Twin Cities fans know pretty well what Spoon’s Britt Daniel was up to during his band’s three-year hiatus. His side project Divine Fits scored heavy airplay on 89.3 the Current and earned particular local favor thanks to his lyric, “I wish that I was in Minneapolis.”
Spoon’s other co-founder, drummer Jim Eno, stayed even more musically active — including several projects with Minnesota ties.
“I pretty much worked nonstop, and maybe the best part was, it was with a really wide variety of music,” said Eno, whose band returns to Minneapolis Sunday to headline Rock the Garden — a preview gig for Spoon’s first album in four years.
Eno’s choppy and chugging rhythms have been a driving part of Spoon’s sound since the mid-1990s, when the band could barely fill the aptly named Hole in the Wall in its native Austin, Texas. In recent years, he has engineered, produced or mixed dozens of records at his Public Hi-Fi Studio, a list that includes such indie darlings as !!! and Telekinesis as well as Austinites Alejandro Escovedo, Heartless Bastards and Black Joe Lewis.
Minnesota-bred singer Har Mar Superstar turned to Eno to produce his transformative 2013 album, “Bye Bye 17.” Said Eno, “I was real excited when he told me he wanted it to be a ’60s-style soul record. I was super-impressed with his songwriting and the way he worked through the arrangements.”
Eno also mixed Poliça’s 2012 debut record, “Give You the Ghost,” and has done mixing and session work with Gayngs and Marijuana Deathsquads. “Ryan Olson is a music genius,” he said of the Minneapolis sonic guru behind all three groups.
Of course, the record Eno was most excited to talk about by phone from Austin last week is Spoon’s new one. Titled “They Want My Soul,” the band’s eighth full-length won’t arrive until Aug. 5, but several new songs have popped up in shows over the past month, including the snarling and steadily building first single, “Rent I Pay.”
“I think it sort of takes all the best aspects of our previous records and wraps them all up into one,” Eno humbly bragged. “I’ve had a few friends who’ve heard it tell me, ‘It sounds like you guys had a lot of fun making this one,’ and that’s definitely true. We were excited to be playing together again.”
Eno said the band members felt burned out from touring for their last one, 2010’s “Transference” (which showed no creative fatigue). “We all felt like we had to take a step back and get away from it for a while,” he said.
They had been steadily making albums every other year or so, going back to 2001. That’s the year Spoon famously rebounded from a snaky deal with Elektra Records to land at Merge Records, the North Carolina indie label that Arcade Fire would later ride in on. After five albums with Merge, though, Spoon has signed with Universal-aligned imprint Loma Vista, which also put out St. Vincent’s latest record.
“We’re still a band that wants our music heard by as many people as possible,” Eno said.
Another relatively new turn for the band was working with producers from outside Austin: Strokes collaborator Joe Chiccarelli and Flaming Lips cohort Dave Fridmann. The band has also picked up a fifth member, guitarist Alex Fischel, who played with Daniel in Divine Fits.
“He’s like having a young Angus Young in the band and just adds that kind of energy,” said Eno, who also voiced his love for Divine Fits. “Their live shows were especially great, and I think that’s the main thing Britt is carrying over back into Spoon: He’s really excited about playing shows again and making our live show as good as it’s ever been.”