Red Sparowes Interview – Oct 2010

Here is the Interview I conducted with Red Sparowes, actually it was just one member, Greg Burns.


Since forming in 2003, Red Sparowes have perfected their brand of experimental post-rock over three full lengths and several EPs and Split releases.  With their most recent release, “Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies The Answer”, the band seems to have found their groove.  Greg Burns, Bass and Pedal Steel player took a few moments to talk to Obscene.

 How did Red Sparowes come about? Is there a meaning behind the name?

 Greg – We met at a seedy bar in Los Angeles after ISIS moved to LA.  I knew a couple of those guys from the East Coast and we started playing for fun when they moved out.  A couple of practices later and things just sort of snowballed into some shows and then a demo.  After Neurot heard the demo and wanted to release a record things became official.

 We got the name from a line in a T.S. Eliot poem, Preludes, “And you heard the sparrows in the gutters” – there’s no meaning but we all felt it conveyed an aesthetic that works with our music.

 How has your music evolved since the band first started?

 Greg – There have been some lineup changes, and with that, along with our own personal growth, I like to think the songs have become more focused and concise.  It’s less about playing out some dark guitar part for a long time and more about taking the listener through a range of emotions.  It’s a little more challenging, and definitely more rewarding.

 What are some of the bands primary influences?

 Greg – I’d personally say; The Cure, Sonic Youth and early Pink Floyd.

 What is the major theme, if any, on “Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies The Answer”?

Dave: Put simply, the new album concept has to do with human nature and the ways it can sabotage us all. Our brains are hardwired to very quickly find connecting points between cause and effect — and to use those connecting points to assume what will happen next. It’s an outcropping that has enabled our ancestors to hear a rustling brush, spot an animal and anticipate whether it or he will flee or charge. And, while all of us humans are collectively the works-in-progress of a constant process of evolution, along the way myriad “wrong ideas” spring up to derail progress in favor of easier, more comforting ideas.

This album endeavors to explore that complicated and frustrating truth we most often fear: that random chance has greater impact on the outcomes of all things than our belief in causality. The fear of the unknown is excruciating, but therein lies the answer.

“At The Soundless Dawn” dealt with human extinction and decay. “Every Red Heart Shines Toward The Red Sun” focused on The Great Leap Forward program in China and its affect on society. These are some heavy issues that I would say are relevant today. Do you feel it’s important to discuss relevant social issues or are they merely concepts that you’re exploring?

 Greg – I absolutely agree that they’re relevant today; that’s a big part of why we chose them.  I’ve never been a big fan of preaching; we decided that using concepts like these would hopefully get people thinking about the relevance of a concept that we felt also matched the aesthetic of the music.  It’s important to me that our audience can relate to the music and the concepts in whatever way they want, while at the same time getting an understanding for where we’re coming from – without us beating them over the head with it.

 How do you guys approach making music? Is it a collective effort or is their one primary song writer?

Greg – It’s always been a very democratic process.  People bring in parts, we write parts together while improvising at practice, it’s sort of the whole range.  But no one has ever brought in a complete song – there’s always a refining process that allows everyone to put their stamp on it.

When writing these records, did you have the specific concepts identified before you started writing or did the concepts evolve out of the music?

Greg – The concepts have always evolved out of the music.

Even with no lyrics, you music seems very literary and the topics appear to be well researched. How much effort goes into flushing out the topics?

Greg – Quite a bit.  It can be a long and, at times, frustrating process to find a concept that we feel matches the mood of the record and also feels important to put out there.  Add to that the challenge of making it interesting and intelligible…yep, it can take some time.

Lyrics can often become a limitation to creativity. Do you find a certain sense of freedom in writing music without lyrics? Is it’s easier to write a record without lyrics? Or do the concepts you create similar boundaries?

Greg – I’ve never been a singer, and any bands that I’ve played in with singers have always written the music first, so it honestly doesn’t feel that different for me.  I do like the freedom it gives our audience to create their own meaning and associations to the music.

You recently wrapped up a small tour with Boris and Helms Alee. How did that go? Had you played with Boris before

Greg – It was our first tour with Boris; it was incredible.  The audiences were great, the shows were all really amazing to play and very well attended.  Boris are an incredibly sweet and friendly group of people and it was really an honor to tour with them.  Add Helms Alee to the bill and it was a pretty amazing package.  Everything went smoothly, we all had a great time…it was definitely one of the most enjoyable tours I’ve ever been on.

You guys have tour pretty extensively, any favorite spots? Anywhere you haven’t performed that you really want to?

Greg – Yeah, I have a ton of favorite spots.  Greece is always great.  Our promoter there takes great care of us.  We drink beer on cliffs and run around Athens looking at weird markets and playing with stray dogs.  Great American Music Hall in San Francisco is amazing – really the friendliest people I’ve ever worked with at a venue.  They always make us feel special.  And the cook cooks me the best tofu around.  We haven’t played in St. Petersburg, Russia – I really want to go there.  I also really, really want to tour Japan and Australia…we’ve been asked to play but somehow haven’t been able to make that work yet.

Any exciting tour stories? Who’s the craziest band you’ve toured with?

Greg – I’d say the most exciting band we’ve opened for would have to be Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.  Warren Ellis blamed a fart on me, which I see as a huge honor.  I think I should get a “Warren Ellis Blamed A Fart On Me” merit badge.

Any parting words?

 Greg – Can I be the next Obscene model?


~ by silentium1 on November 24, 2010.

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