In the annals of modern prog rock, there are few bands who have lasted longer, or been more important than the legendary Spock’s Beard. In the 23 years since they released their debut they have remained consistent in putting out high quality prog, ever growing, but still remaining themselves. The lineup has been remarkably consistent over the years, with only a few major changes in membership. The core of the current lineup has been together since 2011, and they are joined again by original drummer Nick D’Virgilio for the upcoming two disk ‘Noise Floor’ which is due in late May. It will be their 13th release, and it is sure to please their long time fans.
Metal Wani’s Jonathan Rose had a quick chat with frontman Ted Leonard. Here are the excerpts:
The new album “Noise Floor” is set to be released soon, is this an anxious time, the time between new album buzz and reviews and the actual release, or have you been through it so many times that you don’t notice it anymore?
TED: There’s always a little anxiety before it actually gets in the hands of fans. Sometimes the interviews and reviews can lure you into a false sense of security…the real test is the fan-chatter after the album is released.
This will be your third studio release with the band, how has your role progressed in the years since 2013?
TED: It has pretty much stayed the same. I have contributed as a writer since joining. This album, however, there was more collaboration between members during the writing.
You have a very distinct vocal presence, do you write most of the lyrics and vocal melodies, or is it more of a collaborative effort?
TED: That is definitely collaborative. Of course, each of us puts our own stamp on anything we play/sing regardless of the writer.
How do you personally prepare for writing songs for a new album? Do you write mostly on guitar or piano, or do you physically write out the music?
TED: It varies. Sometimes it’s with a programmed drum beat. Other times it’s based on an acoustic riff.
This was the first studio album since 2010 to feature Nick back on drums. How was it having him in the studio working with everyone? Are there plans for him to join fulltime again, or tour?
TED: It was fantastic having Nick’s stamp on this album. There are no plans for him to rejoin or tour at this point…but one can always hope.
Speaking of touring, what are the band’s plans for the coming year?
TED: There are tentative plans for later in the year to do some dates but we don’t really have specifics yet.
Last year saw the release of the live “Snow” performances. How would you describe the experience of performing and recording a classic album, with all members of the band past and present taking part?
TED: It was exactly how it looked. We all had a blast. It was really fun from the first moment of rehearsal. I thought it was a great way to represent the history of the band as well.
My favorite track from the new album is “Have We All Gone Crazy?” It seems to be more of a social commentary than political. Could you go a bit into the background and true intent of the lyrics?
TED: I helped out with the lyrics but I would say most of them came from Al’s pen. It would have been really easy to go political with that title and there were a few lines that didn’t make the song (most of which were pitched just to make the other guy laugh). We purposefully steered around that. Between the news and social media, I think we’ve got enough people ‘contributing’ to that mess.
The final two songs, which flow well together, has a classic Spock’s feel to it which will probably make old fans happy; was this a conscious direction, or just the usual writing process?
TED: We didn’t know what the order would be when writing those two songs, so I would say it was not deliberate. The feel of ‘Beginnings’ in general? I don’t know. I’d have to ask Ryo. I have to think that even the purest artist is still influenced by their own legacy.
Are there any new songs that you’re especially looking forward to performing live?
TED: I would say that the three I’d like to hear live are ‘Somebody’s Home, ‘One So Wise’, and ‘Beginnings’.
What led to the decision to place the four songs on the second disk as “cutting floor” songs rather than the main album; they all stand up well against the rest of the album?
TED: There are a few possible answers. I think the label wanted to give non-prog reviewers less to digest by having the first CD be a bit shorter. I might be wrong with that. There were about 150 emails back and forth that led to that result.
At this point you’re no longer “the new guy;” how has your relationship with the fan base grown or changed over the years?
TED: There were a lot of faces and names that came along with joining the band. I think most of them have come to know me as being pretty serious during songs and kind of goofy between.
You’ve been part of the prog scene for 25 years now, how have you seen it change or grow during that time. It seems to be growing in popularity in recent years, there are certainly more festivals focusing on prog music.
TED: There does seem to be a crop of youngsters trying to break into the scene right now. So I think it’s going strong. Oddly enough, I think streaming has exposed fans to new artists in the genre. In the past there was only radio and word of mouth.
Besides Spock’s you’re also of course a member of Enchant; anything new or exciting going on in that camp? Or any other projects?
TED: Enchant is working hard at getting an album out by the end of the year (hopefully in time for the next cruise). And, as always, there are a couple of other really interesting opportunities brewing….but we’ll see. It’s too early to elaborate on those.