Over the course of two full-length albums, two EPs and three compilations, Birmingham, Alabama’s 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. Their long awaited third album Transindifference (due on 3/18 on Communicating Vessels) however, marks a subtle, yet meaningful, shift for Through the Sparks, especially for frontman Jody 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.
Through the Sparks have excelled on molding moody grinds atop tasteful pop flourishes that give their compositions immediate credibility. Like The Flaming Lips, Through the Spark include heaps of distinct instrumental tastes and imaginative vocals resulting in compositions that are each a distinct entity. With the Glide premiere of “Double Helix” (below), the band further captures our imagination with a swirling psych tale questioning what happens upon death.
“Double Helix” came about one New Year’s Eve under a hail of celebratory gunfire,” says Nelson. “Every year a rash of roof leaks breaks out in early January in our neighborhood. I wonder if these guys think the bullets just go out to space. But it’s thrilling in its own idiotic way. If anything is exciting, it’s an existential threat. I thought that if I wrote a song on the subject while it was happening that—laws of chance be damned—the rarity of coincidence would be somehow on my side. So it’s this big boozy kind of thing about what people think happens when they die. Even if you can take comfort in Jesus or Nothingness or some other such, I call bullshit on not being scared of either one of those things.”
“The demo for the song started out with just a bongo, and the finished version—no bongos in sight, so it was one of those that just sort of manifested as a song,” continues Nelson. “The female vocal is Janet Simpson. We’ve played together in some other projects. We coaxed a little subtle twang out of her, and the first time I heard the chorus with her voice on it, it was like someone put it in sequins and took it to a dance at the VFW. It put the song inside itself in a way. Gave it a setting. So, yeah—it’s a New Year’s Eve song where everyone at the party breaks into song denying their fear of death. I love New Year’s Eve and Day. It’s the only holiday where everyone is full of self-examination and poking around at mortality, and it’s the only one that isn’t officially religious. Go figure.”
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Band photo by Hilary Duke