Spil ready for the spotlight 

After several years in the background, the Indianapolis nu-metal band Spil is ready to take the spotlight.

With an excellent new EP, their first, and a commitment both to touring and to showing support for other local bands, Spil has emerged as one of the city"s musical leaders.

They"ll be exhibiting that support this Saturday at the Emerson Theater, when they play along with numerous other bands at an all-day festival. They"re not the kind of band which seeks the headlining gig, however. They"re content to play a supporting role in some cases.

"We don"t really like to headline a show; in fact, avoiding it is a goal of ours," drummer John Harrod says. "The crowd is always more into it toward the middle of a show, instead of the end of a show. Sometimes the crowd gets music fatigue, especially if it"s an all-day show."

"We feel it"s important to see all the other bands on a bill and show support to them," guitarist Deake Powers says, "but by the time you"re ready to go on [as the headliner] you"re really tired. When you get there, you"re ready to play."

Nevertheless, Spil has been achieving its goals a lot lately. The band says that finally recording and releasing their EP has been the highlight of their career so far. "It was our goal, finally getting it accomplished," according to Powers. They released the disc recently with a show at the Emerson Theater in front of a capacity crowd. That was another goal of theirs.

The self-titled EP shows Spil to be an extremely tight band with strong songwriting skills. They have the musical chops to take the listener through a variety of changes in the course of one song.

The ominous cover art, from local artist Jon Fields, sets a ghostly tone for the music that follows. It tells you to expect the unexpected, and Spil doesn"t disappoint.

They can go from fast to slow, from heavy to soft, from grinding to melodic. It"s part of the band"s strategy to press every emotional button with their audience.

"The goal is to make everyone feel every emotion possible: anger, aggressiveness. I want to see people cry. I want to see it all," Powers says. That versatility makes Spil welcome at punk shows, hardcore shows, metal shows or straight-ahead rock shows. They"ve shared stages with all of those kinds of bands.

"Labels don"t mean anything anymore," lead singer Aaron Hadley says. "It"s all genres blended together. We try to have something for everybody." "You hear good bands all the time, but how many bands do you go see that when you leave, you"re singing one of their choruses in your head?" bassist Dave Sweet asks. "That"s what we want to do. We want you to be singing one of our choruses when you walk out the door."

Powers and Hadley started the band in late 2000 to try and achieve the artistic vision they had of a heavy band that could cover many musical bases.

"When we started the band, we were called Fifth Wheel, and we were kind of a Goo Goo Dolls punk-type thing, so I tried to get these people to play harder, and we did," Hadley says. The new lineup came about when Phil Hook, their longtime drummer, received a gig to play with a nationally touring Christian band. But the change has re-energized Spil, pushing them harder towards their goals. One of the reasons the group sounds so cohesive is that Spil doesn"t play a song unless there"s 100 percent agreement on it.

"If you go out and you play onstage a song that you know someone in the band doesn"t like, their emotion"s not going to be into it, and they"re not going to be digging it. So everyone in the band needs to love the song equally," Powers says.

They have one goal with every song they choose: It has to give at least one member of the band goose bumps. "Seriously," Hadley insists. "It sounds stupid, but it"s true."

"It"s an overwhelming feeling when you"re playing something you just wrote and you know you"ve got a good song," Powers says. "If everyone doesn"t feel it, we get rid of it and write a new song."

"We don"t care if we have the flashiest guitar player or the best drummer," Hadley says. "We just want to be the best band, period, as a unit, not just individuals."

As proud as the group is of the EP, they say the addition of Harrod and second guitarist Jeff Steuerwald has taken Spil to another level. In fact, they"ve also written a slew of new material that they"re holding back from their live audiences. They want the new tunes - which they say are their best - for their full-length album, due this fall. "Most of the time, when a CD comes out, it"s made up of songs the group has been playing forever," Powers says. "We want to give people a surprise or two with the new songs."

Endless promotion is another way Spil tries to open eyes. When they played their release show at the Emerson, the group pressed up hundreds of CDs to give away, discs that featured not only Spil but all of the other bands on the bill.

"We have to help promote our friends as well as us," Hadley says. "If you just give someone a flyer for the show, they have no idea what you sound like. If you give them a free CD, they can hear for themselves."

Spil says one reason some bands haven"t found large audiences is that they lack the willingness, or the energy, to really promote their shows. Spil prints up hundreds and hundreds of flyers for every gig, hands out CDs and spreads the word.

"At our CD release show, half the kids there were new faces, people who"d never heard us before," Powers says. "That"s because we worked really hard to promote the show."

"The only way the scene is going to grow and thrive is for people to know about it," Hadley says. "We"re getting a decent following, but we want it to grow even more. That"s why we work so hard.

"I mean, Pantera could be playing down the street at Berry"s Music, with free beer and free pizza, but if you didn"t hear about it, or see a flyer for it, then you wouldn"t know about it. It goes the same for local bands. If they don"t see you, or hear about you, people won"t come to see you." With manager Ross Gonzalez of Bliss Magazine managing the group, they plan to embark on an East Coast tour this summer, hitting record-label showcases. The group is united in promoting Indianapolis music, particularly Indianapolis metal, a genre Spil feels has been unfairly overlooked.

"There are a lot of bands like us, who are trying to get to another level. We have the same goal to get somewhere. So we band together to help each other," Sweet says. "There"s a lot of good heavy bands in Indianapolis, which people would see if they opened their eyes."

"All it"s going to take for Indianapolis to make it on the map is for one band to get signed," Powers says. "In Indy, we have all these awesome bands: 7DFC, Bind, Resurface, so many others. If one of us gets inked, the attention will come here." "That"s all it will take," Hadley says. "One of us can help out all of the others. And we"re trying to do our part to get the city on the map."

The Big Ass Show at the Emerson on Saturday, March 1 will feature Spil, Seven Degrees From Center, Resurface, Bind, Level 9, The Dream Is Dead, Sidereal, None Taken, Misery Theory, Monkey Nut, Evil Engine #9 and Closer Than Far. For more information on the show, see www.emersontheater.com. For more information on Spil, check out www.blissentertainment.com.

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