Folk music — both freaky and mannered — has been a trend in independent rock for more than 10 years now. Which is only a shade longer than the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion has been dormant. The JSBX took some modern detours in the early ’00s, but after “Damage” in 2004, the group took some time off for various non-BX pursuits. But an anthology and reissues of the band’s ’90s recordings pulled singer-guitarist Jon Spencer, guitarist Judah Bauer and drummer Russell Simins back together to make a new album’s worth of fanged and howling rock songs. The result is the aptly titled “Meat + Bone.” Spencer talked about the band’s return.
Q: It was a long lag between albums. Did you have to knock off any rust?
A: Yeah, it was eight years between albums, and we didn’t do any work at all for about three or four years. Then in 2007 there was the “Jukebox Explosion” compilation, and we began playing live again in 2008. Just doing it for ourselves, no contractual obligations. We didn’t owe anybody any money. And it felt good, like back at the beginning. Back then, when we made a record we made it for ourselves, we paid for it ourselves. We really did exactly what we wanted to do. But, yeah, it took a little work. You can’t just roll out of bed and play a Blues Explosion show. You have to train a little bit. But there’s a psychic glue that exists between the three of us that allows us to write and play together.
Q: Did working on the reissues of your older albums impact this one at all?
A: I do think those reissues influenced us in some way. That was a big project: We were trying to tell the story of the band. I tried to be as complete as possible and include everything and anything. If you go through that much material, it’s going to influence the songs on your new album. So I think it took some of the energy from that. At the same time, I don’t think “Meat + Bone” is just rehashing our second album. It’s a record that only could’ve been made by a band with 20 years experience playing together. In that sense, I think it’s very much from today.
Q: The album makes me think of music that predated genre classifications. It all came from the same well. The band name seems to be an indicator that there’s more to it than what’s advertised.
A: I hope that’s the case. Maybe we’re both behind the times and ahead of our time. We definitely have a lot of blues influences in the music, and some of our favorite players are blues musicians, like the great Mississippi hill country blues player R.L. Burnside; we spent a year touring and playing with him. But we’re not a blues band. We’re a rock band. Rock is mongrel music. So I think what we’re doing is very much in the tradition of that.
Q: A lot of bands have softened your approach and taken it to the bank over the past few years.
A: Yeah, that just wouldn’t work for us because we’ve always been fiercely independent. We wanted to make a new record, so we did it on our own. We saved money from shows to make albums. We’ve always followed our own path. I believe in that kind of punk rock. And that’s allowed us to do what we want to do. If we want to make a record like “Meat + Bone” or work with DJ Shadow or I don’t know who, it’s because we wanted to. Nobody said, “Go here and do that.” I believe we’ve done it for ourselves. So we feel a responsibility to it for sure.
Q:The title fits the album, which has some gristle to it. Is there a story behind it?
A: Some of the songs give way to a theme that runs through the album. You know, time passing and age. You go through this world and grow and gain wisdom and grace. And like I talked about, we’ve been in this band for 20 years at that same time. The machine, the body, is dying slowly. So there’s that. But what we’ve done is what we always do. The Blues Explosion is always very physical.
Q: Does that part of it get more difficult 20 years in?
A: I don’t know. It’s hard to think about doing this 20 years from now. But then it was hard to imagine being here now 20 years ago. I don’t think it’s harder, necessarily. It’s still terribly exciting. Which I say a lot. But it feels really good.
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
With Weird Party
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Where: Fitzgerald’s, 2706 White Oak; Tickets: $15