The name Spies! comes from the notion that the music observes and retells. The interpretations vary in genre and lyrical style; blending and adapting to the mood of the events. The ability to present a story in multiple settings, or conversely, present several stories within a single setting, reinforces the connotation of the namesake.
The contributors are as eclectic as the collection of songs. Since 2004, songwriter and producer, Joe Norris, has toured Spies! as a single-person acoustic act, and scaled up to a chamber-pop group consisting of 8 people on a recording. All totaled, Norris has worked with approximately 20 musicians for Spies! since 2004; while being based around 3 or 4 dedicated members. For example, the dedicated live lineup for 2014 consists of 3 members, but the recordings use a wide palette of sounds and effects from 5 people.
This fluctuation becomes particularly fun for Spies! because it presents listeners with a conflict: a good song vs. a good performance piece (ref. Jon Brion’s thought). If the recordings of Spies! are studio polished and moody with cellos, glockenspiels, and lush background vocal effects; the live shows are stripped down and as raw as possible to present the bare song to the unprotected listener.
Spies! has gone unsponsored and DIY since its creation. In 2006, Norris put out a set of home recordings called, “I Blame Richmond.” At the end of 2009, Spies! delivered “Mystery Monster”, which ran the gamut of Norris’ musical personalities. It was the first encounter with Norris’ preferred studio, Whiskey Bear Studio in Virginia Beach, VA. Chris Kendrick operates this studio and engineered, mixed, and mastered a majority of significant local acts of the area. In support of collaboration and the presentation of songs from different perspectives, Spies! collaborated with Astropop 3 on a split EP titled, “Skeletons” in the summer of 2011. Across all 3 formal studio recordings, Kendrick and Norris are the only 2 constants.
At the end of 2011, Norris relocated to Denver and recreated the lineup of Spies! Going back to the DIY mentality, but mixing with the new opportunities, Norris has worked with his new lineup to record the EP, “Dine Like Lions”. Technology allows Norris and Kendrick to remain collaborators, with the main recordings in Denver and significant enhancements from Kendrick in Virginia Beach. “Dine Like Lions” gives the feeling of indecision and conflict, directly before the character takes action.