Hudson Valley, New York’s Spoils System are a quartet comprised of Sean Hansen (guitar, vocals), Dan Coutant (vocals, guitar, keys), David Fateman (bass), and Mark Frankel (drums). Their debut full length, Smoke Signals, is a split release between Florida’s New Granada Records and the band’s own imprint Cynical Trials and sees release on May 26 via streaming and vinyl formats.
Hansen and Coutant’s gift for writing melodic and often beautifully discordant indie rock was first displayed in the mid-to-late ’90s emo outfit Joshua (Doghouse Records). After three albums, a handful of EPs, and U.S./EU support slots with The Get Up Kids and At the Drive-In, the group quietly disbanded in 2002 to pursue other projects throughout the coming years.
Both living their lives as audio engineers, Coutant and Hansen eventually reconnected to form Spoils System as a creative outlet when the world shut down in 2020. Home recordings were molded into songs as the two passed ideas back and forth over the web. They enlisted old friend and acclaimed producer J.Robbins (Clutch, The Sword, The Promise Ring, Braid, Jets to Brazil) to mix the bulk of the album’s 10songs, while also recruiting producer/composer Alap Momin (Dälek) to mix the group’s dancier offerings (“Clunker,” “YOU,” and “Smoke Signals”) and Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla handling the mixing board on “Glower.”
Janet Morgan (Channels) contributed guest lead vocals on “Identify.” The subsequent album is a euphonic blend of psych-rock, chamber pop, indie rock, and soul that distills the countless musical influences that have been collected by the two over their vast careers.
Today, the band share “Spineless,” a track that nods to Tears For Fears and The Smiths, ’90s shoegaze luminaries like Drop Nineteens, and more recent indie-rock wave makers like Brother Tiger.
“‘Spineless’ is a story about an insecure person who constantly projects on friends and loved ones,” Coutant says.
“I was totally going for a Johnny Marr thing with that main warbling, modulated rhythm guitar part. I saw in our texts that I said the chorus had ‘British tension’ when I was first sharing my parts with Dan,” Hansen adds.
Purchase the album here.
Photo courtesy of Meredith Silverman.