Three decades later, the Spin Doctors are still delivering the goods
Aaron Comess felt good about the new band he joined in 1988. They called themselves the Spin Doctors, and while you don’t make too many long-term plans at 20, he figured he was in this for the long haul.
“I said, ‘I’m gonna give this a couple years,’” laughs Comess.
It’s 2018, and on November 8, the Spin Doctors will be celebrating their 30th anniversary at Brooklyn Bowl. And no, the band’s drummer says it doesn’t feel like three decades have passed.
“Not at all,” he said. “You know how time is — if you think about it, so much stuff has happened, but yet I honestly feel like I just moved to New York. I moved to New York in the fall of 1988, and I was going to the New School, where I met Chris (Barron) and Eric (Schenkman). So I had only been in town about a month when Eric told me he was putting a band together. It seems like the blink of an eye.”
That’s the way you get into the New York groove, and from the start, Comess believed that this group wasn’t like the ones he played in back in his native Texas or in New England when he studied at Berklee.
“I thought these guys had a lot of talent,” said Comess. “Eric was a great guitar player and Chris, out of all of us, was the most inexperienced. He was the young, quirky songwriter guy, but I saw right away that he had this real natural talent.”
Finding a bass player that fit proved to be an issue early on, but once Mark White stepped in, it all clicked.
“As soon as we got Mark in the band, that’s when we realized it was totally happening,” he said.
The goal of the band was simple.
“Our whole thing from the beginning was to write our own music and to make a living doing it,” he said. “That was it, and it’s still it.”
And that was the key, because unlike many bands — then and now — this quartet was focused on being working musicians, with the emphasis being on work. It wasn’t a gig every few weeks with the hopes of a record label exec showing up. It was five nights a week in the Big Apple.
“We were really hungry and we worked our asses off,” Comess said. “We toured and played gigs and did what we wanted to do and a huge part of the success was that we didn’t give up.”
With a unique sound, hooks for days and top-notch musicianship, those record company folks came around, and while the band wanted to get their music out to the world, they weren’t about to sacrifice their values for it.
“To me, the best music and the music that I think will last and stand the test of time is music that is truly honest from the people that create it,” Comess said. “We’ve always had this honesty about what we do, and we’ve always done what we’ve wanted to do. Anytime anybody tried to give us a suggestion about what we should do or what our music should sound like or what we should look like, we would just completely laugh at them. And we’ve been like that from the very beginning. We were very much a self-sufficient band from the beginning and when we started to get interest from managers and record companies, we maintained that throughout.”
It was a gamble, but it worked, and if you were around a radio or television in 1992, a year after their debut studio album Pocket Full of Kryptonite was released, you couldn’t get away from “Two Princes” or “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.” And 30 years later, those songs sound as fresh as they did then.
“We’ve always wanted to have an organic sound,” Comess said. “We never wanted to try to fit into whatever trend was happening in music, and it was a great time to be a rock and roll band in the early and mid 90s because the music scene was changing and all of a sudden there was a big interest in bands like us. All of a sudden the radio was playing it and you could kind of become mainstream again, which hadn’t been the case for a while. And the kind of music we liked and the way we wanted our sound to be, it just worked.”
It still does, something fans at Brooklyn Bowl will find out when Comess, Barron, Schenkman and White take the stage tomorrow night. So for all those aspiring bands out there, what’s the secret?
“You gotta go out and play,” Comess said. “That’s how you’re gonna get good. It’s different than rehearsing. And there’s no better way to have a career than by having fans and meeting people, and that comes from playing gigs. That’s the way.”
The Spin Doctors play Brooklyn Bowl in Brooklyn, NY on Thursday, November 8. For more information, click here
For more information on the Spin Doctors, click here