“I think of it more as an art project,” says Austin Pratt, vocalist of the Reno rock band Spitting Image.
The best artists of any given discipline are often devotees of other arts. Pablo Picasso, for example, loved music. An understanding and appreciation of one art form broadens the possibilities of any other.
Asked about inspirations, the members of Spitting Image are as likely to mention filmmakers, like Werner Herzog, or poets, like the group Deep Image, as they are other musicians or bands. They also take inspiration from local visual artists, like Nick Larsen and Omar Pierce. (And Pierce meanwhile cites the local music scene as the primary inspiration for his prodigious work ethic.)
They approach each song as though it were an art piece—thinking in terms of color, shape and movement. The band’s name, Spitting Image, is a reference to their interest in visual art, as is Pratt’s approach to lyric writing.
“There’s no narrative or message,” he says. “I just describe feelings through images.”
The group’s music is loose, unhinged “weird punk.” It’s in the lineage of New York-style art punk, like Patti Smith and Sonic Youth, whom the band members describe as “ancestors, not influences.”
“We’re not trying to recreate any one particular sound,” says guitarist Julian Jacobs.
There’s also a distinct Western flavor. There’s a sense of open space both horizontally, in the way the songs move through time, and vertically, between the instruments. The open space lends to a feeling the band members describe as “desert punk.” Jacobs’ guitar comes and goes in fits, starts and spurts—ranging from punk rock riffing to Western twang—again evoking that desert image.
Pratt’s poetical vocals—somewhere between an impassioned growl and swaggering, devil-may-care mumble—and Jacobs’ fractured shards of guitar scrawl across and against the rolling, rumbling groove of drummer Casey Conrad and bassist Jack Scribner.
The band members say Spitting Image is slowly but continually evolving—collaborating with visual artists, releasing a split cassette with fellow Renoites Thee Indoors, and allowing the songwriting to mature and change.
“We’re a band that takes baby steps, but that baby’s becoming a track star,” says Scribner.
“It’s been a cool snowball,” says Pratt.
“Our biggest inspiration is looking back at each song as we write it,” says Scribner. “After we finish writing one song, we look back at it, and that affects how we write the next song. It keeps things evolving and more creative.”
It’s a creative approach similar to the way a painter might work through one idea over the course of many paintings.