Five years ago, veteran Santa Barbara songwriter and showman Spencer the Gardener released a wacky little number called “The Gobble Song,” which is arguably the first Thanksgiving theme song ever. The silly music video, starring a number of familiar faces during a farmers market Tuesday on State Street, exploded on YouTube to become the featured song of that year’s holiday. Since then, the song found a home on Spencer’s childrens album, Organic Gangster, and remains a seasonal tradition for many.
But Spencer Barnitz isn’t resting on his tail feathers just yet. This year, in addition to his endless retinue of live shows, he’s crafted another original album: Breaking My Own Heart. A symphonic study of the goods and bads of loneliness, the 12-song collection features the reliable musical contributions of Gardener regulars Rob Taylor (guitar), John Schnackenberg (sax), Lilly Aycud (trumpet), Gary Sangenitto (bass), and Tom Lacker (percussion), plus some special guest help from Kearney Vander Sal (trombone), Liz Barnitz (vocals), Cougar Estrada (percussion), Nate Birkey (trumpet), Brett Larsen (accordion), Bret Noel (French horn), and Angus Cooke (cello).
On top of that, Spencer is also playing in a brand new band with his friend Todd Capps, called Spencer & Todd Are Virgos! They play this Saturday, November 24 at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club, and have promised to do a rendition of “The Gobble Song,” just to stay seasonal. (Watch out, though, because it just might slide into some Cheap Trick.) I caught up with my good friend and former neighbor recently.
”The Gobble Song.” Five years later. What is there to say? What’s amazing is how many other Thanksgiving songs there are now, considering there were none at that moment.
Are any as good as “The Gobble Song”? That really depends. There was a top five Thanksgiving song thing that came out and we were number three behind “Alice’s Restaurant” and some song by a punk band from Arizona. But we were ahead of Adam Sandler, which was good.
Did you expect to get this much life out of “The Gobble Song”? I don’t expect it to ever end, basically. The beauty of it is that it’s on Organic Gangster, which is another album that will never end. Once the kids grow out of it, there’s a whole other class whose teacher will still want you to come and sing the songs. Old MacDonald never lost his farm. He’s still got that farm. And there’s still some dog named B-I-N-G-O.
Tell me about Breaking My Own Heart. I love the new album. I like the fact that it’s sad and beautiful at the same time. It’s sort of the joys and sorrows and ups and downs of solitude, of which there are both equally.
And I love the guitar playing. Rob Taylor is a very marked step up in that. I like the way I play guitar, but I think I’ve been the weak link. He’s just fantastically good.
Spencer doesn’t seem like a lonely guy. Everybody is at times. It’s just sort of a human condition and that’s not always bad. There’s good and bad and there isn’t just straight lonely — there’s happy lonely too. There’s a song on the record called “Lonely Soul” that sounds as happy as can be. It’s about a guy wandering alone through life just stoked on it. But a lot of Spencer the Gardener records have themes that run through them about being happy and sad at the same time, almost simultaneously, which I suppose is a form of melancholia.
What’s up with Spencer & Todd Are Virgos? It’s poignant yet pointless. It started at a party at his house where he wanted a backyard barbecue sing-a-long kind of thing, so they said, “Let’s call in the court jester, that guy Spencer!” But he’s a great piano player so, after everyone left, we were hanging out, messing with songs, and it was just super fun. We morphed it into a show.
It’s a schmaltz kind of thing, somewhat lounge-y stuff but also songs you’re heard forever that we do in a way where you’ll like the song again. It’s not a joke like Richard Cheese, but it’s not like U2 either.
Spencer & Todd Are Virgos! play SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Saturday, November 24 at 6 p.m. Call (805) 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com for info. See spencerthegardener.com for more on the new album.