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March 13, 2012


Thought on Tracks Interview: Introducing The Shamefaced Sparrows

by @thoughtontracks
We receive a hefty dose of artist submissions at Thought on Tracks. Somewhere in the ballpark of 25 to 35 per week. I do my damnedest to fulfill our promise on our Contact Us page. I listen to everything – at least a couple of tracks. But to put it kindly, most of what we receive doesn’t exactly fall within my taste. That isn’t to say it’s terrible, just not my bag man. There are exceptions though, and one of those recent exceptions came in the form of three demos from a London export called The Shamefaced Sparrows. Their sound rests heavily upon the type of fuzzy surf pop that has been dominating my playlist the last few months. I was intrigued enough to request some more information, and more information they provided. Below you will find an interview that showcases a dry wit that serves as the foundation of the best British humor. Though this project is just gaining its footing, the music and personality behind it has piqued my interest. Listen to “The Madison”, “Murder in the Dollhouse” and meet the band below.
“The Madison” (demo)

“Murder in the Dollhouse”


Who is in the band?

Steve Jarvis and Liam Riley. Steve sings and writes the melodies/lyrics, Liam plays and writes the music. As for the live line-up, in the brief time of The Shamefaced Sparrows’ existence, a small flock of musicians have fled before they could settle the nest…

…we had a bass player, Tyrone, who insisted on calling Liam “Reg Thorpe.” We still don’t know why. We played him our track “The Madison” and he tried to convince us selling it to another band to fund his drug habit was a capital idea. He later stole Liam’s plectrums and we haven’t heard of him since. So Tyrone, if your reading..

We also had a drummer who left the band before we had even rehearsed. Twice. She was so insecure about her drumming, she refused to even play in front of us. If you’re looking for a drummer, a paralysing lack of confidence in their own ability is, we can assure you, bottom of the list of criteria.

She would also make ludicrous statements such as ‘Meg White was the real driving force behind The White Stripes’ and ‘Lou Reed would be nothing without Moe Tucker’. Now, we admire – love even – both Meg White and Moe Tucker. However, we can’t help but feel Jack White and Lou Reed would have somehow traversed the staggeringly deep abyss of absent rudimentary drumming, and continued to fashion a semi-decent music career anyway.

Then there was Madame Lagrange, our former rhythm guitarist. But that’s a story with too many chapters for now.

Where were the demos recorded?
All the songs we’ve put online are home recordings and done on a battered four-track. It’s the type of recorder that likes to delete songs of its own free will.

We’re not even sure exactly how to work the recorder efficiently. All we can say with even a morsel of assurance is that the red button means record.

We used to share a shoe-box sized rehearsal room in Bethnal Green with another band. They borrowed a guitar from Liam – a vintage ’63 Gretch – and they broke it, snapped the neck clean off. Of course, they promised to pay up. And, of course, the payment never came. A friend of a friend knew the culprits and informed us of where they were now rehearsing. We found the place, doors-ajar, and commandeered the recorder and a guitar whilst our girlfriends played the (scantily-clad) diversion. The perfect swindle or barefaced thievery?

So – we’ve never had any instructions for it. And it’s never forgiven us.

How did the band come together/How long have you been playing?
We’ve known each other since we were thirteen. We had shared mutual friends, one of which introduced us, knowing we were both music enthusiasts. As per the rules of playground hierarchy, we had ourselves a quiz-off – where did this song get to in the charts? when did this band release so and so album? how many haircuts has Skrillex got on the same head? On that very day, we swore a blood-oath to create music of our own.

And then, more than a decade later, we did.

Exact dates are hard to pinpoint. Mostly, we spent our time wandering fields, climbing trees and sleeping under hedgerows, discussing the music we would make if only we’d stop wandering fields, climbing trees and sleeping under hedgerows. The greater part of our time is still spent on those activities. In fact, all of our songs concern some grassland escapade or other. But when the weather will not permit us to venture outdoors, we make music. The three Soundcloud tracks are the first three songs we ever wrote.

