By Reyan Ali
10:40 AM EST, February 13, 2013
The Spinto Band
w/ M.T. Bearington. Free, 9 p.m., Feb. 20. BAR, 254 Crown St., New Haven, manicproductions.org
Nick Krill can't quite remember when or where he heard Free Beer first, but recalling what he thought of them comes without hesitation. The year was 1997 (or maybe 1996), and Krill might have been listening to the group's tape in his high school's music room. "I was like, 'Oh my gosh, these guys are the best ever,'" he says. Krill, who had been starting to work on music alone, was "impressed like crazy."
Free Beer — which were made up of schoolmates who had been playing together since age 12 or younger — eventually asked Krill to join them for a rehearsal, and he was ecstatic. He would visit Thomas Hughes' mother's house on Good Friday 1998 and make his earliest recording with the group — one captured on a four-track recorder in a small home studio — on that occasion. He spent the rest of the weekend waiting for Monday so he could talk tunes with these friends again.
Krill would fully ingratiate himself in this circle, becoming part of Free Beer, who would become the Spinto Band. The group's second name stems from Krill's grandfather Roy Spinto, a fellow who penned original lyrics on Cracker Jack boxes. The Spinto Band would make a habit of spending weekends playing video games (specifically, Nintendo consoles), creating silly homemade videos (including a spoof of "The Real World" and a horror mystery flick) and recording songs. They accumulated cassette after cassette of songs with some tracks barely lasting 40 seconds and then kept the squad going through and after college. Today, Krill is the Spinto Band's vocalist/guitarist and a phone interview subject while on tour in France.
Being so prolific has its downsides: Krill has no idea where Cool Cocoon, the latest record from the Wilmington, Del.-rooted indie pop five-piece, falls in their prolific recording lineage. He calls it their fourth initial release since the band began taking things seriously after college, and Cool Cocoon's music ties into that trajectory. "I feel like this album in particular took everything we learned, say, since 2005 'til now where we kind of became a more professional group and then mixed it with everything that we did between 1998 and 2005 just as friends hanging out and making music, and combined those two things in the best ways that we can," Krill says. This translates to them matching the lo-fi, warbly elements of their primordial material with a band that have made a serious go at things. Cocoon also continues the thread of sparser arrangements the band shot for with 2012's Moonwink. In "Look Away," this materializes as a single woozy, summery guitar line, vocals and few other supporting details. Much like Miniature Tigers (who coincidentally collaborated with the Spinto Band on a cover of Harry Nilsson's "Me and My Arrow"), they have a knack for fine-tuned, precise pop with a dash of bitterness to cut the delectably tuneful sugar. In confection terms, the Spinto Band's music is dark chocolate disguised under a bright red wrapper.
Now 30 and having been part of a deeply independent indie outfit for nearly half his life, he has trouble thinking of things he wants the Spinto band to achieve. "At this point, it's just still solidifying a career. Solidifying making a living is sort of the big ambition," Krill says. "There's no real big musical goal we're working to. I feel like my musical goals come at a pace I can keep up with. There's never anything out of grasp."