“Spencer.” (stylized with the period) hails from Rochester, NY where he grew into the singer that he is today. He has since moved to New York City where he has found more opportunities and connections that have elevated his career. Spencer. recently signed to label 4AD and is wrapping a US tour with Gus Dapperton (hitting Philly on Tuesday), both giving his music new levels of exposure. We talked to Spencer. about dropping out of college, staying inspired, and his plans going into the new year. His latest single “Automatic” can be heard below.
Who were you before your music career really took off?
I was in college doing sound recording, which I didn’t really like that much. I just went to school and I was super into producing and stuff, but that’s before the whole “Spencer.” thing happened.
And you dropped out of college, right?
Yeah, I went there for like two years and after that I kind of just left [laughs.]
What was it like to take that step and fully pursue a music career? Were you ever unsure of this decision?
I was definitely unsure of it, but when I was in school I was really depressed and it just wasn’t a good environment for me. So I figured it’d be better for me to leave than to stay, for my mental health at least. So I was just kind of like ‘fuck it’ at that point, because I knew I could be in a lot of other situations that would be better than what I was doing.
How did growing up in Rochester, New York impact your music?
Well, because Rochester is a small city, I was never exposed to that many “cool people” I guess. I did look up to a lot of Rochester rappers and they had a huge music scene and the culture there is super rich and everybody respects the music culture there. Photography, too, since Kodak is based there. There’s a bunch of creative history in Rochester. I guess the main thing that influenced me was just being online, and interacting with cool people on there because Rochester isn’t as big as New York [City] or like any other major city.
Would you say that once you left Rochester that you saw your music getting more recognition?
It definitely helps to be in New York City, because of the people that I’ll meet and certain situations that I can actually put myself into. Even meeting Gus [Dapperton] was a thing that I was intentionally trying to [make happen]. It was great to make the move rather than just stay in Rochester. Also, just being surrounded by people who are doing things similar to you, it makes working with people a lot easier when you’re in the same space as them.
Your latest single “Automatic” has really been taking off, with almost half a million streams on Spotify in just five weeks. Has there been a noticeably different reaction to the release of this song than your past material?
Yeah, I mean the major difference is that I’m now on the label 4AD, so all the promotion for it is handled by them. I have this whole team backing me now. Some people will take notice to me just because they’re fans of the label. I used to self-release everything, so it’s been really cool to see the changes, for sure.
You’ve designed and screen-printed some shirts in your home with a friend of yours to sell as merch. Have you always had an interest in designing clothes?
My roommate, Atticus Torre, makes his own clothes and just does a lot of designing. We’ve been friends since fourth grade and he does all of my artwork. For the merch we usually sit down and spend a couple weeks trying to figure out how we want it to look. What’s funny about the tour shirts is that it was a scrapped cover design idea that we came up with in the past. Atticus is super talented, and when we team up we usually make something really fire.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians who want to take a similar leap?
I would advise anybody to follow what they see as their path. If you’re young, you have the privilege to figure out what you want to do, what you can do — what works and what doesn’t. And so I feel like it never hurts to try. My friend sitting next to me right now was supposed to go to school this fall, but we had this tour at the same time, so he actually deferred a year to be able to go on this tour and do other things within that year. I say the same thing to him — how it’s super important to take advantage of opportunities and use all of your resources. I feel like things will work out if you do that. Just keep practicing and keep getting better at what you want to do.
Now that you’re wrapping up your North America tour with Gus Dapperton what are the plans ahead?
I’ll probably just be writing after this, and I’ll be going home for the holidays. I’ll be trying to finish up some singles for my EP that’ll be coming out early next year. But, yeah, just a lot of writing.