VETERAN BIRMINGHAM INDIE ROCKERS THROUGH THE SPARKS DEBUT NEW MUSIC AT UNDER THE GUN REVIEW, GLIDE, BLURT & MORE
*New Bowie-influenced LP Transindifference out today on Communicating Vessels*
Listen to Through the Sparks…
“The Roseroom” at Surviving the Golden Age
“Living Rooms” at Under the Gun Review‘
“Double Helix” at Glide
“Heavy (-30-)” at Blurt
“Burning Bush” at Ghettoblaster
Stream/embed tracks from Transindifference
Order Transindifference here
RIYL: David Bowie, Spoon, Wilco, The Cars, Sonic Youth, Of Montreal,
Pink Floyd, Kraftwerk, The Arcade Fire, Parquet Courts, Ariel Pink
Through the Sparks have been featured previously at Pitchfork, Crave, Paste, PureVolume, CMJ,
Tiny Mix Tapes, Glide, PopMatters, Music Ninja, Blurt, Alarm, Magnet & more.
Through the Sparks. Photo by Hilary Duke.
MAR 18, 2016 — Through the Sparks have debuted several new songs in the past week. Under the Gun Review premiered the band’s new single “Living Rooms” calling it “an ambitious blend of genres that wouldn’t sound totally out of place on Pink Floyd’s Animals.” Glide debuted the song “Double Helix” and compared the group to The Flaming Lips, while other new tracks premiered at Surviving the Golden Age, Ghettoblaster and Blurt, who added to the praise for the group’s new record Transindifference, out today from Communicating Vessels.
The band recorded Transindifference so that frontman Jody Nelson could stop beating people up. Not physically, of course. Over the course of the group’s decade-plus career, he has penned some dark songs about real-life subjects: the encroachment of death, the absurdity of modern life, the tribulations of the American office rat, the insatiable wanderlust of contemporary suburbia. It was beginning to wear on him—and, he suspected, on his audience. “We were playing an outdoor festival, with all these people walking around barefoot,” Nelson recalls. “And this guy walks up to me after our set and is like, ‘Great stuff, man, but you really don’t have to harsh the mellow. You don’t have to take it out on the crowd.’ Every time I found myself singing to crowds of people, I just felt like I was beating everybody up.”
Through the Sparks have never been downers. In fact, their live shows are vivacious and intense, and the music endlessly inventive, largely because they’ve always seen music as a means of expressing—and hopefully dispelling—the fears and doubts that dog everyone. It’s an approach that has served them well since the early 2000s, when they played their first show together. Over the course of two full-length albums, two EPs and three compilations, Through the Sparks have developed a unique brand of rock & roll, rambunctious and raw, diligent in its quest for new sounds and in its combinations of psych, prog and indie influences. Transindifference, however, marks a subtle, yet meaningful, shift for Through the Sparks, especially for Nelson. First of all, he says, “I wanted to be less dark about things. I wanted to put some positivity in there. After I stepped back from the album, I realized that the scope had widened. The pendulum had swung the other way.” At times the imagery is almost cartoonishly violent, but more often it is beguilingly absurd, as Nelson plumbs dreams and myths as subject matter.
“Picture Quetzocoatl at the laundromat or someone audio-reading the Bhagavad Gita while perusing internet porn.” In other words, Through the Sparks loosened up a bit, if a band with such a supernaturally tight rhythm section can ever be described as “loose.” By doing so, they have created their best and most exciting record to date, a potent dose of effervescent psychedelia that’s both bluntly straightforward and slyly elusive: Somehow it reveals new secrets with each listen, new depths and new stakes. Transindifference is the sound of a band at the top of its game.
The sessions were generally freeform, with every band member bringing in ideas that either grew into new songs or completed existing ones. This anything-goes process complements the band’s uncemented lineup and its everybody-plays-everything ethos. “We all trade instruments in the studio and on stage,” says Nelson. “On this record everybody had at least one bass guitar track. I guess that’s the instrument that gets handed off the most. It all just depends on who has the bass when the song is written.” It was important for them to cut everything they could live—“even the really weird-sounding stuff. We wanted to track as much as we could live so we wouldn’t go back and change things or fix mistakes.”
That volatility is evident in the furious krautrock thrum of opener “Execution,” the inside-out swamp stomp of “Living Rooms” and the lighters-up bravado of “Gas Giants.” The energy of the music matches the outsize absurdism of Nelson’s lyrics, which detail wars without end, the tedium of cubicle culture, the intersection between biology and spirituality, and other cosmic jokes. There are human sacrifices in these songs, headless strangers and at least one poorly timed self-immolation. The mundane bleeds into the fantastical, the Beatles into Jodorowsky, as the band punctuates its dogged philosophical inquiries with windblown guitar solos.
