The frontman of the beloved indie rockers — who've just returned with their eighth LP and hit the road with Arcade Fire — talks girl groups and literary heroes

By Kaitlin Fontana
Updated August 08, 2014 at 04:00 AM EDT

They Want My Soul [out now] is the first Spoon album in more than four years. Why’s that?
When we finished our last show in November of 2011 — it was at some festival in Germany — we were all a little ground down. It had just been too long that we were touring for that last record. So we went our separate ways without really saying anything, and I took three or four months of doing nothing — I got a girlfriend and I just chilled, which might be the first time I’ve done that by choice. Then I started Divine Fits with Dan Boeckner [also of Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs].

On Soul you cover ”I Just Don’t Understand,” which Ann-Margret and John Lennon have also sung. How did you find that one?
This website called Rookie asked us to do a song for them, and the theme that month was, like, ’60s girl groups. They gave us a big list, and I did one-take versions into a little digital recorder. That was the one that just felt good. I remember thinking, ”This sounds like something John Lennon would like.” It’s a pop song, but it’s a dark pop song.

You guys are really known as a touring band. Do you like being on the road?
It’s kind of like being a hunter-gatherer. You can just take care of the essentials, like ”I need to get a shower, and I need to get some food, and then I need to get to the sound check, and then I need to have dinner three hours before the performance, and then I need to take a nap.” I think that’s why Bob Dylan is on what he calls his Never Ending Tour. He just likes living that way. And I really like it too. The problem is that records are more important. If I was just going to have fun and somehow it could sustain itself, I’d tour all the time.

There’s a character called Jonathon Fisk who first appeared on [2002’s] Kill the Moonlight and pops up again on your new one. For the uninitiated, who is he?
Well, it’s a made-up name for a real person I had a lot of run-ins with in middle school in Temple, Texas…. He was all about fighting after school, so when I was writing ”They Want My Soul,” I started vamping on soul suckers in general. It’s religious pretenders, it’s upsellers, it’s people who front, it’s Jonathon Fisk, it’s educated folksingers, you know? All of them stealing a different type of soul.

So he’s like Tom Joad — this character turning up again and again.
Is that what Tom Jones does?

Tom Joad, from The Grapes of Wrath.
Oh, Tom Joad! Yeah, yeah, yeah. [Laughs] Like that.