Sparta plans to express themselves both musically and visually in their upcoming album Threes, which is set to release on Oct. 24. The CD package will include a twelve-song album, a riveting short film about drummer Tony Hajjar’s inspiring life, and a surprising guest vocalist on one of the tracks.
On Sparta’s new album, their patented anxious and sometimes chaotic mood has been tamed as singer Jim Ward tends to sand-down his vocals, resulting in a more melodic sound. However, the songs carry the same emotional intensity that past albums have possessed.
Threes follows their 2004 release Porcelain, an album built around the death of frontman Jim Ward’s cousin, Jeremy Ward (past member of The Mars Volta). What the new album offers is a collage of material stirred by both the past and the present. “The songs are inspired by personal events and the band went through a lot,” said Hajjar. A particularly difficult time was in 2005 when the band had to drop their tour as founding member Paul Hinojos decided to leave. But Hajjar maintained, “It was important for us to continue.”
The studio process itself also reflects the exciting, frenzied impression their music makes. The band begins with an original plan, yet it becomes a flurry of creative impulse as they build off one another’s ideas. For Sparta, improvisation plays a large role in both the writing and recording processes. “It became evident to us that the songs control us more than we control them,” laughed Hajjar.
The album also offers the unexpected vocals of New Orleans’ soul legend Merry Clayton. She has an impressive array of past collaborators, including Elvis Presley, Ray Charles and the Rolling Stones. Clayton’s guest vocals are on track 12, entitled “Translations”. The band decided that the track had a melancholy feel and wanted a soul singer to record on it. They got into contact with Clayton and the rest is history.
The film includes is a 16 minute short called Eme Nakia, which means “Mother Nakia”, Nakia being Hajjar’s mother. It has been shown at several film festivals and has received critical acclaim.
The story focuses around Tony Hajjar’s childhood during the Lebanese Civil War, which took place in the late 1970s. His family escapes to El Paso, Texas and when he is 14, his mother dies of cancer. It is during this time Hajjar’s father leaves the family, forcing his 18 year-old brother to assume a parental role.
Sparta had been toying with the thought of creating a movie since around 2005, but had not had any solid story ideas. Ward suggested they make a film about their drummer’s life. At first, Sparta had not wanted to have much creative control over the film, yet as it progressed they got more involved. Sparta provided the film’s soundtrack and Hajjar himself even ended up producing it. He maintains that the main message behind the film is, “about surviving and becoming a family.” Tony Hajjar also sees the film as a way to honour the memory of his late mother. “Everyone has had a person who has motivated them, and she was that person for me. This was my final goodbye to her,” he said.
Sparta’s fans express their gratitude through MySpace or the band’s webpage; declaring how the music has helped them through difficult times or just admiring it for its aesthetic merit.
Despite all this praise, Sparta has remained level-headed and humble. Hajjar maintains, “Sometimes someone will walk up to me and tell me how they’ve been affected and I just don’t know how to react. It’s hard to believe our music can mean a lot to a complete stranger, but it’s an honour.”
Sparta plays at Les Saints Oct. 13. Opening acts: The New Sincerity and Sound Team
Tickets are $18.50