“It’s funny,” Spencer Hoffman told American Songwriter, “I was kinda a late bloomer.”
While Hoffman — who uses the artist name Spence — is certainly a “late-bloomer, he’s not outrageously late to the game: the New York-based artist began his endeavor in earnest during his sophomore year of college. Since then, he’s spent his time developing a sound that blends feel-good indie a la Mac DeMarco with dark, trap-influenced sensibilities. This signature sonic blend can be heard in all its glory on Spence’s new single, “Standby (Dnt Luv U),” which dropped on Friday October 9.
An undeniably catchy song, “Standby (Dnt Luv U)” is perhaps a perfect encapsulation of that feeling you get when you’re cruising down the road at sunset with your sunglasses on, your windows down and your stereo up. Between the carefree refrain of the choruses, the gentle groove of the beat and the irresistible funkiness of the keyboard solo, the track comes alive with youthful passion. Perhaps the song’s infectious energy can be traced to how it was made: Spence teamed up with his brother, Jackson Hoffman, to produce the track.
“My brother is an amazing producer,” Spence said. “I went to him and I said ‘hey, I want to form this sound that’s kinda poppy and happy’ — which is really different than my last sound, which was trappy and dark. He said ‘yeah, let’s do it.’ Around last June, he had this melody that he played for me on his piano. I was like ‘yes! This is perfect, it’s so catchy!’ I used that as the starting point for the chorus of ‘Standby (Dnt Luv U).’”
From there, the Hoffman brothers got busy working. “It was tough to find the time to record since we’re both doing different things and living in different places, but it ended up working out,” Spence said. “We did about half of the song together during that initial session and then we finished it up this past summer. We called my friend Sam Caldwell to do the keyboard solo — he absolutely killed it! When we were making this, I knew right away that this was going to be a song to blast in the summer with your friends.”
Perhaps another reason the song bops so effortlessly is the fact that Spence approaches songwriting as a form of expressing himself and the affairs of his everyday life. “Every song I write is usually about myself or an experience I’ve been through, mainly from high school and college,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s tough to write about that stuff, but it definitely helps a lot when I finish it. Listening to the finished product always gives me a big boost in confidence. I think that I needed to grow up over the past three years — making this EP has really helped me get to a point where I’m comfortable with myself.”
Another informer of Spence’s process was listening to other artists he admires. “My biggest inspiration for this would have to be Mac Miller,” he said. “I really loved Swimming, especially how he talked about depression. He was sinking in life and was trying to come up to start swimming again. I thought it was beautiful. Then Circles came out and influenced me even more.” The Mac Miller influence shows up in a couple of different ways throughout Spence’s work, most prominently in how he approaches the thematic content of his songs, which usually lands somewhere halfway between “happy” and “dark.”
“The only time I ever made music before this project, it was dark and trappy,” Spence said. “I like that dark feeling and its ability to get emotion out of the listener. But, I wanted to explore something new for this one. I wanted it to feel happy but also make you feel something deeper in addition. I wanted it to be happy and dark at the same time.”
While that darkness may be hard to hear on “Standby (Dnt Luv U)” itself, the rest of Spence’s collaborations with his brother are set to drop as an EP entitled Melissa in November of this year… and Spence is really looking forward to it.
“I hope that listeners can walk away from listening to my EP with a better understanding of whatever they are going through,” he said. “I want to connect my experiences to other people and I want to help. I’ve always been someone who does things for other people, not themself. I want people to connect to this in a way that’ll make them say ‘you know what, I’m inspired to do this,’ whatever ‘this’ is for them. I want to inspire people.”
Listen to “Standby (Dnt Luv U)” by Spence below: