An Oral History Of Spoon Second
One year ago, on December 8, 2016, Spoon Second appeared on The Hairpin for the first time. The temperature in New York City was 44 degrees Fahrenheit and the clouds were scattered. It was an odd period in America. Terror sat on the chests of those with a conscience, fear and dread filled every breath. This was because, until that point, Spoon Second had not yet existed. This was corrected on December 8, 2016.
Spoon is from Texas. Kelly is from Pennsylvania. Brian is from New Jersey. It is not unfair to say it took a bit of a confluence of fate to bring them together, perhaps something written in the stars. The precariousness of each of our lots in life is chilling if you spend too much time thinking about it, and the same can be said of Spoon Second. A missed train, a butterfly wing, an errant crack in the sidewalk. Each could have stepped in to alter their path, to change their course, to pilfer the future like a hungry thief with nothing to lose. And yet those things did not.
Spoon Second exists. This is how it happened.
Knock Knock Knock
Kelly Conaboy, Spoon Second founder: Before I knew Brian, I knew Brian liked Spoon. At one point someone referred to him as either “the other media Spoon fan” or maybe even “the media Spoon fan,” which made me dislike him instantly. Who is this person who thinks he likes Spoon? I like Spoon.
Brian Feldman, Spoon Second founder: I knew Kelly liked Spoon. I remember that before one of the New York shows in maybe 2015 she was tweeting “Metal Detektor” at the band every day and then they played it? That’s true power. I also knew that Kelly wrote for the “Gum” family of websites, and that Stereogum has, historically, covered Spoon more closely than almost any other music site.
Kelly: I don’t remember when I had the idea to do Spoon Second with Brian, but I do know that I have a draft in my gmail from August 23, 2016, the subject line of which is “blog idea” and the body of which reads, “every so often want to do a thing that’s ‘conversations about spoon,’ I gchat you and we have a real short conversation about spoon and then I put it on the hairpin. going to be hard for you to say no to this request.”
I’m not sure why I did not send this email. Perhaps it is my persistent, crushing fear of success. Luckily on December 8, 2016, while sitting in the office of the freshly-launched website The Outline, I did send this email:
Brian: It was an instant yes. I mean, I had to Gchat for like, three seconds about Spoon and then that would become content? That’s great.
Kelly: Once I gchatted Brian it immediately became clear to me that we had gchatted before, because there was more chatting in the gchat box than just the chatting we were doing right then. I had forgotten that Brian tried out as a Gawker writer one weekend in 2014 while I was working at Gawker and that, for that weekend, I had to act as his guide.
Nevertheless, the relationship felt fresh. What better way to start the series, I thought, than by discussing our favorite songs?
Brian: I really admired that the first Spoon Sec really just went for it, by asking us about the favorite song. Was it surprising that Kelly liked “Metal Detektor,” the song she tweeted at the band to play all the time? No.
Kelly: I have to admit I was a little surprised that Brian’s favorite song was “Cherry Bomb.” Not exactly a deep cut, but, you know, it is a very great song. I also love “Cherry Bomb.” It’s one of my favorites. When most of the instruments cut out and then come back in at 1:58? That’s really good. Aww life could be so fair let it go on and on— do, do, do. That’s one of my favorite Spoon parts overall.
Silvia Killingsworth, Awl and Hairpin editor: What’s insane is that I started thinking about Spoon Second and was like “Wow, what was the first Spoon Second?” And so I went back into the archives and found the latest one and scrolled down to the bottom because I know you (Kelly) have incredibly diligent accounting skills, and I just jumped right to the bottom post, Favorite Song. And then I noted the date. Huh! December 8th.
Taylor Berman, writer and Spoon Second contributor: I first heard about Spoon Second the afternoon of its launch, when several people emailed me about two writers who had expanded on the short Spoon review format I pioneered back in 2014. I was flattered by the imitation and also intrigued by the idea of two people talking very briefly about Spoon, instead of just one. It was also interesting to learn that Brian Feldman, who I had previously only known as the fastest runner in media league softball and a meme expert, was a huge Spoon fan. The first column was very good, with Kelly Conaboy correctly picking the tied* for best Spoon song, “Metal Detektor,” as her favorite. I became a regular reader, and now it’s one of my favorite weekly columns.
