Features, Print July 10, 2019

Don’t Keep It Like A Secret: Built To Spill Comes To The Mish

by Kyle Eustice

Just the band name Built To Spill is endlessly clever. In a 2015 BandWagon interview with Built To Spill frontman Doug Martsch, he admitted it’s one of his claims to fame. 

“When it comes to this career, I’m probably most proud of that name more than anything,” Martsch told us. “It just rolls off the tongue.”

Fast-forward four years later and Built To Spill has just wrapped up a European tour. The Idaho-based outfit’s last album, Untethered Moon, was released in 2015, which was followed by an extensive North American tour. Martsch notes there’s only one subtle difference about playing shows overseas. 

“The audience responses seem about the same in Europe as they do in the United States,” he says. “The main difference is that they sing along even worse.” 

Built To Spill emerged in the early ‘90s from the ashes of Martsch’s now-defunct band, Treepeople. He’d wanted to start his own band since he was an ambitious high school student. 

“When I was a teenager, I discovered punk rock and the local hardcore scene, and that’s what inspired me to start a band,” he explains. “State Of Confusion was the best Boise band. Caustic Resin and Dirt Fishermen were also influential to me.” 

Built To Spill was ultimately grouped in with the “Northwest sound” cultivated by artists such as Modest Mouse, Dinosaur Jr. and Mudhoney, a result of being signed to Up Records. Although Built To Spill ultimately left and signed with Warner Bros., they managed to always retain their independence. After eight albums, the group (comprised of Martsch and revolving door of members) is still thriving and a definite mainstay in the indie rock world. Martsch jokes that it’s because he’s so easily entertained. 

“The main key is, of course, luck,” he says. “But there’s also the fact that I am so simple, I don’t get bored playing these songs over and over again.” 

But to some Built To Spill fans, another reason Martsch is so revered in the music community is due to the “uniqueness” of his inimitable, essentially iconic voice. 

As Martsch revealed during the 2015 conversation with BandWagon, he’s come to terms with it being “different.”

“I’ve kind of just given up,” he admitted then. “I think for a long time, I wanted to mold it into something I liked. I think I just gave up and accepted it how it is. I struggled for a long time to leave it unique, but to also have a little more control over it and push it where I want it go. 

“The uniqueness is whatever because I was born with it. Every once in a while it will sound good to me. I’m still trying to figure out how to get into that zone because it’s not always there. The mechanics of singing are still kind of a mystery to me.”

In 2017, Built To Spill announced via Facebook they’d split with Warner Bros. and would be taking over their own management. Still, Martsch and company have hit the road on the Keep It Like A Secret Tour, a massive 80-date run to celebrate the anniversary of 1999’s Keep It Like A Secret, the band’s fourth studio album and second with Warner Bros. They’ll hit NoCo with a rare performance at the Mishawaka Amphitheatre in Poudre Canyon on July 26. Tickets are available at mishawaka.ticketforce.com/ and start at $25.