of the scene that became embroiled in a media frenzy. “It was definitely a net positive, giving us the exposure out of the underground, and now that everything’s calmed down we can do our work.”
After garnering acclaim for Odyssey (and then running out of funds for the North American tour), Spooner and partner Warren Fischer parted ways for a spell to pursue interests outside of their namesake. This year’s Entertainment marks their return after some four years apart. Spooner spent much of his time away working on experimental theatre company the Wooster Group’s production of Hamlet, in which he played Ophelia’s brother Laertes. “It was the perfect balance of working on another project and being challenged, and then that refreshes you to go back to your own work,” Spooner says.
It also gave him a needed separation from all the planning and “logistics minutiae” that Fischerspooner requires. By the time Hamlet finished its run, Spooner was ready to go back to calling all the shots and being in control. “I was involved totally and wholeheartedly in every aspect of what we’ve been doing,” he notes, from the visual phase in the beginning of the planning for the current tour to the nightly performances. “What happens is that we initiate the initial impulse, and then bring on different people. It’s almost like making a feature film, where it’s new people each cycle, but there’s a core team of people who’ve been with us since 1998 or 2000.”
Elements of the current tour were informed by his experience with the Wooster Group, borrowing some visual devices to add to the “avant-garde pop spectacle” that is a Fischerspooner performance. Spooner has also approached his role as frontman like a thespian. As the tour continues, he has grown into his role onstage. “We’ve been getting into a rhythm with the show, finding slight tweaks that work,” he says. “The deeper we can get into it, the more we find the nuances and better ways to do the same thing, like a play.”
Of course, there is much more to the live Fischerspooner experience. “It’s our version of a pop show,” Spooner says. “It’s a super-visual show, with all the singing and dancing and smoke and mirrors, but quirky and unusual in the relationship between the performance and the music. We take all the tools in a traditional pop show, and then we fuck with them.”
Madonna came to the second show on this tour, a fitting meeting of the old guard and the avant-garde. “That was exciting for us because a lot of what we do is a reaction to this pop legacy. There are specific parts of the show borrowed from her and others, and we’re just integrating that to our experimental and creative approach.” It’s that experimental bent that brings in fans like Madonna, and also what makes the duo so hard to define. Whatever you call them, though, one thing is clear: Fischerspooner aren’t fading along with electroclash.