Built to Spill were one of the most popular indie rock acts of the '90s, finding the middle ground between postmodern, Pavement-style pop and the loose, spacious jamming of Neil Young. From the outset, the band was a vehicle for singer/songwriter/guitarist Doug Martsch, who revived the concept of the indie guitar hero just as Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis was beginning to fade from the limelight. On record, Martsch was the arranger of intricate, artfully knotted tangles of guitar; in concert, his rough-edged soloing heroics earned Built to Spill a reputation as an exciting and unpredictable live act.
Much like Pavement, Martsch's compositions were filled with fractured song structures and melodies, often veering abruptly into new sections with little attention to continuity or traditional form. (In fact, the difficulty of Martsch's songs helped force him to abandon his original intention of working with many different lineups, since the twists and turns were difficult to master.) His lyrics had all the loopy wit and pop culture references of many a '90s slacker icon, but Martsch changed things up with a genuine wistfulness borrowed from Mascis' and Young's more introspective moments. Unlike Pavement, Built to Spill were never hailed as rock's next great hope; they were neither as revolutionary nor as eclectic, and their music -- with its winding instrumental passages and less immediate construction -- required more effort to absorb. Instead, they remained even more firmly underground, where their unorthodox approach enjoyed tremendous support from the indie faithful and allowed them to stay together and keep releasing records more than two decades after they began.
Built to Spill were formed in Boise, Idaho, in 1993, shortly after Martsch had departed the Boise-rooted, Seattle-based Treepeople. Martsch formed the first incarnation of Built to Spill with bassist/guitarist Brett Netson (also a member of Boise scenesters Caustic Resin) and drummer Ralf Youtz.
The creation of Untethered Moon, the first album from Built to Spill in six years and the band's eighth overall, wasn't an easy one. Members came and went, Martsch wasn't happy with what the band was getting for a few years, but with the help of a number of live shows and tearing through a number of bond-strengthening cover songs, the Idaho-based band got back in gear and put together their new album, released on April 21, 2015.