Interview: Spector's Fred Macpherson

Considering his loud dress sense, thicker-than-thick rounded glasses and occasional habit for bringing pizza on stage, Spector frontman Fred Macpherson is a surprisingly thoughtful and self-deprecating sort of person. "A song like Celestine or a song like Chevy Thunder - I would have killed to be able to write at 17 or 18," he says, sipping from a can of cider in the dressing room at Glasgow's Oran Mor.

We're talking about the lukewarm reception to the band's debut album, Enjoy It While It Lasts. While solid and filled with catchy numbers, it wears influences like The Strokes, The Killers and Editors too boldly on its sleeve. Frankly, Macpherson doesn't mind dismissal, so long as it's justified. "A lot of that criticism was valid, but then the question you ask yourself is: 'just because something sounds like it's from another time, does that make it bad?'

"The Vaccines are a great band, but they're a retro band out-and-out. They just picked their references from a time it's acceptable to pick from, in the same way that if a band comes out now and sounds like Black Sabbath, everyone would think 'you're really cool'. I think many thought my references were just a bit too recent, and that makes them unacceptable. I can see why reviewers and journalists don't like the idea of something that's just about been gotten rid of suddenly happening again."

Enjoy It While It Lasts is a forty minute jaunt through the indie disco explosion of the mid-Noughties, a smattering of synth and reverb-tinged, sing-a-long friendly choruses, every song doting on love and girls and awkwardness and broken hearts. "[Love] was very much the theme that permeates through the album, but for me, the idea of romance is having faith in love," says Fred, bending the conversation towards philosophy. "I think we all believe in the power of love - not just the ABC album - but also the very concept itself. It's a bit like X-Files: I want to believe that there is this all-encompassing love which can slay you and take over your whole life, because if there isn't then I don't see any reason to live.

"Whatever you do in life, whether you're trying to get somewhere in a job, or trying to find a house - the be-all and end-all is not being alone, I think. I think this album is… set to the backdrop of growing up and going out but always with this kind of ultimate goal, whether some people want to get wasted and get laid, or want to find a girlfriend; you don't want to sleep alone."

Growing into maturity is a hot topic for Macpherson himself. Songs such as the already-mentioned Chevy Thunder and Celestine are rooted in his teenage years, much like the sound of the album itself. But doesn't Enjoy It While It Lasts come across as foreboding, as if warning people that they're going to grow old and die? "A lot of the lyrics come across as nostalgic but the message isn't meant to be 'what's happened to the good times'. Maybe the mindset I have when I'm writing songs is that I'm writing it as my 17, 18 year-old self, and I'm telling my younger self or the younger people who listen to us - or myself at this age, or older people who listen to us, from ten to sixty - to actually make the most of what's there. It's always so easy to look back or to fear what's coming, but really there can be so much joy in the moment, even if it's something as mundane as a game of table football or buying a magazine that you enjoy reading the day it comes out. The lyrics can be quite depressing if they're taken from that angle but it's not a warning, more just daring people to just be and just to enjoy being: not enjoy it while it lasted - not 'you should've made the most of it' - it's still here, it's still around us. Let's make the most of it now."

The conversation keeps returning to his youth, and as Macpherson confides, he wasn't quite ready to grow up until Spector's first album became a reality. After working for a spell at MTV2 as a presenter, interviewing the likes of Interpol, Kings of Leon and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, he realised that he was running out of time to fulfil a teenage dream, and create the sort of album that he had wanted to create since the days of his first band, the Libertines-inspired Les Incompétents. It became almost therapeutic.

"I knew I'd always regret it if I didn't make an indie rock album, the core of the album I'd wanted to make as a teenager and would basically fulfil my teenage fantasies, and at the same time would help me lyrically to deal with everything that I'd experienced in that time. It was perfect to set the lyrics of growing up the last ten years across the backdrop of the music that I loved as a kid, and still do love, but know is less relevant now. As our music evolves, people will see why we're relevant to now but I think this album, as brilliant as I think it is, isn't the newest in new, or on the cutting edge. We've been more successful than I thought we would be. I'm happy with all the skeletons coming out the closet. 

"If anything, it's like opening your subconscious and letting it vomit it everywhere and if people say that's a bit uncool then yeah, it's uncool. The great thing is we're not trying to be cool - I've done that in the past and I'm sure I'll do it again - but this album, it's just being honest. I feel free. Even if no-one had bought it, I don't have anything hanging over me, I don't have any regrets. I always dreamed of going on Jools Holland, I went on Jools Holland; I always dreamed of playing Reading and Leeds, played Reading and Leeds - it's that simple. It's not saying this is the end of the process by any stretch of the imagination - it's not - but no-one saying anything bad about this album, even if all the reviews had been 1/10, could have upset me, because it's allowed me to live out my really quite relatively medium-sized ambition."

