Based out of the Hudson Valley, New York, the duo of Sean Hansen (bass, drums, guitar, vocals) and Dan Coutant (vocals, guitar, keys) are otherwise known as Spoils System.
Their gift for melodic, and often beautifully discordant indie rock was first displayed in the mid-to-late ’90s “emo” outfit Joshua (Doghouse Records), who released three full-length albums and several EPs. After supporting bands like The Get Up Kids and At the Drive-In on tours of the U.S. and Europe, and two headlining tours in Japan, the group quietly disbanded in 2002.
Coutant formed Fireworks Go Up! in 2003 with Dave Fateman (bass) and Scott Truede (drums) who became the flagship artist on producer John Agnello’s (Dinosaur Jr, Land of Talk, Sonic Youth, The War On Drugs) label, Baryon Records. Their debut album You’re Welcome received critical acclaim and FGU! was named a “band to watch” by local press during the 2003 SXSW music convention in Austin, Texas. Hansen went on to form Park Ranger with ex-Joshua guitarist Keith Bogart, drummer Shane Chikeles, and guitarist Paul Carabello. Park Ranger released one album, 2008’s Safe Without Sound on Parrot On A Porch Records(U.S.).
Both Coutant and Hansen went on to pursue careers as audio engineers and eventually reconnected to form Spoils System as a creative outlet during the pandemic in 2020/2021. Home recordings were molded into songs as the two passed ideas back and forth over the internet. The duo enlisted old friend and acclaimed producer J. Robbins (Clutch, The Sword, The Promise Ring, Braid, Jets to Brazil) to mix the bulk of the album’s 10 songs, while also recruiting producer/composer Alap Momin (Dälek) to mix the group’s dancier offerings. The subsequent album is Smoke Signals, a euphonic blend of psych-rock, chamber pop, hip hop, indie rock, and soul that distills the vast musical influences that have been accumulated by the two over their careers.
The first single “YOU” showcases the band’s range, combining rhythmic complexity and expansive sonic textures with Beatles-esque vocal melodies. Coutant and Hansen have recently assembled a four-piece lineup for live shows starting in the summer of 2022.
Photo by Shane Gardner