And yet, for all the rope-burned dogs and double-helix halos, musically and lyrically Transindifference is a midlife-crisis album—a surprisingly moving one, in fact. Through the Sparks incorporate ideas from some of their favorite bands from their own teenage years, from the motorik thrust of Can to the starburst jams of David Bowie to the toys-in-the-attic derangement of Pink Floyd. “Burning Bush” includes a nod to The Wall, a quote from “A Day in the Life” (“blowing your mind out on the couch”) and a George Harrison chorus (“Hari Krishna! Hari Hari!”), while closer “Heavy (-30-)” poses some not-entirely-rhetorical questions on the chorus: “Didn’t we give you your flying dreams, and monkeys on motorbikes and doubleneck guitars?”
That song closes the album with a long glance backward—specifically, to Nelson’s own adolescence, when he first fell in love with rock & roll. “When you’re 19, all you’re thinking about is girls and guitars. At least that’s all I was thinking about. I was just an idiot! And yet, there’s something so innocent about that, too.” It’s not light material, but it’s not what he would call combative either, and Through the Sparks finds big-hearted humor in the wreckage of his teenage self and that kid’s tennis-racket guitar solos.
Of course, the teenage Jody Nelson resembles the adult Jody Nelson, who still plays in a band with his childhood friends and still obsesses over every aspect of rock & roll—its creation, its consumption, even its consequences. So, by making fun of his younger self he’s also making fun of his present self and even his older self, and that dogged self-assessment lends the album a sharp sense of humor and a bittersweet sense of melancholy. “I think about that kid and want to tell him that it’s just a stupid electric guitar, you’re drinking too much beer, that’s all you care about. But man, that’s still what I love to do! I still think one of the most important things in the world is rock & roll music, and that’s so silly.”
Perhaps, but that’s the essence of the band: the idea that the dream of rock & roll is worth following, even if you can never fully realize it. You get close now and then, almost asymptotically, but perhaps it’s most important when it’s just beyond reach. Even though Transindifference ends with Nelson chanting “dash thirty dash” over and over, referring to the newspaper code for the end of running text, Through the Sparks will keep going until—who knows? They might be hauling amps and gear with bad backs or walkers, or they might just implode tomorrow. Nelson hopes that their humor, intensity and purity of purpose all lead to that great rock & roll accomplishment—going out with a bang. “You can’t just say, Let’s stop. It’s got to end in an Applebee’s parking lot. It has to die a bad death.”
To set up an interview with Through the Sparks or get your hands on press passes, music, hi-res photos, album art or videos, contact Baby Robot publicity director
“A sophisticated sprawl of sound and songs, with elements of power pop, ’70s singer/songwriter, prog, indie guitar rock and even some smooth Southern soul.” – Pitchfork
“Transindifference is their most ambitious and fully realized work to date. … An evolved and eclectic mix of spacey ’70s glam and throwback New Wave within a wash of synth-anchored psychedelia.” – CraveOnline
“Perfectly gauzy, practically glammy slab of summer rock that manages to evoke Mott the Hoople, mojitos and marijuana-laced comestibles, staying super-loose without getting sloppy.” – Nashville Scene
“An eclectic mix of ’70s glam and krautrock, shimmering modern indie rock, and heady synth-anchored psychedelia.” – Paste
“Sleek, clever, deliciously catchy New Wave throwback pop.” – Speakers In Code
“Thoughtfully combines Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips aspirations with the earthy soul of Calexico. Covered in heaps of chugging piano riffs, synthesizer swells, horns and obscure lyrics are tidy laid-back grooves that solidly hold up all the psychedelia.” – No Depression
“Conjures up a mighty indie-rock groove, something with the swagger of Spoon.” – PopMatters
“Haunting psychodelic vocals with chipper bright melodies that ultimately not only leave you satisfied but hopeful of what’s to come.” – The Music Ninja
“Sheer, unpredictable joy … a breath of warm, fresh air tailor made for late-night summer gatherings and convertible car rides.” – Alarm Magazine
“An ace lyricist who always manages to skirt an idea or pull back the reins before things get too obvious, giving every song a great deal of ambiguity and mystique.” – Tiny Mix Tapes
“Seems to build, expand and change as the songs progress, while maintaining a surprising level of stylistic unity. Their refined psychedelia begins simple, somber and serious and ends in lighter, lusher shades.” – Elmore Magazine
“Heavy jams that would make Crazy Horse proud.” – PureVolume
“A band that you can’t stuff into neat little genre box.” – Captains Dead
“”The perfect amount of grim humor.” – Magnet
“A feel-good psychedelic sound.” – CMJ