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May 31, 2005

Idaho-based rock act Built To Spill is eyeing a spring 2006 release date for its fourth Warner Bros. studio album. The as-yet-untitled project was originally expected in the fall but has been pushed back to allow for mixing and potential additional recording at a new studio in Portland, Ore.

"We recorded maybe 15 or 16 songs and I thought I knew which 10 were going to be on the record," BTS vocalist/guitarist Doug Martsch tells Billboard.com. "But now, we have time to revisit a few of those other songs to see if there might be something worth working with. It is kind of open-ended right now."

The album will be the first Built To Spill full-length since its 1993 debut, "Ultimate Alternative Wavers," to not be produced by Phil Ek. "We just wanted to try something new to spark us to do something different," Martsch says.

"Everyone was a little unenthusiastic about [the 2001 album] 'Ancient Melodies of the Future,'" he continues. "There are definitely some things about it that I really like, but I know I wasn't too into playing in the band at that time. I just wasn't too into making Built To Spill records. Taking a little time off makes it more exciting to come back to."

The process has been delayed due to technical difficulties in the new studio, but Martsch says he's not worried they will affect the finished product. The set will feature the studio debut of former Delusions guitarist Jim Roth, who has been a part of the Built To Spill live band for several years.

"We would have been smarter to mix somewhere else," he concedes. "I wanted to do it because we were really comfortable here. But it turned out to not be a great idea, because the automation on the board was being installed while we were trying to do stuff. We had some speaker problems. The mixing has been taking way longer than anyone thinks it should; longer than it ever has. It's been sort of frustrating, but I've gotten to the point where I've accepted this is how it's going to be and it will work out in the end."

Built To Spill has been road-testing one new song, "Going Against Your Mind," during recent live shows, which have been graced by longtime collaborator/Caustic Resin guitarist Brett Netson. "On songs like 'Velvet Waltz' or 'Hurt a Fly,' his guitar playing is really distinct and really grabs you," Martsch says. "He's my favorite guitar player. I love listening to him mess around every night."

The group will be on the road through July 16 in Reno, Nev., and has also signed for a Sept. 24 appearance at the Austin City Limits festival. Another round of touring will get underway next year to coincide with the release of the new album.

With such iconic Built To Spill albums as 1994's "There's Nothing Wrong With Love" and 1997's "Perfect From Now On" having reached or approaching milestone birthdays, could there be expanded retrospective editions in the offing a la Matador's reissues of the first two Pavement albums?

"I don't think there's any rarities there, and I'm completely not interested in that at all," Martsch insists. "The only thing I thought of recently was if somewhere down the road there was a boxed set of our stuff. Just the albums. I want to make sure the booklet is not written by a rock critic. It will be lyrics and that's it. I've read too many of these boxed set booklets where it's mostly about how that person 'got it' and no one else did. It's painful to get through."

Jonathan Cohen
billboard.com

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