*Tied with “Anything You Want”
Kelly: I love that Spoon Second is so short, that was my main goal for it at the beginning. Spoon Second. Everything is so long and boring now, I hate it so much. I also hate reading anyone write about music. Spoon Second is a response to that. It is, above all, a coming together of hate and love. I didn’t imagine the response to it would be so great, but when you think about it, it makes sense.
Brian: Obviously, narrowcasting is so hot in media right now, and Spoon Second was on the cutting edge of this media revolution. You know those Tumblr blogs that are just a zillion gauzy GIFs of K-Pop stars? Spoon Second is like a version of that for working professionals. It respects their passion and their time.
Christina Rentz, Label Manager at Merge Records: As a daily reader of The Hairpin since the beginning, I was delighted to see on December 8, 2016 the birth of Spoon Second! My initial reaction was “Why didn’t I think of that first?!”
Alex Balk, Awl co-founder: The first time I heard about Spoon Second I was like, “What?” And then I saw it and I was like, “Wait, that’s it?” And each time after that I was like, “You’re kidding, right?”
Everything Hits At Once
Brian: I don’t think it was a coincidence that Hot Thoughts came out like 6 minutes after we started this project. I think Spoon was reading it and were like, “wow, this is getting a huge fan reaction, and we should capitalize on it with a stunning new album that is both reliably Spoon-y and pushes the band to new artistic frontiers.”
Kelly: Our timing was incredible. It took only one Second before we had to have an emergency Second to talk about a new Spoon song, the first peek at the then-forthcoming new Spoon album Hot Thoughts. We got to follow the release of the singles, the album. Aside from being great content, it’s an incredible historical document.
Jesse David Fox, Senior Editor at Vulture: People cared about Spoon’s last album, They Want My Soul, because it was positioned as a comeback record. Seemed like a lot of the excitement was used up, however, and no one was talking about how Spoon was putting out a new record again. No one until Kelly gchatted Brian. Now two people were talking about it.
Kelly: If we didn’t know already, which we did, but if we hadn’t, I think the Spoon new album news cycle would have made it clear that Spoon Second needed to be a lasting property on the site.
Alex Balk: People were emailing me and telling me they didn’t get Spoon Second and I was like, “Me either.” Strangers on the street stopped me and asked me if they were missing something and I’d have to be all, “If you are then so am I.” I heard from people I haven’t talked to since high school asking me to explain it, but of course I couldn’t.
Kelly: In January of 2017 I had the opportunity to interview Spoon. This of course made Brian extremely jealous. Every time I bring it up in conversation to make him jealous again, he claims he has a “never meet your heroes” policy, which extends to Spoon. OK. Ask him if he would meet Bruce Springsteen, is what I say to this. I bet the answer would be yes, just like the answer would be if he were to answer honestly about whether or not me interviewing Spoon made him extremely jealous.
Brian: God, you know, I’m very conflicted about this. I think my relationship to Spoon is a very “never meet your heroes” type of thing. I once shook Britt’s hand back at Brooklyn Bowl in 2013 when he was DJing and even then I was like terrified. I can’t imagine asking them questions about their art, and I certainly can’t imagine anyone in the band reading Spoon Second. As I recall, they were like, “UUuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhh” when Kelly mentioned the existence of the column.
Kelly: At one point during one of the many panic-induced lulls in the interview, Spoon asked what kind of things I write and, incorrectly, I took that moment to tell them about Spoon Second. I still have the audio of the interview and I unfortunately had to listen to 36 minutes of it to get to this moment and that was incredibly painful for me, anyway this is how it went:
Kelly: My friend and I just started a column on the Hairpin called Spoon Second that we do every week.
Britt Daniel: Called what?
Kelly: Spoon Second, the conceit is that we talk about Spoon for one second. His name is Brian Feldman, he’s like a … So anyway, that’s something that we do.
Britt: Talk about SPOON for one second?
