Narrow Sparrow – Beach Boys on Acid
Narrow Sparrow released their debut-ep “Synthworks” just a couple of weeks ago and I immediatley fell in love with their sound. Weird and rough instrumentations alongside with harmonic and melodic vocals – almost like the Beach Boys on acid, or in the band’s own words “pop, bizarropop, pinknoisecore, spacewaves from Chicago”.
Reason enough to contact Ricky, one of the three members of Narrow Sparrow, for an interview and to talk with him about his admiration for Nikola Tesla and Oneohtrix Point Never, his amazing cover artwork and a childhood in the 80s with Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.
Let’s start with some basics. Who are the members of Narrow Sparrow? When did you start the band and what did bring you together?
Dina, Matt and myself all played on Synthworks. I’m not really sure when the band started, a song was put up online in 2007, but nothing else until now.
What’s your personal creative background? Did you attend art/music school or are you completely self-taught?
I have no formal training in art or music, in college I was an English major, which is basically reading a lot of literature and some poetry.
What are the main influences concerning the music of “Narrow Sparrow”?
It’s hard to say, because I feel like all art is synonymous with each other. Jan Švankmajer, BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Lewis Carroll and Henry Darger are all my friends and make me want to be a better artist.
Who did the amazing collage-artworks for your website and your ep- cover? Will you continue this series?
I did the artwork, and thank you for liking it. There are some pieces I am currently working on that I think would fit with Narrow Sparrow, but I’m not sure if any of them will be used. I would also like to collaborate with other artists in the future.
Your hometown is Chicago. Is it the place to be for you and how does Chicago influence your music regarding inspirations, networking etc.?
Chicago is a big city with a great range of diversity. There are various small shops and galleries that display local artwork and a number of d.i.y. spaces that put on shows for local and touring bands. I’ve always lived in the area, and the city is always changing, but it feels like when one place shuts down, another one opens. There are so many people here that encourage artists in a community-based environment, which is awesome.
I cannot say that I am involved in any group or community right now, I rarely leave my apartment due to personal reasons, but I appreciate what is going on around me and hope to participate more actively one day.
Imagine you could record a song with any artist of your choice, no matter if he or she is still alive or not. Who would you choose and why?
If I could time travel and meet any one person I would most likely pick Nikola Tesla. I truly believe he was the smartest man who ever lived on this planet, and just to meet him would be mind-blowing. I am so curious about his concepts on free energy, as well as his later work regarding the dynamic theory of gravity and the hyperdimensional oscillator.
To be honest there is no long term plan. I feel like right now it’s hard to say if there will even be an album. There are a number of songs written but aside from financial difficulties, I have trouble deciding when a song is “good enough” to publicly release and when they should just stay private experiments.
Do you have an all time favorite album?
There are so many albums that mean so much to me for different reasons; it would be difficult to say. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Oneohtrix Point Never, I was really floored by the newest album “Replica.” I haven’t heard a lot of full-length albums from this past year, but I played that one consecutively.
Your sound seems to me like a mixture of 1960s with the Beach Boys and the uncritically optimistic view of the future and the the 1980s with their love for electronic and synthetic sounds. What would you prefer: living in the 1960s or 1980s?
I would choose the present or the future. However, I was lucky enough to be a child in the 1980’s, which totally had the best children’s programming. Shows like Muppet Babies, Noozles (The Wonderous Koala Blinky), and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse were such colorful, imaginative and surreal shows, I feel like they played a great deal in the way I view the world, especially Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.
And finally, any advice to our readers?
Haha, not really, maybe I should be asking them for advice! I did want to ask if you are based out of Germany, yes? One of the few times I’ve ever flown on a plane was to Germany, and it is a beautiful country. I have family there as well as a friend or two and I would like to visit again soon (hi Nina).
Ricky, thanks a lot for this interview!