Sometimes crafting a band name takes thoughtful consideration of the themes and style of the band’s sound, the product of lengthy discussion of just how the group wants to be perceived. Other times, it comes from busted equipment. When Daniel Lyon (vocals, guitar, bass, keys) and Chris Moore (bass, guitar, keys) saw Terence Ankeny (drums, guitar, keys) break his drum head and kick on the same day, Lyon told him, “You get the spirit award.” With that, Spirit Award was born.
The band had difficulty finding a name because they hadn’t yet figured out their sound, and since their inception, their music has evolved drastically. “I think over the last two years we really dialed in our sound… four years ago there was no solid sound or idea of what we were as a band. There was always a vibe but it took a couple years till we really were able to nail in our personal stamp of a sound.”
Spirit Award describes this sound as, “spatial noise with substance. We go for a wall of sound approach but try to enact pop sensibilities…our style is more on the lines of Post Punk/Shoegaze/Psych.” Their influences are broad and have recently consisted of New Order, Can, Bauhaus, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Kraftwerk. They’re frequently compared to The Chameleons, Television, and krautrock bands like Can. Moore adds, “For some reason we have been getting a lot of early U2 comparisons circa their Boy album, I think it’s some of the reverbed out guitar tones from that record.”
All three members of Spirit Award contribute to the writing process and, aside from Lyon doing the majority of vocals and lyrics, the group is pretty fluid and often trades instruments while coming up with new music. Moore says they enjoy not feeling limited by one instrument or role within the band. Recently the trio challenged their music making abilities by writing and recording a new song on the spot in their studio, a memory that Moore says is their favorite as a band. He goes on to explain the song was tracked live, “with no click or headphones and it came out so natural and felt really good. It was awesome to step away from some of the confines of the studio and just let a song form organically.” Their writing is occasionally influenced by people’s stories as Moore, Ankeny, and Lyon all bartend. Their interactions with customers “can sometimes help spark some creativity, or help fuel some lyrics.”
Their first album, Neverending, was released in October of last year. The name turned out to be quite fitting as Moore says it took quite a while to finalize their debut release. He explains that during production several large life events happened which enabled Neverending to fully develop. “We took all this energy from what was going on in our personal lives and channeled it into the record which is why I think there is so much emotion and feeling in it. After all, a death of a loved one, divorce and robbery all happening in the same year were a lot.”
Spirit Award is currently working on a new album to be released early autumn 2018, so they have fewer shows than usual in the coming months. They look forward to playing The Fisherman’s Village Music Festival in Everett this weekend because “the lineup this year is so good and we are honored to be on the bill with some great bands.” You can expect high volume and high energy from them as Moore says the end goal of a Spirit Award show is ensuring the crowd leaves, “with some sort of hearing damage.” He further explains, “We tend go for a wall of sound can only function at high volumes.”
As of late, the trio’s main challenge is a combination of finances and schedules. Due to inflated Seattle living prices, each member is working extra to afford rent, practice space, van insurance, and other band (and life) expenses. Funding all of this has left their schedules full, so writing is often done in the late night and early morning.
With financial challenges, bands must carefully look at promotion to reach a solid audience. Spirit Award maintains various social media platforms (with the exception of Twitter) and says that the blessing of the internet in the music business is that so many artists are available for the public to consume. The curse, of course, is that it makes profit difficult to achieve since album sales decline due to this availability. Though it is possible to make a profit with streaming services, applications like Spotify don’t generate a profit for artists until your monthly plays reach the millions.
To artists (both established and aspiring) Moore says to, “keep making art, no matter how hard it is at times. We need positive art and ideas that spark conversations, movements and bring people joy.” He has a lot to add for aspiring musicians and advises them to define the intention of their music. Decide if you’re creating for fun or are in search of a career. “I think the biggest thing is to make something you love, something that makes you feel, that spark that makes you go ‘I wrote that! And damn proud to share this with people’. Be honest and write from your heart and what you know, use what you have around you to inspire you.” Additionally, he advises not to be afraid to let go of a song you have written. “Sometimes a song is great, but it’s not you or your sound or maybe it’s better for a different project, but ultimately not us as a band. It’s also kind of a beautiful thing to write something that no one will hear.”
Spirit Award’s favorite thing about Ballard is that, compared to Downtown or Capitol Hill, “time always slows a bit in Ballard… It’s a nice little change from our normal routines to mill about Ballard” Their favorite spots are The Tractor Tavern, Sonic Boom, The Sunset, and Hazelwood.
You can find Spirit Award on Spotify, Bandcamp, and Soundcloud.
Spirit Award is very grateful to all those who have supported them in any way and gives thanks to their manager, Ryan Crowther, who continues to push them to continue making music, staying organized, and making connections in the music world.