Kelly: Spoon, your band.
Britt: Okay, just making sure I understood.
Jim Eno: So wait, what happens?
Alex Fischel: One second? So, it’s like you talk about—
Kelly: Yeah…it’s like three lines.
Alex: It’s just a, it’s like a…so like, that’s it.
Kelly: Yeah, it’s very small.
Jim: Okay, I got it, I got it.
Alex: I thought it was like you talked about something, and then then the requirement was you had to find some way it was related it to us.
Kelly: No, it’s very small.
Alex: I got it, okay.
Kelly: Everything online is just long and boring, so I just wanted something that was like—
Alex: So what’s an example of one of the—
Kelly: Umm the first one I think I just chatted him and asked what his favorite song was. He said “Cherry Bomb,” I said “Metal Detektor,” and that was the end.
Jim: Of the column.
I do hate it when interviewers include when their subjects laugh but as they say, exception proves the rule. The audio is a little garbled around the point where Alex says “I thought it was like you talked about something, and then then the requirement was you had to find some way it was related it to us,” so maybe he didn’t say exactly that, and maybe that explains why I responded “no” when actually that is exactly a description of Spoon Second.
You Gotta Feel It
Silvia Killingsworth: I seem to recall they got longer as they went on? Like Spoon Ten Seconds maybe? I don’t know we’re not on Medium anymore so I never know how long it takes to read anything anymore.
Brian: You know, the evolution of Spoon Second into Second(s), I think that was just catering what to fans wanted. Every time a new post went up, my Twitter mentions would be flooded with people saying stuff like “I wish this was longer!” and “More Spoon Second please!” and “Affirmative action is white genocide,” though I don’t think that last one is really related to Spoon Second as much as it’s just all of Twitter.
Stay Don’t Go
Lauren Waterman, friend of Spoon Second: I first became aware of Spoon Second on whatever day your first published Spoon Second, because I read the Hairpin every day. At first, I was excited, because I really love Spoon. But then I was like, whatever. I think it took a while for the true brilliance of Spoon Second to unfold, which is actually very different from Spoon. Like, even as late as the one titled “Should We Stop,” I was like, maybe?
Brian: “Should We Stop?” was really a pivotal moment, because I think it was the first time cracks started to show. Obviously we were getting a huge fan reaction and seeing hockey-stick growth on the site analytics, but it’s tough to stay on fire for such a sustained period of time. “Should We Stop?” is kind of like that Simpsons bit where Sideshow Bob steps on rakes, where the bit went on for so long that it went from funny to not funny to being funny again through sheer persistence.
Kelly: I really thought maybe we should stop. Ultimately, I’m glad we didn’t.
Lauren Waterman: Obviously I kept reading it anyway, probably because it doesn’t take very long, and all of a sudden maybe just a couple of months ago I started to get really into it. Like, I’d be excited if there was a new one, and it usually made me smile if not fully “LOL.” Now, I can go back and see that it was always as good as it is now, so I think it must just be something about the accumulation, like about your commitment to the project, that makes it so compelling?
Kelly: Of course, we wanted to include Spoon in this oral history, as the column is as much theirs as it is ours. Of course, Britt Daniel obliged. He is very kind. However, I do not know how to format his responses to my questions in a way that makes it seem like he is a part of the oral history, so here they are as an exclusive Spoon Second interview. Please take note of how unprecedented this is. Also please understand that I think he was so confused by the first thing I asked him (“Do you know Spoon Second exists?”) that he offered to be a guest on Spoon Second in the future, I think mainly to get out of answering the rest of the questions. I took him up on this offer for the future and also asked him to please answer the questions.
Written In Reverse
Brian: I think it was important for us to keep Spoon Second relevant to the broader conversation. Obviously we want a boost form the trending topics dominating the headlines, but it was also important to convey that Spoon doesn’t exist in a vacuum and neither does my love for them. GDPE was a good demonstration of how much Spoon has affected my thought process — every major decision gets filtered through, “What if Spoon did this?”
