Doug Martsch has no idea how he got here.
Sure, the singer/guitarist from Built to Spill has a few ideas, but he won’t give them too much credit.
The truth is his Boise, Idaho-based alternative rock band has achieved cult college rock status thanks to albums like 1994’s “There’s Nothing Wrong With Love” and 1999’s “Perfect From Now On.”
It doesn’t hurt that the group has consistently toured and released glorious guitar rock albums. Last year saw the release of the band’s eighth studio album, “Untethered Moon.”
Bring that up to Martsch and he’ll chuckle.
“I didn’t imagine having a momentary career in music, let alone a 20-year-long one,” he said. “I’m definitely surprised.”
These days, there’s a renewed sense of energy within Built to Spill.
After the 2009 release of “There Is No Enemy” and subsequent tours, drummer Scott Plouf and bassist Brett Nelson parted ways with the band. By 2012, Martsch admits there was a bit of burnout.
“Eventually, you run out of ideas or something dries up,” he said. “There was maybe a little bit of that feeling that this could be it.”
However, drummer Steve Geer and bassist Jason Albertini quickly filled in.
“It was an unbelievably smooth transition,” Martsch said. “They’re good musicians, and they had been on the road with us.”
With that new groove intact, Martsch said the band is working on a new album.
“Right now, these guys and I are writing songs for another record,” he said. “We have at least one more coming. There are a few left over from the last record that didn’t make it. They know what it’s about.”
What Built to Spill might be about, Martsch can’t define.
“As far I can tell, (the new band members) know that it’s about something,” he said, laughing. “I should say that they know what their instruments are supposed to be doing.”
That’s the type of a band he leads — one that is so revered that you’ll find pages of theories about what certain songs and lyrics are about.
“That’s just the nature of this stuff,” he said. “I think that when I listen to Dinosaur Jr., what I’m getting out of it is not what (singer/guitarist) J. Mascis had in mind, either. Even the simplest songs have layers of meaning.”
With Martsch, there is a bit of sarcasm, humility and intuition to his songwriting method. After eight albums, he said it can be difficult finding what he wants to write about, that the lyrics are part of a bigger whole.
“All of what I do is completely arbitrary,” he said. “I can’t put my finger on it. There’s no rhyme or reason to what I do, why I make choices that make. It’s all sort of intuitive things.”
But it’s that mystery that Martsch loves.
In past interviews, he admits that he’s revealed too much information. Even he is agitated that everything is available to anyone through social media and streaming sites.
“I often regret taking some of the mystery out of it,” he said. “I think we don’t do very much social media stuff because I’m lazy and don’t have much to say. We’re not that interesting. If we were funny, I might be for letting people know everything.”
“But we put out a record every now and then, play some shows, there’s not really too much more information that people need.”
Don’t let Martsch know, but he just defined Built to Spill — just an honestly good rock band.
Follow Matthew Sigur on Twitter, @MatthewSigur.