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Breaking the Mold 

click to enlarge Spottiswoode & His Enemies
  • Spottiswoode & His Enemies

If singer/songwriter Jonathan Spottiswoode could only write one genre of music for the rest of his life he says it would be, “Spottiswoodean.” Unable to settle on a specific kind of music, he takes listeners on a journey through a wide variety of musical genres, with his band, Spottiswoode & His Enemies. With no style set in stone, their albums are inventive entanglements of folk, blues, rock, gospel and many others.

Born and raised in London Spottiswoode spent much of high school playing guitar and writing music. His songs' bizarre narratives help to take the band in different musical directions. Funny and strange, but clever nonetheless, his words are unpredictable. In the grim song That's What I Like, Spottiswoode likes his girls the same way he likes his music, “Ladies from Boston with college degrees / swimmers and gymnasts with knobbly knees / working class mothers, and rich divorcees, that's what I like.”

Under the influence of artists like Bob Dylan, the Beatles, James Brown, and the Doors gives Spottiswoode's lyrics a variety of tastes. On many occasions the singer/songwriter has been compared to Tom Waits, who he also admires. His restless creativity travels beyond song writing, he is also an award-winning filmmaker. Making a trilogy of music videos, the Loneliest Woman in the World and a short film called The Gentleman. “Music is easier,” Spottiswoode says. “But it's really just telling a story either way.”

One thing he can settle on is the people he plays with. “We all like the music,” Spottiswoode says. “I think I have been a communicative bandleader. And there are just some great people in the band ready to pick up the musical, emotional, and logistical slack when necessary. There's a lot of trust.” The many different instruments the Enemies play helps keep the musical genre constantly changing. Clarinet, piano, violin, horns, and guitars help to keep the band's style moving. The horns add a real jazz element to the band, while the guitars give them a solid rock sound. When performing the Enemies switch up their instruments at the drop of a hat.

Some of them have also played together in a previous band, The Zimmermans, in Washington, DC. Spottiswoode came to New York to start up the project after playing with the other group for six years. “At the time, it seemed like a good place for an artist to live,” he says. “I'm bad at networking, but I thought it might happen by chance here. It's also a very vibrant place, but the rents are high. I start to wonder sometimes.”

His indecisiveness led him to record over 30 songs with the Enemies the last time they struck the studio. All together releasing 29 songs on two records, That’s What I Like and Salvation. Spottiswoode and one of the Enemies, Riley McMahon, released an album in 2007. Produced by McMahon himself, Performing Songwriter Magazine named the album, S&M, the best DIY album of 2007.

Spottiswoode & His Enemies will be performing on March 28 at Club Helsinki in Great Barrington MA. (413) 528-3394;

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  • The band Spottiswoode & His Enemies are a musical genre all their own.


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