Voicings of a Visionary - Speaking with Sparrows
Sparrows has fluttered out of the woodwork fully-formed with a kaleidosonic sound that is all-her-own. She manages to blur the boundaries of technological and physical realms by using vocal samples, found objects and even children’s toys to achieve an alluring architecture of sounds. Her compositional and production prowess is matched fully by her emotive, intoxicating voice that is somehow simultaneously powerful, vulnerable and ultimately, evocative.
The two tracks Sparrows has released into the world so far are masterclasses in sound manipulation and a 21st Century approach to tune-smithing. She somehow manages to create hit-ready singles while avoiding all the potholes of pigeonholing. Her delicate balance of experimentalism, groove and delightfully infectious melodies makes for a perfectly tuned music machine. She is married to no genre and her songs open up new little microcosms of delight and intrigue with every subsequent listen. Let’s find out how her singular sound was forged…
Fletch: Thanks for the time and the tunes. Your sound is so unique – it proves that music can have wide appeal, yet also be experimental. To start, could you tell us about your tool set? Was the decision to use found objects, samples and loops instead of the usual guitar, bass and drums scenario part the initial vision?
Sparrows: I really love the idea of pulling sounds out of their original environments and then giving them a new home – it keeps it interesting for me. Most recently I have used a sample of my dog snoring as the basis for a song, which depicts themes surrounding sleep time.
Fletch: Your production skills seem highly developed, nuanced and honed. How long have you been into sound manipulation? I imagine the frequency range and textural tonal properties of a ping pong ball or stapler isn’t something taught in music school?
Sparrows: Ahaha! From the outset of my music degree, I was drawn to sound manipulation. They taught me the techniques and then I have since, gone to town with them – playing with all kinds of sounds. I was eating an apple on the couch one day and I received a bunch of Facebook and WhatsApp messages from different friends and a missed call from my Mum. I was thinking, you can’t even enjoy an apple in peace these days! So, I decided to combine the sounds of me crunching my apple and the voicemail messages into an electronic piece. You just got to have fun with it!
Fletch: Given the eclectic aural palette you paint from, I am assuming you are the type of musician that can walk around in pretty much any environment and get inspired by the ambient sounds around you. Are you capturing sounds on a device while you are out and about and collecting them into a library of sorts?
Sparrows: Since I was a little girl, I always wanted my ears pinned back, they’re wingnuts! But now it all makes sense – I love a good eavesdropping session! I have built a library of sounds, through recording with my portable Rode iXY-L recorder and then also jotting down notes from snippets of conversations for ideas. Girls bathrooms in bars are the best – there’s some serious gold there!
Fletch: Is your interest in sound collage inspired by any other producers? I hear the free-form aspects of dub, the clean layering of ambient electronica and the off-kilter swing of trip-hop in there somewhere… perhaps?
Sparrows: Where do you start?! I am influenced by so many producers/artists across many genres - If I had to mention a few it would be Kate Bush, Arca, Brian Wilson and CocoRosie.
Fletch: Let’s talk about your recently released video for “Get to Know You”. The track’s title is a sort of juxtaposition to the wearing of the Low Polygon Animal Masks – are the Masks revealing or concealing part of you? Perhaps both? I think I get intuitively how they tie in with the theme of the song, but could you reveal anything about how Wintercroft Masks became part of your artistic vision? Of course, the director Nick McKinlay is a co-collaborator of ours…
Sparrows: I came up with most of ‘Get to Know You’ at a music festival in Sydney. We were all in costume, partying hard and a few things happened that made me conjure up the idea for this song. I wanted to recreate that sense of anonymity through masks, which was the case at this festival. I think we wear different masks throughout our lives, often not even knowing who we really are. There’s something about physical masks that produce a sense of comfort and a platform to explore. Nick pointed me in Wintercroft’s direction and I got goosebumps! I think the Animal Masks set against the Australian bush is pretty special also. Aside from that, they were bloody fun to make! I painted the rabbit brown and when I woke up, my rabbit was now a dog with floppy ears, which still looked great!
Fletch: Finally, thanks again for the time and tones. I imagine very exciting things are unfolding for you in the wake of your debut tracks. Can you reveal anything new at this stage, or is your next move top secret?
Sparrows: Thanks Fletch! At the moment I’m in writing/producing mode. It’s pouring out of me and I'm really excited to get it out in the new year. Also, a little tour overseas is on the cards.
Video Directed by- Nick McKinlay: @nick_mckk
DOP - Nick McKinlay and Ro Miles: @romarkmilesfilmmaker
Edited - Ro Miles and Nick McKinlay
Makeup - Georgia Blackie
Actors - Erika Watson, Hayden Druce, Jessica Allison, Hamish Watson and Edith Barrett.
Mask Assemblage - Erika Watson, Jess Nitties, Edith Barrett, Hayden Druce, Nick McKinlay
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