What has the response to the project been like? Interest? Shows?
We’re supposed to make our live debut as (a tiny) part of the Camden Crawl on May 6th (The Shamefaced Sparrows will play at The Camden Head at 7:30 PM). The Camden Crawl might be described as London’s version of SXSW. But really, if SXSW is Emily Dickinson, then the Camden Crawl is Carol Ann Duffy.

In the last few months, we have had interest from A & R, labels, managers, blogs and the like…but the strongest interest in us would surely be that of Magda The Kings Cross Ballerina. Magda seems to think sending us one incoherent lipstick-written letter a week is a reasonable route of seduction. She also discovered that we are rather keen on wild flowers – so she sent us a home-made bouquet of Daffodils, Foxgloves and Daisies with random petals painted black with nail varnish. A unique gesture if nothing else – after all, how often does romance and downright horror entwine?

For her sake, can we state in print, that we have officially turned down her offer to nail a dead sparrow to Liam’s front door.

What is the band’s goal for 2012?
To retrieve Liam’s plectrums.
What led you guys to the Link Wray/surf pop stuff?
When we were schoolboys, we both shared a semi-obsession with Pulp Fiction. We had twin-goals; A) To morph into Vincent Vega and B) To escape dreary Leicester * with Mia Wallace in tow. But, unfathomably, that never materialised.

Our yearning was not easily surrendered though. Such was our desire, we made a promise that when one of us turned 16, the other would dress like Miss Wallace – white blouse, short black bob, general air of unattainable cool – whilst doing a sensual dance to ‘Son of a Preacher Man’. We would lower the lights until ”Mia” passably resembled Mia. However, this meant dimming the lights so low that we ended up sat on a couch in a darkness thicker than pitch, eating party sausages and listening to Dusty Springfield

These shenanigans did result in some tangible benefit though. Tarantino’s flick-knife surf soundtrack became ingrained in us. But for a while we assumed Link Wray was like most surf rock artists in that their oeuvre was limited to a handful of outstanding tracks.

But then, in pursuing another of our-semi obsessions, namely the new wave films of Jean-Luc Goddard, we discovered Link’s track “Jack The Ripper.” We had inexplicably thus far missed that song until discovering it on the soundtrack of the American remake of Goddard’s A Bout De Souffle. This led to immediate acquisitions of The Original Rumble, Mr Guitar and the Missing Link volumes.

What other independent U.K. acts are you excited about?
2:54 are our favourite new British band. We say new, but we first heard Creeping and On a Wire in demo form about 18-months ago. Still no album (due out May 28th via Fat Possum). Mind, If the LP sounds as surly and mean and sexy as those two songs, we won’t complain with too much vehemence.

Then there is Femaleband. They sound like 4am.

Keel Her – she sounds like the sort of person that springs out of bed at 6am, jolly as a bean. But not in an annoying way, rather in a way that brings you steaming gourmet coffee, bakery-fresh croissants and a morning blow-job.

Blood Music sound like they sit in a plush Hackney loft apartment endlessly debating avant-garde European composers and the diacritic writings of Joris Karl Huysmans. And then, when even they are repulsed by the content of their own po-faced conversations, they casually knock of brilliance like Unending Blues

Our favourite new bands though are American and must be mentioned. Habibi‘s four demos are the Shangri-Las if they weren’t a seminal 60’s girl group, but instead a buried treasure on a Girls in the Garage compilation. Even the great Ellie Greenwich would have surely swooned.

And Hunters’ Hands On Fire EP is about to be played until we both cry blood.

Anything to add?

 * You won’t have heard of it – you’ll never need to.

Interview by Rob Peoni

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mar 13 2012


  2. James.T
    Mar 13 2012

    This was highly ammusing.

  3. Miss Frenchie
    Mar 13 2012

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and the songs.
    Just the kind of stuff I am into at the moment, thanks a lot.

  4. Nate
    Mar 14 2012


  5. Brody
    Mar 16 2012

    If you ever make it to Kentucky, I would not complain.

  6. leen
    May 18 2012

    how do i get?


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  1. Fresh Track: The Shamefaced Sparrows “Ride That Seastorm!” | Thought on Tracks

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