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Sparkadia - The Sparks Are Flying

Author: Anna Szorkovszky
Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sydney indie pop group Sparkadia have been made a name for themselves of the past few years, from touring the country with Tegan and Sara back at the beginning of ’06 to signing to a British label and relocating to the UK to record – as well as numerous nominations. It’s been a steady rise to prominence and, as 3D’s Anna Szorkovszky notes, it’s only going to get higher.

Local rock band Sparkadia have been described as one to watch since they released their first EP Things Behind the Sun two years ago. The 2008 release of their debut longplayer Postcards was well received in Australia and overseas. It was a feature album on triple j and was nominated for the J Award. In a world where a lot of music offers a defeatist- or angst-driven attitude, Sparkadia offer a sense of optimism. After all if we don’t have a sense of positivity and hope, we don’t have much, right- This is something that front man Alex Burnett clearly believes. They are surely a band to be seen during the upcoming the Big Day Out.

“We didn’t really set out to do anything,” says frontman Alex Burnett. “We didn’t want to be a band that was defeatist or a band that tried to be cool or trendy. We wanted to make music that made us feel and had something to say... If there’s no hope, there’s no point really.”

The four-piece consists of vocalist/guitarist Alex Burnett, drummer Dave Hall, bassist Nick Rabone and keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Tiffany Preece, having been formed by childhood friends Burnett and Hall, then joined by Preece and Rabone. Feeling unaware about the decades of music that preceded them, they drew inspiration by musicians such as Buddy Holly, Elvis Costello, The Pretenders and Burt Bacharach. Sparkadia became obsessed with creating blissful melodies and interested beats with story telling lyrics.

“We’ve been compared to a lot of things,” Alex says. “Some of them good, some of them bad. We don’t really take too much personally a positive or negative point of you as you can get too caught up in it as opposed to what you do.”

2008 was a busy year for the Sydneysiders. It saw them travel locally and tour internationally. “It’s cliché and cheesy but it’s been many dreams come true,” says Alex. They hit the UK with The Thrills, Jimmy Eat World and Vampire Weekend and in Australia completed an album tour for Postcards as well as doing a national tour with Faker. In the last couple of months, they have managed to find some time to relax, recuperate and re-introduce themselves to family and friends ahead of the summer festival season, particularly the Big Day Out national tour where they will be playing alongside some of their personal favourites such as Neil Young and Arctic Monkeys.

Tracks such as Jealousy and Too Much to Do have had regular airplay and possess a universal and timeless quality that deal with common humanly experiences. Sparkadia have always aspired to create music that people can relate to and extract whatever meaning they want from it – and they have been inherently successful in doing so.

According to Burnett, Sparkadia have been compared to a range of different bands. They have been described as ‘Australia’s answer to Coldplay’ amongst other things. However, they aspire not to emulate sounds of other bands nor do they try to suit any current trend. Each of their songs has a specific emotional intention and is multidimensional in their juxtaposition between heartbreak inspired lyrics life and musically uplifting melodies. When asked if there was a specific track in mind when creating the album, Burnett responds with Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone, citing it as a perfect example of a song that fuses bittersweet subject matter and lush imagery with music entrenched in optimism.

Postcards can be described as humble and honest album; it deals with the raw universal issues of relationships. Each song has been conceived in a different room in a different city around the world and subsequently all have distinct sounds. Travelling has been a massive inspiration on the subject matter and tone of their songs. Connected is drenched with a sense of a romance lost in Paris (“I got inspired by the accordion playing and the French Romanticism,” says Alex), whereas Too Much to Do was written in a Sydney shed. Postcards manages to twist serious subject matter with uplifting melodies and hooks that stick. It offers a sense of hope and escape that people can relate to whilst maintaining a timeless quality. “It’s simple and sweet but it’s also bittersweet in imagery and has a hip hop groove. It’s lush,” enthuses Alex.

An audience can always expect an interesting live performance from Burnett and co. According to Alex, performing is all about creating a unique experience for their audience. They have gone from intimate performances at local house parties to national and international tours: a dream come true for many Aussie bands. Sparkadia have been known to add additional elements to their live shows stemming from burlesque dancers to magicians. Who knows what could happen at a show in the future. According to Burnett, a comedian could even be in order one of these days. Who knows what they will have up their sleeve-

Their set on the Big Day Out main stage will be an opportunity for Sparkadia fans to hear the tracks on a massive scale – a far cry from the likes of Spectrum and the Annandale Hotel. It will certainly offer an emotional attachment for the band before they head to Berlin to work on their new album.

WHO: Sparkadia
WHAT: Play Big Day Out, Sydney Showground
WHEN: Friday 23 January