For the past quarter century, Spencer the Gardener’s unique brand of danceable, bubbly, surf-influenced, Latin-laced rock ’n’ roll has served as a soundtrack of sorts to the Santa Barbara experience for all ages. That arc flows from original 1993 hits like “Ride the Pretty One” and “I’m Not Invincible” to the 2009 kids’ album Organic Gangster, whose “The Gobble Song” video blows up the internet every Thanksgiving.
Last week, the band released a music video for its latest song, “Going to a Party,” so we talked to the downtown-residing frontman, Spencer Barnitz, about what led to this fun-loving flick.
Is this song part of a new forthcoming record? I have been working on a new record/collection of songs to put out as singles and eventually turn it into a full album — a strange concept these days, the album I mean! The template is sort of “surf cumbia” with lyrics in English — I have a deep long love of cumbia — although we go into all kinds of other Latin rhythms as well, and it’s very dance-oriented.
Cougar Estrada, our drummer, lives in Claremont and was staying here at my place during a string of shows we had. One day he said, “I have this idea,” and he played me that song, and I said, “I’ll be back in a minute.” I went outside and quickly wrote very simplistic lyrics, and we put it together, and it worked quickly. Then I rewrote some of the lyrics and came up with sort of an old-fashioned line that I really like, “I’m gonna lay my burden down,” and there it was. So it is a song co-written by me and Cougar.
How did the video concept arise? I wanted the video to be dance-oriented but in a different sort of way — not just watching somebody and thinking , “Wow, they’re good.” More along the lines of, “Hey, that looks fun,” and “I can maybe do that” — because you can, and dancing is very freeing and involving at the same time.
You’re also dancing in the video. How’d you get into that? I got into it myself a while ago, dancing cumbia in Mexico, which led me to salsa. Also, I think as you get older you need new things to come into your life, to shake it up a bit, instill some passion for a journey you didn’t expect to take.
Why do you make Santa Barbara such a central theme to your videos? That S.B. is beautiful is something no one argues — walk around almost anywhere, and there is a postcard feel. I think the trick is to make it a bit more vibrant, to use the natural beauty to your advantage. Like the lighting in the Presidio and Casa de la Guerra — it’s hard to set up a shot that can look that good anywhere. Also, it’s nice to show Santa Barbara as more than just a postcard town, give it just a tiny bit of atmosphere if you can. It’s funny because Brad Nack, who shot the video, and I grew up together here on the Mesa, and through all the changes, I feel like we made something slightly timeless.