Kelly: Everyone is always asking me, “How do you come up with the Spoon Second topics? What is the process?” Well, you know. It’s different things. I look at the news. I look at what’s happening. I look to see if Spoon did anything recently. I look in my heart, I see what’s going on inside my brain. It’s not a set system, it’s not a science. It’s an art. It’s free association. It’s a dance.
Kelly: One thing I love about Spoon Second is how, without exception, everyone has their own favorite Spoon Second. For example, remember earlier when Britt said that his favorites were “Tough Love” and “Google Doc Phishing Email”? Those are really good ones. I love those, too. Recently Brian and I were getting drinks with another friend (Taylor Berman) and at one point me and Brian veered into discussing specific Spoon Seconds, saying what happened in them, and laughing at them, which I’m sure Taylor enjoyed very much. I think my favorites are “Suits” and “Should We Stop.” I also love “What Would Your Spoon Yearbook Quote Be?”
Brian: It’s hard to pick just one as a favorite. I think the one about Soft Effects EP is very good, I think the one about Spoon being on Ellen is a low-key insane conversation? And the one where I reveal that I watch Suits is now very prescient.
Kelly: But what are our friends’ and fans’ favorite Spoon Seconds? In putting together this oral history, I was very curious about this question, and also I was very curious about whether or not anyone knew Spoon Second existed, or, I mean, how our many friends and fans came to discover their favorite online series.
Corey Marra, friend of Spoon Second: I followed Kelly on Twitter at some point before Spoon Second was a thing (I think it was because of that donut piece?). So at some point, I noticed the Spoon Second banner in my Twitter feed. It looked… ridiculous. At first I thought it might be sarcastic? Also, who would do a regular column about Spoon? The only write-ups they ever get are the same articles every two years about how they’re “The most consistent group in indie rock! Did you know they’re from Austin, TX?!” But this is a real, special thing. It’s two fans/friends geeking out for a second (or a few, let’s be honest) over my favorite band every week. It’s genuine, silly, and sometimes barely about Spoon. It’s delightful. The Soft Effects second is my fav (loss lee dahs yeah). Hope Spoon Sec continues well into the future and at some point they’ll add up to at least a couple of Spoon Minutes.
Demi Adejuyigbe, friend of Spoon Second: I found Spoon Second because Brian tweeted a link to it, and I was in disbelief as to how much Spoon you could talk about in a second. Turns out, the answer is “a lot.” My favorite thing about Spoon Second is that Kelly and Brian seem to be on the same page almost every time. The best Spoon Seconds are the ones where they pose a question and then both of them agree almost instantly, and the entire thing is like three lines long. In fact, I think my favorite entry is “Should We Stop?” because of how inconsequential and non-combative it is. The perfect Spoon Second. And meta, even!
Burton Phillips, friend of Spoon Second: I’m almost positive I came across Spoon Second via Kelly’s interview with the band for Stereogum, and I was instantly hooked. Spoon is (are?) one of my favorite bands, and Kelly is one of my favorite writers, so it feels like a magical little internet treat that’s tailored to my specific interests. A selfish part of my always loves to see SSs that run a little long (“Spoon Yearbook Quote”) because hey, it’s more SS for my money! But my absolute favorite one sticks to the original temporal premise and it’s “Hot And Wild Thoughts.”
Colin Adams, friend of Spoon Second: I first discovered Spoon Second via the link at the top of your (Kelly’s) Stereogum interview with the band. I was happy that you got to hang out with your favorite band (Spoon) and I was also happy that I could now be reminded to think about Spoon for ~ 1 second, give or take, every once and a while. I like thinking about Spoon because my dad introduced me to them and I love my dad. I will show him Spoon Second someday soon.
Taylor Berman: The best Spoon Seconds that I can remember after glancing through the archives are Spoon Second With Kelly Conaboy And Brian Feldman: Whoops and Thanksgiving Spoon Side Dishes (Part Two Of Our Two-Part Spoon Thanksgiving Special, Feat. Taylor Berman).
