Cold Ground, the debut eight song LP from Canada’s Sparrows, is the followup to 2011’s Goliath EP that found the band channeling their North-of-the-border contemporaries and friends Moneen, as well as likeminded acts such as Hot Water Music, Thrice and others. Recorded through the latter half of February 2013 at Getaway Studios by Jay Maas (Defeater, Polar Bear Club, Title Fight etc), Cold Ground finds the band continuing their forward momentum and upping the ante to provide one of the most pummeling and powerful releases of 2013.
To date, Sparrows have performed alongside the likes of Defeater, Code Orange Kids, The Bouncing Souls, The Lawrence Arms, Silver Snakes and more, and have appeared at festivals throughout the U.S. and Canada including Heartfest, Pouzzafest, Scenefest, Bluesfest, and SXSW. “Cold Ground” will be released on vinyl July 30 through Broken Heart Records and on cassette through Kat Kat Records.
Ghettoblaster caught up with vocalist/guitarist Dan Thomson in advance of the band’s Summer tour plans (dates below) to discuss the LP. This is what he said about it…
When did you begin writing the material for your most recent album?
We got home from tour at the end of September last year, and began writing. Which in hindsight, wasn’t a lot of time to give ourselves.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
I think that the biggest challenge in general was writing the material. In the past, just about all the songs were more of a singular effort. This time around though, trying to meld personal preferences and differing ideas made this a bigger challenge. That being said, we tend to stay pretty focused when writing, so when it gets to the point of recording, time is mostly spent working on tones or trying little things instead of fighting a specific part or conflicting idea.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?
There are kind of two answers to this. If you look at it lyrically, “Apostasy” is very different from the initial take on the song. The original version was a much less focused, almost A.D.D lyrical jump that hit on a few different subjects and didn’t really make a whole lot of sense. About two weeks before leaving for the studio, while battling through some bad insomnia, I re-wrote the all the lyrics for that song. If you were to compare the two sets of lyrics, the version that made it onto the record is leaps and bounds more focused. And frankly, better ha ha ha.
As far as the actual music goes, not a lot of the songs strayed too much from where we started with. “Static Prevails” probably changed the most based on what we decided to do in the studio as opposed to what we had done at home or on the demos.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
Sadly, we didn’t. We had hoped to have a friend come and lend a voice to a specific song. But touring schedules get in the way a little too often.
Who produced the record? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
Jay Maas produced and recorded and mixed and mastered the record. He was really great with the little things, and always had ideas to try. Vocally speaking, he really helped focus parts, and get rid of any unnecessary bits that were in the demos. Other than that, he was great at keeping things focused (as we are prone to wavering with delay pedals), and yelling at us when we were eating too loud.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
Not exactly. Generally speaking there isn’t one theme that covers this entire record, but there are a few songs that to kind of stick together. Lyrically speaking, they always tend to be a little dark and self deprecating. This record especially was a big reflection on my mindset after returning home from touring most of the year. There is a lot of mental and physical strain while touring, and I think that had a lot to do with where I went.
Musically speaking, we made a huge effort to try and make these songs more like our live set. We have always been an effects friendly band (and always will be), but making some of those huge layered parts hit as well live became a challenge that took away from our live show. So we tried to streamline things a bit.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
We started playing a new song or two on the last tour back in March, and things seem to be going pretty well. I think, until the record comes out, there won’t be a ton of new stuff floating into our set, but we always like to try and see the reaction we’ll get.
(Catch the band at one of these dates this Summer:
6/7/2013 Lowell, MA – The Ant Cellar
6/8/2013 New London, CT – El’ N Gee
6/10/2013 Philadephia, PA – House show
6/11/2013 Richmond, VA – Gallery 5
6/12/2013 Johnstown, PA – The Garage
6/13/2013 Baltimore, MD – TBA
6/14/2013 Pittsburgh, PA – House show
6/15/2013 Buffalo, NY – House show)