Macpherson is something of a character when you sit with him long enough, as with the half-hour spent in his company for this interview. He's relaxed, a little tired - by the end of 2012 Spector will have played 200 shows - but ultimately friendly, down-to-earth and gently grateful for what he has going. Infamously quoted as saying that the ideal Spector fan "has a lot of money to spend on merchandise and multiple copies of our records", he is actually a little more grateful when posed with the right question. He sees Spector as a hugely personal project, but ultimately knows, at the end of the day, that the band owes a debt to those invested in them.

"The second someone spends a pound on you they're kind of a shareholder - not in your future but, for me, in your present. And with each choice you make you're basically dictating to them that that shareholder is going to remain a shareholder, e.g. someone that buys this album might not buy our next one, or they might come to a show and buy a t-shirt, and they're basically a big stockholder because they've got £30 invested in us. If someone had heard one song and kind of likes it then it's not about money, but it's about time and emotional investment. If someone goes on our Facebook every day, I believe we're working with our fans.

"[But] we're not a boutique service. We're not made to order. We're making mass produced, great things, like, y'know, Christian Dior or whatever. But if it came to the crunch and someone was like 'Would you do Chevy Thunder, like another song like Chevy Thunder one more time for me, just for me?' I'd say well…y'know, if you're a big corporation who can necessitate that by the medium of money or friendship then…yeah, I dunno! I write songs for ourselves but we want to entertain people, so we're here to entertain. But we need to entertain ourselves first and foremost, and then we look into our crowd."

With a crowd now following them and ageing as they age, it will be interested to see where Spector goes next now that Macpherson's teenage dreams and anxieties have been put to bed. For the next music, whatever it is, Macpherson is sure just a handful of things: it won't be an electro album, and he won't delve into the world of prog as he did with the still-active Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man. "I'd like to do more with them and they're doing different bands as well, but me and Shaun [Paterson, guitarist in the band] still talk a lot about doing [something]. 

"Not a month goes by when I don't go back and listen to Yes or King Crimson and stuff and again, I understand why it belongs in the past. I understand why prog had to end and why punk came out. I don't think it's necessarily a good thing but I understand culturally why that happened: it's a story that's been overtold a million times in every stupid documentary about punk. I will be making prog rock music again in the future and I'm sure it will be equally as marginalised as it was before and people will be as uninterested as they were, but it's a great outlet. It's something I really enjoy and I can't wait to have some time to sit down and get some people together and write some 12 minute songs about gladiators and dragons and stuff."

Whatever the next work will be, Macpherson doesn't want it to be misinterpreted as being purely about the melodies: he feels that the lyrics stand up on their own, and that "you could have some ape play them on acoustic guitar" and have them stand up on their own. "One thing I do know is that, song-wise, that's what's going to drive us - writing songs and then working out how they're meant to sound afterwards. I don't think another album will sound as indie but equally I don't think we're ever going to self-consciously move in a single direction. It will be the same romantic songwriting influenced by whatever we're influenced by at that time."

As we wrap up the interview, a few hours before he and the rest of the band are due to take to the Oran Mor stage, I dare to suggest that he's becoming something of a celebrity, having received several marriage proposals on Twitter to pass on whilst fielding questions. He laughs a little, but dismisses any thoughts of becoming an idol. "If being in a band makes it more likely that you can find someone who is worth marrying then maybe that's a good thing. I imagine my wife, my future wife, won't necessarily be a live music fan. Maybe she will be! Maybe she will. I don't know."

The room empties out as the rest of the band depart for another interview, and the chat boils down to what it is - two reasonably ordinary people talking over drinks. His words start ring clearer in the newly birthed silence. "At the moment," he says, pausing for a second, "what's great about this is we can do the music and we can have fun and go on tour and then kind of go home, and go back to being nobodies where we live. Whether people are successful or not you know your friends - their lives are more important to them and that's always made for good friends-  aren't really caring about what you're up to or what your status is or isn't."

"I don't think anyone being in a band should give anyone great status, he says, smiling a little. "Unless you're in The Strokes. Then you should be treated like a god."

Spector are touring the UK through October and November. http://www.ents24.com/web/artist/132283/Spector.html

Enjoy It While It Lasts is out now.