The future can never be certain, but when your middle name is a homage to one of the most influential and acclaimed figures in the history of jazz, there’s a reasonable chance that sooner or later you might have the inclination to follow in their musical footsteps. Such is the case for Spencer Miles Allen, better known as Spencer.
With a nod to Miles Davis - the namesake in question - Spencer. grew up playing piano and surrounded by music, but it wasn’t until his mum “forced” him to join jazz band and attend jazz camp during his middle and high school years that everything clicked into place. “I realised how much I loved music, and how many different avenues there are for performing - not just being in jazz band or in orchestra or something,” he recalls. “I just realised I wanted to start learning more about music.”
Self-taught on guitar and bass, alongside his go-to trumpet, Spencer. started making beats in freshman year and began flexing his musical muscles, forming a seven-person-strong band with all his pals. “I was playing trumpet and I realised I couldn’t play all the time,” he says. “You know, when you’re playing bass or drums or guitar or piano, you’re playing the whole song. But when you play the trumpet, you’re not playing the whole song. Sometimes I was just standing there like, ‘Dang’. So I picked up the bass!”
The lightbulb moment - or, as Spencer. says, “lightbulb half on” moment - to throw himself fully in came at college when he started singing. “There’s a song called ‘Better Things’, which is the first song I put out and first song I ever made where I’m singing,” he recalls. “I had a girlfriend and we were doing long distance, and we broke up in my first year in college and I decided to make a song about it. Coincidentally, the same summer I started smoking weed. I was definitely really inspired by that, I guess. And I decided to try and make something new.”
“I want people to be like ‘Oh Spencer.? Yeah, he’s good’. And everybody knows it.”
Continuing to experiment with sounds and pulling from a broad range of genres, Spencer. has now crafted debut album ‘Are U Down?’ - set for release next month. A collection of shapeshifting bops about love and relationships, it’s a release that pulls directly from his own experience. “I’ve been seeing this girl for four years and it’s long distance - she’s in [Washington] DC and I’m in New York. A lot of the album’s themes are about being lonely and the miscommunication of long distance and going back and forth, feeling like somebody’s there, then feeling like somebody’s not there,” he explains. “When somebody’s not in front of you, you can forget about them and that can go both ways.”
Album track ’After The Show’, which features Thea from Becky & The Birds, “displays this the best”, Spencer. says. “It’s like a quarantine song. I imagine it just being us on the phone, talking back and forth, going off each other’s melodies, being like, ‘I miss you’, just that longing. There’s a lot of themes like that - extreme highs and lows - that describe what this relationship has been to me at different points.”
And what does his girlfriend think about the record? “She likes it!” Spencer. smiles. “She really does like it. She’s excited for all of it. I’m just expressing emotions through song, which is one of the best ways to do it for me.”
However, even more so than pulling heartstrings with his lyrics, Spencer. is hoping that the record’s musical flair and finesse strikes a chord. “I’m a producer first; I think that sounds are the coolest thing,” he explains. “I just wanted to showcase a lot of different styles of production that I can do. There’ll be an indie rock song with a pop-R&B song right next to it on the record. When I listen to an album I want to be like, ‘Oh my god how did they do that? This is the coolest thing’. Production’s my shit, so I hope people appreciate the production and it sticks with them and lives in people’s heads, you know? I want people to take their time with the album, in the way that I took my time to make it.
“I have been noticing in the last year, the biggest compliment people give to me is that I’m underrated,” he muses. “I think what I want this album to do is take me out of that box. I want people to be like ‘Oh Spencer.? Yeah, he’s good’. And everybody knows it. That would be cool. I just want to be rated!”
As featured in the August 2021 issue of DIY, out now. Scroll down to get your copy.
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