The tracks from Southland four-piece The Sparrow Thieves’ self-titled first EP shift effortlessly from perky avant garde with a southern rock twist, to the atmospheric and minimalist. Keyboard player and lead guitarist Anton Dickens tells Wade Donk the tracks are deliberately created layer upon layer.
As the sound of a grand piano accompanies guitar riffs during tracks like Tex Rexson
to ease the song through each progression, it becomes obvious that The Sparrow Thieves
have both unpretentious and fresh sophistication, as well as originality.
Piano and synth sounds add articulation and drama while the bass is kicking and riffing away, the drums punchy and fitting, together delivering a enjoyable sense of unison and motive. With the aid of singer Nick McGrath’s voice, the songs speak of dreams and friends, good times and bad, sometimes as an emotive poet, sometimes with veracity.
“A lot of jamming goes on and there’s no set formula,” says Anton. “But when there’s something we like, we can build on that so can we move on.”
The EP was recorded at Little Fire Studios in Invercargill, with engineer/producer Hayden Budd, mastered in Sydney by Leon Zervos. The result is lush, jangly and dynamic. A full 88-key Kurzweil PC3X was originally just a passing fancy, but has become part of the team.
“The keyboard has become a fairly important part of the music, a point of difference,” explains Anton.
“His early stuff sounded like the Rugrats,” the others joke and Nick explains that they are conscious the music they record in the studio will ultimately have to work live as well.
“There are some pretty quick changes where it goes basically from one solo to the next, and its all plugged into the same kind of rig.”
I’m told the neighbours are encouraging, telling them to, “Keep it up, keep pushing the envelope,” rather than sending Noise Control over. In the end it’s all about respect for the listener.