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Video: UO quartet Spiller brings hooks and chops to the house show circuit

Kansas, Boston, Chicago, America and now Spiller: the tradition of bands naming themselves after places is long and storied.

The four members of Eugene quartet Spiller first met in the dorm of the same name, traditionally home to members of University of Oregon’s School of Music and Dance, which three out of four band members attend.

But among the band members, Spiller Hall has a different name: Vape Studios.

“Wherever Justin goes is Vape Studios,” said singer-guitarist Sam Mendoza, referring to their drummer-producer, Justin Kiatvongcharoen, who can often be seen blowing milky clouds from his mouth.

Using minimal equipment, Kiatvongcharoen produced and recorded the band’s debut EP Vinyl Kid entirely within Spiller Hall. With only marginally better equipment, he’ll be producing their upcoming split with fellow local band Era Coda, which does not yet have a definitive release date.

“I don’t see why people should go to massive, expensive studios if they can just learn everything themselves and use the most out-there equipment,” said singer-guitarist Luke Broadbent. “Even if your equipment is really shitty, you can make something out of it.”

For such a militantly DIY band, Spiller has had amazing success on numerous circuits of the Eugene music scene. Though they can frequently be found playing bars like Black Forest and Sam Bond’s Garage, their main haunt is the house show circuit – which makes sense, given that none of the band members are of drinking age.

Kiatvongcharoen attributes the band’s success to its sound: “I think we have a sound people can relate to,” he said.

Though Spiller goes by the rather vague pigeonhole “dad rock,” the band’s sound could be termed “math rock” in its fusion of indie rock melodies and jazz. Math rock has proven one of the most popular forms of indie rock, with bands such as CHON, Tera Melos and This Town Needs Guns finding wide fanbases in recent years. The group listens to these bands and takes cues from them.

“They’ve had a huge influence on my use of pedals,” said Mendoza. “I’ve become kind of a tap dancer because of those bands.”

The members of Spiller all come from diverse musical backgrounds, the only real common denominator being jazz. As such, they’ve been able to pool their collective musical knowledge into a diverse repertoire. At any given show, they can be seen busting out covers by acts as diverse as the Beatles, the Grateful Dead, Vampire Weekend and Schoolboy Q.

With such an agreeable style, it’s perhaps inevitable that they’ll have to leave their DIY ways behind and make a full album in an actual studio. But as long as Kiatvongcharoen is on board, the band plans to refuse outside producers and maintain complete creative control over its work. And if Spiller’s success in the Eugene scene is any indication, it seems to be working out for them so far.


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Daniel Bromfield

Daniel Bromfield

Daniel Bromfield is a writer for the Arts & Culture desk of the Emerald, specializing in music. He maintained the SF Rebirth blog in San Francisco from 2010-2013, and his work has appeared in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, KWVA, and the Oregon Voice.