Casey Spooner is running late, but is quickly forgiven; he was, after all, so stirred by the sight of the New York Public Library — an icon of the city he’s left for Paris — that he was moved to tears midcommute, and needed to collect himself.
It’s an emotional day for other reasons: after nearly a decade, he and creative partner Warren Fischer have finally debuted their new album as Fischerspooner, “Sir.” And for the occasion, the one-time New York resident is back in town.
The album takes on a narrative of queer sexuality — themes of love, longing, and loneliness — in the digital age. It was originally slated for release in summer 2016, but kept being pushed back (blame the former manager). At the suggestion of his producer Boots, Spooner decided to take the bull by the horns: he leaked a single and accompanying music video to Pitchfork. He’d written the song for Pride, and wanted it out in time for the annual New York parade. Spooner didn’t tell anyone about the leak ahead of time — well, he gave Fischer a heads up — but the move was met with respect, for the most part, on the corporate side. Spooner spent the rest of the summer in Europe playing at clubs and doing it all himself: just him, a tote bag and a flash drive of songs.
If nothing else, the record is a reflection of resiliency and do-it-yourself scrappiness, with the added benefit of top-notch creative collaborators. And the final release date — February of 2018 — ended up being fortuitous.
“I’m happy it’s coming out post-45 [the election of Donald Trump],” says the 48-year-old, Georgia-born Spooner, suited up in head-to-toe Calvin Klein. “So in a way, it made the record more relevant. I didn’t start out to make a political record, but being queer has become a political thing in this hyper-conservative…presidency,” he continues. “It wouldn’t have had the same impact. People wouldn’t have the same need for it, in a way — I wouldn’t have gotten the same amount of support. I think people also now feel that they have to defend their civil rights, because they’re being eroded. Before you didn’t feel like you needed to fight for them, because you thought you had them forever.”
The theme for the new album emerged at the very beginning of the process when Spooner went into the studio for his first session with (producer) Michael Cheever and worked on a track by Fischer.
“I usually don’t start an artistic project knowing exactly what I’m saying — sometimes the process of making something is learning about what you’re trying to say as you explore the process,” says Spooner. “[But] I knew I wanted to do a queer narrative, because I was living a great, amazing, dynamic life and I didn’t feel like I had really seen it represented anywhere.”
“The first song I wrote was called ‘Messy Mess,’ about trying to pick someone up online and the debilitating, FOMO of desire and rejection that can happen online,” says Spooner, applying eye makeup. “The first lines were, ‘I’m no good at seduction, I’m too full of emotion, I’m like a messy mess, I’m like a messy mess, I just say what I feel.’ And that kind of already was the beginning of the Internet and relationships and queerness. So that was the theme, from minute one. That’s how it started.”
The Internet has informed many connections in his life — including ones he tapped into for the record.
One of those people is Juan Pablo, who appears as a dancer in Fischerspooner’s music video for “Togetherness”; Spooner met him on Grindr “two or three” Valentine’s Days ago. A museum show at Mumok in Austria was a collaborative effort with the photographer Yuki James, who Spooner discovered on Instagram.
The album is a labor of love, representing creative collaboration among friends and lovers both old and new. Spooner and Fischer have worked together as Fischerspooner since 1998. Although Spooner is very much the face and persona for the duo, he maintains that he acts as a sort of “avatar” for Fischer. The album has contributions from many of Spooner’s other past lovers, including R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, who became attached to the project almost accidentally. (As Spooner tells it, Stipe started out just giving distanced feedback as a friend before officially embodying the role of producer.) And on theme for the album, which deals with love in the digital era, Spooner lassoed several past hookups into the mix. (A lyric from the song “Togetherness” was recruited from a conversation on the app Scruff.)
“I think a lot of people are shocked when I’m open about my relationships with people that I work with, that I’ve had sex with them and then we end up working together. But I think it’s a normal part about being human,” says Spooner, who is just as open with sharing stories — the long takes — from his experiences. “One thing that nobody knows — and Warren is not wanting me to tell this to anyone but I think today I’m going to say it — we actually hooked up in college,” he adds on the sly. “His wife loves it, that’s the best part. His wife is always, like, bringing it up.”
The album is officially out in the world, and Spooner is now back in his newly adopted hometown, but who knows where he’ll go next. He floats the idea of renting an apartment in the East Village and living bicontinental. Either way, he travels light. After his impulse move to Paris in December last year, he hired movers to pack up his apartment, and told his friends to come and take whatever they wanted.
“I went to Paris for two days with a fur coat and a carry on, and I never came back,” he says, noting that he moved to New York from Chicago in a similar fashion. “I didn’t want to have to go through the process of touching everything and thinking about everything and remembering everything and evaluating everything, and dealing with things that I didn’t need.” He has his music and art for that.
“I feel like Paris is exactly where I’m supposed to be right now,” he concludes. “But I miss my friends.”