Built to Spill, which will headline A Ship in the Woods Music and Arts Festival (WSOHOIDPS), which is slated for Saturday and Sunday at Felicita County Park, is all about playing fests. “Those events are always a great time,” vocalist-guitarist Doug Martsch says. “Not only do you get to perform. You get to see all of these cool bands you don’t normally have the chance to see.”
Bill Callahan of Smog fame, Shabazz Palaces, Treepeople, Hiron Cone and EMA, are just some of the many recording artists on the bill. “It sounds like its going to be an amazing time,” Martsch says while calling from Pittsburgh. “I’m expecting to have a blast.”
Martsch is enjoying life as an independent recording artist. The quirky vocalist- guitar hero’s band Built to Spill was signed to Warner Brothers for 20 years. After releasing seven albums for the corporate entity, Martsch and his bandmates are enjoying life as independent rockers.
“It’s cool having no agenda,” Martsch says. “We’re not close to releasing an album and it’s fine. We don’t have any label plans at all and it’s good. What’s great about where we are now is that we’re just plugging away and focusing on the music. Nothing else matters right now. An album will come out eventually but there is no shortage of Built to Spill material.”
Martsch is on the money. The band has released a number of acclaimed guitar-driven albums, such as 1997’s “Perfect From Now On,” 2009’s “There is No Enemy” and 1999’s “Keep It Like a Secret.”
The latter remains a fan favorite since the songs are cerebral, dense and atmospheric. The cuts feature inventive guitar lines and occasionally humorous lyrics. “So much came together during the making of that album,” Martsch says. “The songs still sound fresh and timeless because of the production. It was a very cool time for the band because we finally connected with an audience.”
However, Built to Spill nearly broke up after touring behind “Keep It Like a Secret.” It would have been an unusual move considering the band’s profile was rising.
“On paper it doesn’t make sense but the reality was that I was burnt out in my late ‘+20s playing with this band,” Martsch says. “It happens since we’re human. “I made a solo record and spent time away from the band. But we got together not long after I made the solo album.”
It’s never been about fame for Martsch and Built to Spill, which also includes bassist Jason Albertini and drummer Steve Gere, since the group formed during the early ‘90s, which was the era of the reluctant rock star. There were a number of slacker rock bands, such as Pavement and the Replacements, who wrote about their reluctance to be rock stars.
“I don’t know if young people can understand it but there was a time in which being famous was not priority,” Martsch said. “You just focused on your craft. You didn’t need more than that. Things have changed a lot”
Martsch can’t help but notice how many young band’s lead instrument is the Mac Book. “That’s funny but true,” Martsch says. “When you see that you might think that the guitar is on the way out but that’s not true at all. The guitar bands are surviving and they’re here to stay. People talk about genres disappearing but nothing will go away. Bluegrass will be here 100 years from now and there will be people jamming away on guitar. I’ll be playing guitar in this band for years to come. I can’t think of anything better to do.”
Built to Spill will headline A Ship in the Woods Music and Arts Festival, which is slated for Saturday and Sunday at Felicita County Park, 23007 Feicita Rd., Escondido. Bill Callahan, Shabazz Palaces, EMA, Treepeople Willis Earl Beal, Tara Jane O’Neil, Lonnie Holley, Moon Diagrams, Drew McDowall, Ice Balloons, Hiro Kone, Cafe Ale, Sun Foot, Pall Jenkins, Lori Goldston, Hexa, Spooky Cigarette and Island Boy will perform. Tickets are $60 general admission, $100 weekend pass, $100 1-day VIP pass, $180 weekend VIP pass. Show time is 11 a.m. For more information, 858-349-2636.www.shipfest.org/tickets