Photo Credit: Jesika Gatdula
Those deep in the indie scene already know what Spencer Hoffman can do as you’ve heard him in Honyock, but now it’s time to get to know him as he embarks on a solo endeavor with his debut “Like a Bird.” We talked about lessons learned that continue to rise to the surface today, whether or not poetry is an essential part of a musician’s life, and more with this Los Angeles-based wonder.
Kendra: Thinking back to when you first started in Honyock, what do you think has been the most significant thing that’s changed about how you approach music, and what’s one lesson you learned then that you still pull from today?
Spencer Hoffman: When me and my brother first started, everything was about the show. Most of my energy was put into how songs came across live. I was very angsty and bombastic. I had ideas of how our recordings should sound but didn’t know how to get there, which is why it took almost 6 years to make our first proper record. I found myself obsessing over recording/mixing techniques since then, and how to prove my worth with what I had learned.
Now with everything I do I have resigned myself to enjoy the process as much as possible. The major element is not caring how an imaginary audience will receive it and having your own reasons for chasing this sound or another. It’s good to treat making music as you would cooking a meal for yourself. You know what you like, it’s the only thing you know. I think I started out doing it for myself and am coming back around to that sense of focus.
Kendra: Branching out on your own with “Like a Bird,” did you have any initial struggle to do something that was entirely you?
Spencer Hoffman: I always had my own thing on the side. I used to make music under the pseudonym Holly Le Babe. It was always quick experiments with one way to record or another. But there came a time when the music was entirely too personal to feel right releasing it under a pseudonym, so I just didn’t put it out there. Putting stuff out under my own name definitely has a feeling of ownership that I haven’t allowed myself before. It is scary at times, because you have to deal with a fair amount of rejection. But if you make the music in the right headspace to start with, I’ve found all that superficial stuff falls by the wayside at the end of the day.
Kendra: You’ve noted you were inspired by a poem by Percey Bysshe Shelley. Have you always been an avid poetry reader?
Spencer Hoffman: I’ve always been an avid lyric Googler and liner notes reader, but I wouldn’t say I was an avid poetry reader until my 20s. My dad read a lot of fables and poetry to me and my brother when we were kids, which I can imagine manifested in our obsession with lyrics as an extension of that oral tradition. In college I found the words to describe the feeling of sublimity through music in a James Baldwin short story “Sonny’s Blues,” and since then have chased it in poetry. Any means of designing a thought into words in such a way where the form is obliterated and you are left with the pure conveyance of that feeling is what I’m interested in.
Kendra: Do you think reading poetry and being a musician just goes hand in hand?
Spencer Hoffman: Not necessarily. But I find poems to be a source of inspiration for sure.
I think a way of looking at songwriting is a mixed media collage between poetry and music. Both elements have expressive potential on their own, and should be treated with equal reverence, but the combination and interaction between the two can produce a sum greater than the parts. And it seems all the better when it happens unconsciously.
Kendra: As for the video, you went back to near where you’re from for “Like a Bird.” Were these fields you spent time in as a kid because it gave me sort of Winnie the Pooh vibes with you being Christopher Robin…
Spencer Hoffman: Haha! Yeah fields like that are what surrounded me growing up. Blue oaks and fields of grass that are usually yellowed by the sun. There is a time every year where the grass is green and it looks like another country. Those trees provided the Miwuk tribes a lot of resources for thousands of years, particularly in the form of acorn meal. There are grinding stones around where I grew up with bowls ground into the rockface from making the acorn meal. When you are a kid it’s easy to take your surroundings for granted, but when life takes you away from that place it means a lot more just to be in that familiar landscape among these things that have presided over the land for ages before you were around. It helps put things in perspective.
Kendra: With it being March, I’d love to know what song you feel lucky enough to have heard in your lifetime? Like, what’s a song you’re thankful has existed while you’ve been here?
Spencer Hoffman: “Good Vibrations” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” were the first songs that gave me synesthetic experiences as a kid. I’m deeply indebted to them. I’m lucky enough to have heard “Only Sorrow Remains” by Tré Burt, and anything else by him while I’m alive.
Kendra: Lastly, with “Like a Bird” out – what can fans both new and old be on the lookout for from you in the coming months?
Spencer Hoffman: There is an EP out in the world I am very proud of, and a record ready to go. Hopefully more shows as the world allows and always more music.