For those of you who visit this site on a regular basis, you might already be aware just how much I like Glasgow three piece, Sparrow and the Workshop. I would probably have asked them to do an interview for me a long long time ago, however, I built them up so much to myself that I started to think that they were just out of my league. Thanks to my tendency to record the many sessions that they perform on UK radio, I developed a slight rapport with the band, mainly because lead singer Jill thanked me as it gave her dad who lives in Chicago, the opportunity to listen back their performances.
I know I have said this already, but their current single ‘Snakes in the Grass’ is the finest song I’ve heard all year. Having listened back to the stream of their album, I think it’s safe to say that ‘Spitting Daggers’, is equally as good. Filled with a mix of bolshy vocals and beautiful harmonies, they’re one of the most exciting bands to have emerged from Scotland in recent years. Here’s Jill to tell you a bit more about the band…
Would you care to introduce yourself?
We are Jill Nick and Gregor A.K.A. Sparrow and the Workshop and we stay in Glasgow but Nick is from Wales and I’m from the States but was born in Ireland. Gregor is the stock Scot in the band, even looks a bit like Groundskeeper Willie….
How would you describe the music you make?
Always the simplest and most difficult question, it’s like being asked to describe yourself – In many ways, we’re just 3 people playing guitar, drums, bass – and I’d say we’re always trying to push against this constraint and make as much as we can out of our limited number of arms. We’re fans of melodies but also making songs more interesting that just a three chord verse chorus verse chorus thing. And I guess I’d say our music is emotional because the lyrics come from very personal places…And we can get loud too!
It was by accident, sort of. Nick and I moved into a flat and Gregor was one of the people living there and we all had a lot of instruments and similar tastes in music so we gradually and organically came together musically.
How did you start out making music?
We’ve all been playing music since we were kids. I started out on classical violin but taught myself guitar later in life and played in a couple of bands in Montreal and Chicago, Gregor started playing brass instruments and drums from a young age and has been in tons of Glasgow bands through the years, and Nick learned cornet as a kid and makes his own beaty stuff on the computer (he’s the geeky one in the band).
What process goes into the way you write songs?
I guess I’d say we are a very instinctual band – for my part, i tend to write the base of the song and usually its the result of sort of emotional experience I’m going through. When I bring the song into the guys, and if they like it, they usually come up with their parts by feeling out the mood I’ve brought to the table. We’ll discuss the arrangements together and try to reign in the ‘epic’ thing, it’s always tempting to completely lose control but it’s also fun to try and control that urge. We also like to push ourselves within the 3-piece constraint, as I mentioned earlier…I dunno, we also always think we could be better musicians or have made better decisions, I guess that’s what keeps us going.
Who are your big musical influences?
We have very diverse musical tastes, there are very few ‘genres’ that are completely offensive to all of us. I guess some of our all-time faves are Johnny Cash, Gram Parsons, The Pretty Things, the Pixies, Sebadoh, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors album, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Black Sabbath, Violent Femmes, Slayer, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, the Beach Boys, Etta James, Arab Strap, Talking Heads, Horace Andy, Barrington Levy, Dirty Three, Jeff Buckley, the Slits, Crass….egad, very diverse list, eh?
It’s a funny one this, as I think it’s fair to say that both Nick and Gregor would say they have a lot of American Influences, and I certainly have more European. It’s just the things we each were listening to as kids…
I think that the things you don’t know always seem more romantic to you than the things you do know. For instance, I LOVED the idea of rain more than I actually like the rain now that I live over here.
What can people expect to see/hear from your live shows?
Well, we’re trying to organize some kind of rollerskate dodgeball event as a prequel to the show but the venues seem oddly cold to the idea…We’ll have feathers and lights and maybe some cardboard skulls and we’ll also have all our amps, pedalboards and a full kit. We might have extra percussion and we’ll have Nick doing some singing too, which is new! We’ll also be playing a lot of new stuff off our album ‘Spitting Daggers’. SO expect a lot of new but also a lot of old too. Oh, we’re trying to get a few guests to play violin and horns at some of the gigs since we played them on the album. It would be fun to have some more people on stage occasionally.
Has there been a particular gig that has stood out for you so far (good or bad)?
Last year we played a frightening amount of gigs but were luckily enough to go play some incredible places – the two that jump out at me right now are the Bastard Bar in Tromso, Norway – a town within the arctic circle – we totally didn’t know what to expect – had anyone even heard of us up there? whether they had or not was irrelevant – the venue was rammed and there was a great vibe, it seemed like people that far north were genuinely happy that bands were touring that far north. We can’t recommend it enough to other bands!!! The other would probably be the last night of our tour with the Pogues – playing in front of 5000 people at Brixton Academy was terrifying but exciting too. The Pogues were amazing, the crowd were in pure xmas mode, and we got to conga on stage during fiesta!
What are your plans for the rest of the year and beyond? Do you have any new releases planned for any time soon?
We have our album ‘Spitting Daggers’ coming out on May 30th and we’re going to tour the UK in support of the Album, then we’ll do some festivals like Rockness, Secret Garden Party and Willowman Festival. We’ll be heading over to Europe in September/October and if the stars align we might do another UK tour with one of our fave Glasgow bands in October…but we can’t say anything more on that yet. Fingers Crossed!
Sparrow and the Workshop release their new album ‘Spitting Daggers’ on May 30th through Distiller Records. The album will be available on CD and download from all your usual stores.
The band are currently touring around England with support from Meursault, they return to Scotland on the 12th of June to make an appearance at this years Rockness Festival. You can find further details on their live shows on the bands homepage.