Spiral Stairs (Pavement) Talks with Kelley Stoltz on the Talkhouse Podcast

Whose mom helped him look like Simon Le Bon? At least one of these guys.

On this week’s Talkhouse Podcast, we’ve got a pair of old friends with a ton of records and history between them: Kelley Stoltz and Spiral Stairs.

Spiral Stairs—aka. Scott Kannberg—is a founding member of indie-rock kingpins Pavement, a band he formed in Stockton, California with his high school friend Stephen Malkmus. What started as a noisy, ramshackle outfit bloomed into one of the most important and influential bands of the 1990s. Their albums have only grown in stature over the years, getting the sort of deluxe reissue treatment that was once reserved only for the gods of classic rock. And though Pavement split up in 1999, they’ve reunited twice—and are about to launch a pretty hefty tour of the US and Europe. Outside of Pavement, Kannberg has kept plenty busy releasing music under both his Spiral Stairs moniker and, for a while, as Preston School of Industry. He’s had an incredibly prolific last few years, too, releasing three albums since 2017—the latest is the fantastic Medley Attack!!! It was a record born of some hardship, including Covid, worldwide relocations, and most unfortunately, the sudden death of Kannberg’s bassist Matt Harris. But those events resulted in what’s probably his best solo outing yet. Check out a little bit of the song “Pressure Drop (End of the Hurricane)” right here.

Kannberg enlisted the help of several friends in making that record, including the other half of today’s conversation, singer-songwriter Kelley Stoltz. Stoltz is one of those guys who just has a knack for writing incredibly tuneful pop songs. If they were recorded with more slickness, you might mistake them for radio hits of the ‘60s and ‘70s—I mean that as a high compliment. Stoltz recently released his seventeenth studio album, The Stylist, and it’s a great place to start in a catalog that includes plenty of stone classics. Check out “Your Name Escapes Me.”

As you’ll hear in this conversation—though not necessarily in either of those songs—Stoltz and Kannberg first bonded over a mutual love of Echo & The Bunnymen. Stoltz actually recorded a full album cover of that band’s Crocodiles album, and Kannberg joined him on some live shows to perform it. Weirdly, that led to Stoltz, who as a teen worshiped Ian McCulloch, to a brief stint as rhythm guitarist for the British band. Talk about Echo leads to talk about copycat haircuts of their youth, formative years working in record stores, and lots more. And you’ll even get to hear two songs in very early stages—one that Kannberg (maybe) wants to bring to his Pavement bandmates, and one that Stoltz has started writing for his infant daughter. Enjoy.

Thanks for listening to the Talkhouse Podcast, and thanks to Kelley Stoltz and Scott Kannberg for chatting. If you liked what you heard, check out both of their new albums, and of course follow Talkhouse on your favorite podcasting platform. This episode was produced by Myron Kaplan, and the Talkhouse theme is composed and performed by The Range. See you next time!

(Photo Credit: left, Sarah Kannberg; Edited by: Keenan Kush.)

Talkhouse curates musicians, actors, filmmakers, and others in their respective fields to speak one-on-one with their peers via the Talkhouse Podcast and Talkhouse Live events. The Talkhouse Podcast offers listeners a unique insight into the creative work of creators across all genres and generations. Subscribe now to stay in the loop on future episodes.