Guitar-smashing Jose Ayerve is back with Spouse at The Parlor Room next weekend

  • Jose Ayerve of Spouse. 
 Photo by Jose Ayerve

Friday, June 08, 2018

When your good-natured bandmate suddenly, out of nowhere, during the last song of the show, destroys his electric guitar by swinging its full weight over his head and bashing it against the stage repeatedly … well, you know something’s up. 

Spouse was the band, Jose Ayerve was the guitar smasher, and after that gig, he explained to his trusty group that he needed to make a change. Which he did: Two months later, in April 2011, he brought an end to his locally lauded indie-rock band, a musical family of friends that had been going and growing since the late-’90s.

His new inspiration was a solo project, perfect for an era of superheroes, alter-egos and alternate timelines — A Severe Joy (an anagram of Ayerve’s name), a one-man electronic act for which he wore a mask and a costume. Once in a while, he might call together a random Spouse lineup for a special event (this writer was an on-and-off member), but the band was basically over. He’d moved on.

But Ayerve, a onetime Northampton resident now living in Ecuador, decided last year that Spouse needed to live again, and the band suddenly popped back into existence in February with an all-new EP, “Sell the Silver.”

Ayerve is now going one step further, booking the first Spouse tour since 2010, eight shows in seven days, including two local concerts next weekend: at The Parlor Room in Northampton on Friday, June 15, at 7 p.m., and at the Stone Church in Brattleboro on Sunday, June 17, at 6 p.m., with opening acts Ex-Temper and The Fawns.

The band’s current lineup is a new combination of Ayerve’s musical friends — guitarists Dup Crosson and Peyton Pinkerton, bassist Marc Seedorf, and longtime drummer J.J. O’Connell. 

Last week, via email from South America, Ayerve explained why he felt the need to get his beloved band back together last year. “Here I am, living in Ecuador; I’m married and my husband and I are responsible for my dementia-ridden mother. We have three chihuahuas and a mortgage. We’re always working, and I’ve barely found the time to write and record songs like I used to. I REALLY MISS IT. And this is what I was missing before in the last wave of Spouse activity — I wanted to want it.”

The busy Ayerve put some time aside for himself last summer, flying back to the states to write and record new songs from scratch with Spouse members past (O’Connell, Pinkerton) and future (Crosson) in Holyoke and in Waterboro, Maine. It took a year before Ayerve could find another window to get the band together for the tour.

Crosson first discovered Spouse in the band’s early days, when it was based out of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. He stayed in contact with Ayerve as a fan, then a friend, and then a collaborator. On the new “Sell the Silver” EP, multi-instrumentalist Crosson helped color within the lines of the basic tracks — “adding the sweetener,” as O’Connell said — and also wrote lyrics and melodies alongside Ayerve.

“Sharing that space can be tricky, even with someone whom I respect as much as Jose,” Crosson said. “I was expecting to be a bit deferential in that department, but he was really interested in my ideas and critique. The title track came out especially interesting, with both of us working at the top of our vocal ranges. It helped to discover that our voices work really well together; that can make all the difference.”

O’Connell, a dedicated member of Spouse since 2003, kept hope alive during the band’s absence by compiling “There Goes the Road,” a live album of personal picks from his extensive archive of the group’s concerts from over the years.

“It did feel like the band was done. It was an abrupt and quite unexpected hiatus for sure, but when you see your friend melt down and finally say ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ you have to respect and encourage the change that needed to happen,” O’Connell said. “But I still felt the tiniest glimmer of hope. When Jose told me, regarding the state of the band, ‘The door’s closed but it’s not locked,’ that’s all I needed.”

Ayerve said this tour is an opportunity to revisit his identity as Spouse’s frontman, “something special that I have been neglecting for far too long. I can’t tell you the number of stress dreams I’ve had over the past eight years — each of them having to do with my competence (and confidence) as a musician. I need to prove to myself that I can still go out there, perform, and enjoy myself. Each of my fellow bandmates on this tour have continuously been following their dreams, and whether they realize it or not, they’ll be inspiring me along the way.”

And how does Ayerve feel about his 2011 guitar destruction? “It was the most incredible feeling I’ve ever experienced on stage with Spouse. It was a perfect show. Maybe I didn’t need to smash that guitar, but since (former bandmate) Kevin O’Rourke fixed it, it sounds and plays better than before,” he said. “You can quote me on that if you want.”