Anthony Marinetti, friend of Spoon Second: When Spoon Second burst onto the scene, it clearly changed the game. (Or one of the games?) I first came across the Spoon Second column last winter, and I was floored. Kelly and Brian’s stream-of-consciousness dialogue about Spoon, my second-favorite band in the world, filled a void I did not know previously existed. I get real Spoon updates, news, musings, puns (the way we get chai!), and some intriguing hypothetical band-themed scenarios. The most important Spoon Seconds for me are probably “First Spoon Song You Ever Heard” and the iconic “Spoon University” one, because it is genius and I still laugh out loud thinking about it (“It’s not about Spoon”). Sometimes it takes me like 4.5 seconds or 8.2 seconds to actually read Spoon Second, but it is always worth it. While everything over the past year is increasingly terrible, Spoon Second is a refuge and an oasis on the internet. It deserves all the awards.
Jared Newman, friend of Spoon Second: Though I’ve never listened to the band Spoon, Spoon Second remains in my opinion the most engaging experience online. If Spoon Second were a subscription-only site, I would pay $9.99/mo for it. If Spoon Second were an app, I would pay $3.99 to have it. If Spoon Second were a podcast, I would download it so I could listen offline, but it wouldn’t take that much storage because it’s only a second.
Zach Harpole, friend of Spoon Second: I guess I discovered [Spoon Second] from following you (Brian) and Kelly on Twitter probably after Hot Thoughts came out. I really like the free-flowing chat style and the good-natured goofiness of it all. But it also makes you think, like when Spoon was on Ellen and we learned they were secretly best friends.
Sarah Edwards, friend of Spoon Second: I found Spoon Second through the Hairpin’s twitter. It’s probably my favorite Hairpin series, after Texts from Jane Eyre (which is hard to top!), mostly because it’s the only place on the Internet that has really validated my interest in Spoon, and because it really only does take a second to read—giving me the perfect Spoon-infused boost to get me through my week. I also have always wanted to have someone to Gchat about Spoon, and while none of my friends have ever taken the bait, reading Spoon Second is the second best thing. My favorite posts are probably the Halloween Spoon edition, because I’ll probably steal the costume idea, and “The First Spoon Song I ever heard” because I thought it was sweet.
Andre Weldy, friend of Spoon Second: Like a beautiful, friendly dandelion,
Spoon Second always makes me smile.
So, thank you, Kelly. And thank you, Brian.
I hope your column is around for a while.
Christina Rentz: I greet each column with glee and a frenzied copy & pasting of links to my co-workers at Merge so we can argue about the best songs on the Soft Effects EP, appreciate the silliness of the excellent song puns, ponder the concept of seasonal Spoon jams, and just generally enjoy the experience of mutual fandom for a band we can all agree should be even more beloved than they are! I was so excited to see that Kelly had the opportunity to interview the band for Stereogum, too! I am also jealous that Mike Dang asks Brian & Kelly for playlist suggestions.
Mike Dang, Editor-in-Chief of Longreads: Obviously, my favorite Spoon Second moment was when Kelly and Brian helped me choose a Spoon song to add to a road trip playlist (great rec, everyone loved “First Caress”).
But if I were to choose a favorite moment that’s not so vain, it was the one where Brian asked, “Do you ever see the clothing line ASOS and read it as ‘a series of sneaks?'” I sent this one to my friend is familiar with both Spoon and the clothing line ASOS and he said, “I think it’s weird that they didn’t talk more about ‘A Series of Sneaks.'” And I said, “This column is called ‘Spoon Second’ not ‘Spoon Minute.'” It really underlined the fact that the column’s brevity was a big part of its brilliance.
Kelly: One of this most rewarding parts of putting together this Spoon Second oral history was soliciting compliments from people.
Brian: Yes I loved that part.
Do I Have To Talk You Into It?
Kelly: Like in a marriage, as Spoon Second went on it was fun to incorporate new people. One of my favorite moments was when both Philip Bump and Leah Finnegan tweeted at me and Brian alerting us to the fact that Paris Jackson and Macaulay Culkin got matching spoon (not the band) tattoos. Brian and I will also get matching Spoon tattoos one day, I know this for a fact.
