Spirit Award Delves Into Dark Themes With 'Muted Crowd': Album Premiere

Brenna Nickels
Spirit Award

Spirit Award's upcoming new album Muted Crowd -- premiering exclusively below -- is anything but a sophomore slump for the band.

Coming just a year after its 2017 debut Neverending, the trio made some considerable changes in its working process that singer-guitarist Daniel Lyon feels were all for the good. "(Neverending) ended up taking a really long time, and we all had a lot of person stuff that was happening," Lyon tells Billboard. "For this one we really wanted to hunker down and get it done and get it out quick. The goal was to have something come out organically and make something that was kind of raw and aggressive. It kind of took on that quality and then took on a shape of its own.

"We were kind of in a whirlwind," Lyon adds. "I think we work better having deadlines."

Spirit Award also enjoyed making Muted Crowd in just one studio, rather than Neverending's four, and working with producer Trevor Spencer (Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes). The gauzy, a times retro-sounding set draws on a number of acknowledged influences -- including Brian Eno, Paul McCartney, New Order, Can and others -- and opened the working process between Lyon and bandmates Chris Moore and Terence Ankeny.

"On this one there was a freedom with whoever plays whatever instrument," Lyon reports. "We switched it up a bit -- I played keys on a song, bass on a song, drums on a couple songs. Terence, who plays drums, wrote some songs on guitar and instead of me playing his parts it felt more natural to have him play (guitar) on the songs he wrote. It was really fun, more organic."

The tracks draw on a variety of lyrical inspirations as well -- many dealing with the "Dark Night of the Soul" enveloped in one of the songs. The single "Supreme Truth" chronicles the Japanese death cult Aum Shinrikyo, for instance, while "Witching Hour" came from Lyon's paranormal experiences in an old house in Seattle. "There are some kind of dark themes," Lyon notes. "There's definitely some heavy stuff we're dealing with."

Spirit Award celebrates the Oct. 19 release of Muted Crowd the night before with a show in Seattle. The group then hits the road for a three-week tour that wraps at the Offbeat Music Fest in Reno -- with more coming, including a stop at South By Southwest and an April trip to Europe. Until then, however, Lyon and his mates are already plotting a third album, with plans to work quickly like they did on Muted Crowd.

"I think we're going to take most of December for writing and probably some of January," Lyon says. "We're starting to write right now, getting ideas together. We really liked how we did it this time. I think we work really well under pressure. I think we may be putting out stuff before that (next) record comes out, too. You don't have to wait until you have a full (album) done anymore."