Sparks On Playing Larger Australian Venues: 'Bring It On'

20 September 2023 | 1:52 pm | Joe Dolan

"A lot more younger people are coming out! We’re hoping the same thing happens in Australia."


Sparks (Source: Supplied)

By their own admission, Sparks weren’t quite the cult figures they are today back in 2002. It was in that haze of over two decades ago that the Californian art-pop legends had their first and currently only go at playing live to Australian crowds.

Back then, brothers Ron and Russell Mael - the principal members and songwriters of the group - were struggling to fill pub bandrooms, and the down under leg of the Balls tour felt almost like an afterthought. But 22 years and eight albums later (for a mammoth 26 studio releases overall), the band are back and playing the big rooms for a change.

“This time around, we’re playing venues that are more, let’s say, impressive,” acerbically dry keyboardist Ron recalls, “It was a great experience, but this time around, we’re really fortunate to be able to play larger venues and also be going to other cities where we didn’t play before. And it’s always exciting for us to play at a festival because we’re able to play in front of people who maybe don’t know anything about the band and try to convert them.”

Frontman Russell adds of their rekindled notoriety, “The experience on this tour, playing all over Europe and North America and just recently in Japan, has been amazing. A lot more younger people are coming out! We’re hoping the same thing happens in Australia.”

Those unfamiliar with the band are now fewer and farther between than ever, thanks to director extraordinaire Edgar Wright - who chronicled the 50+ year career of the group in 2021’s The Sparks Brothers. Wright’s first foray into documentary filmmaking and the only official recounting of the band’s history, the Maels’ story was one that definitely deserved the cinematic treatment. However, neither they nor Wright were ready for the gargantuan response that would come as a result of their collaboration.

“We originally went to him because we felt he was the only right person to do a film about us in a historical way and would actually be telling our story,” Ron asserts. “He was also hopeful that it would have the effect of reaching new people that maybe weren’t aware of the band before… We weren’t expecting the extent to which that happened. We were always hopeful that it’d be a byproduct of the documentary, but it’s gone to a greater extent than probably even he had hoped, and we’re thrilled about that.”

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The duo have never been in the business of repetition or resting on their laurels. With the past few years seeing the release of The Sparks Brothers, their Leos Carax collaborative 2021 musical odyssey Annette and their newest LP, The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte, Sparks’ creative output has been at an all-time high. However, with new tracks like Nothing Is As Good As They Say It Is echoing that 70’s era Sparks style, it feels as if the brothers are, for the first time, having a sense of introspection about themselves.

Russell attests to their latest music, “There wasn’t a goal as such to revisit the past. Sonically, we just wanted to make an album that would encapsulate the strengths that Sparks has. And hopefully, for people who maybe aren’t aware of the band and this is their first introduction to the band, it would be as striking as anything else we’ve ever done in our careers. If there was a goal at all, that would be it.”

The follow-up to 2020’s A Steady Drip, Drip Drip has been met with immense critical acclaim and has allowed the band to feel the immediate reception up close.

Russell admits the timing could’ve been better on that one, saying, “The Steady Drip album was certainly released in the COVID period, and it was that unexpected situation of coming out with an album when we couldn’t tour it and all that.”

However, they’ve been able to see the silver lining in it all. “We couldn’t present it the way we wanted to, but on the other side of that was this captive audience who wanted to be able to have music - not just from us - that would hopefully be able to lift their spirits during a time that really was bad for everyone. Weirdly, in that way, it became a good period for us to release that album, to give a lot of people that diversion and bring them away from that feeling that was going around.” 

He adds of the difference between the two: “This new album, coming out at a time when there isn’t a lockdown period, we do get that immediate reaction from the audience. They’ve been really supportive of the band in that way.”

Despite having been out of Aus for so long, the Maels have done their homework and are ready for one very special aspect of the culture in which they can indulge.

“We won’t have to explain to anyone over there what a flat white is!” Russell laughs. “Here in LA, you order a flat white now and even still, you’ll oftentimes just get a blank stare back. That or the very cool person behind the counter will bring you out something that just looks exactly like every other cappuccino they’re bringing out. It’ll be interesting to see the intentional interpretation from the creators over there. It better be worth it!”

Upon hearing that a cafe in Melbourne even offers edible coffee cups, Ron simply beams, “Bring it on.”

Sparks are returning to Australia as part of Adelaide’s Harvest Rock Festival and for a national tour.



Thursday 26 October 2023 – Palais Theatre, Melbourne

Tuesday 31 October 2023 – Sydney Opera House, Sydney

Thursday 2 November – Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane


Saturday 28 October & Sunday 29 October 2023

Ityamai-Itpina & Murlawirrapurka / Rymill Park & King Rodney Parks, Adelaide