Brian: The fact of the matter is I’m just not a tattoo guy. I don’t think my arms or legs, which look a lot like uncooked spaghetti, would be improved by having a tattoo. Would I do something even more permanent, like get a star named after Spoon? Yes. I think that’s a much greater gesture of commitment than a tattoo.
Kelly: Having a guest on was always a refreshing surprise for readers. And for me and Brian, I think.
Brian: It was always fun to have guests. I think Mike Dang was a great guest because we were able to put our Spoon knowledge to use as a force for good in the world. I’m glad we helped him out, he still emails me regularly just to say thanks for all of the recommendations. No duh, I’m a huge Taylor Berman fan and I think that was a huge get for us. I can’t think of a bigger guest for Spoon Second than Taylor Berman. I’ve been a fan of “One Man’s Take” since high school and I’m glad we were able to see him see Spoon for the first time.
Taylor Berman: Being a guest on Spoon Second, as I recently was, is much harder than you’d think. First, a Gchat from Kelly and Brian randomly appears when you’re trying to do other work and then you have to think of something Spoon-related very quickly (in one second or less). I certainly had a lot more respect for Brian and Kelly after my appearance, and congratulate them both on a successful year of Spoon Second. Thank you.
Brian: A lot of people think, because of the name Spoon Second that it only takes a second to make, but on my end, it’s more like 3 seconds, because I have to think of an answer (1 second) and then type it (2 seconds).
Silvia Killingsworth: Remember the time you had a superfan on? That was excellent. He was a dad, I think. A dad who liked Spoon.
Mike Julianelle, Dad & Buried blogger who loves Spoon: I have NO IDEA when I first stumbled across Spoon Second, nor do I remember much about the night Kelly DM’d me for a contribution. (I was drunk as hell, which hopefully explains my too-clever-by-half ultra-meta response to her question.) But, like Spoon, I quickly came to love Spoon Second! Nowhere near as much as I love Spoon, obviously, I mean, the thing is pretty absurd; it’s always much longer than a second, and it doesn’t even allow for comments which pisses me off when they discuss good autumny Spoon songs and don’t mention “The Infinite Pet.” (Although I may be willing to concede that it’s more wintery.)
New York Kiss
Kelly: I think Spoon Second was always leading up to me and Brian going to see Spoon together, which we did two nights in a row in November. Spoon is so great to see. I love them very much. And it was a joy to see them with another person who really likes Spoon. In this scenario when you turn to the person with an excited face when a song starts playing, they return your exact excited face in a knowing way rather than give you a face that says, at best, “I don’t know why you are so excited but I’m happy for you.”
Brian: Gosh, what is there to say? When people ask me why I’m so into Spoon, one of the main reasons is that they’re really good live. The songs sound so good on a concert sound system and importantly, they vary just enough from the album versions that you’ll always pick up on a new facet of the music that you hadn’t heard before. It was really exciting to see them with Kelly, even though Kelly is not very tall and maybe never saw Spoon at all. It was exciting when Britt shouted out the person who was begging them to play “Metal Detektor” (it was Kelly).
Kelly: We don’t need to go into the favors I requested to ensure that we would hear “Metal Detektor,” but suffice to say—we heard it.
Something to Look Forward To
Brian: I think a lot of music blogs are going to imitate Spoon Second going forward. “What if we put gchats on the site?” That’s an interesting idea, and it’s going to be a huge genre of journalism going forward. A lot fo people are like, “Spoon Second? I dig it” and I’ve been stopped on the street once because of how impactful our work has been.
Kelly: Honestly, the way Spoon Second has affected the landscape of music journalism…I don’t know, I’m honored. I don’t mean to sound insincerely humble, but I never thought I would be in this position — the position to change media. The position to change how reviewing, and reporting, is done. It’s been a crazy ride.
Scott Lapatine, founder of Stereogum: Before Spoon Second, most blog posts about Spoon took too long to read or had photos in them. Here’s to another year of Spoon Second!
Kelly: I love Spoon Second. I think it’s really great.
Brian: Spoon Second is probably the thing I’m most proud of in my career as a writer.
Britt Daniel, Spoon: I like that it exists.