Irwin Sparkes - The Hoosiers

Irwin Sparkes - The Hoosiers

Since 2007 The Hoosiers have scored two top ten albums and numerous hit singles. British students Raymond Sharland and Irwin Sparkes met whilst on football scholarships at the University of Indianapolis. Their interest in doing things a little differently has earned The Hoosiers a strong fanbase to the extent that they crowd-funded their 2013 album “The News From Nowhere” so they could produce their best work without the constraints of a record label. We caught up with Singer / Guitarist Irwin Sparkes to find out a little bit about his musical history...


MPS
The Hoosiers have a record of doing things a little differently, what was the inspiration behind some of these creative endeavours?

IS
A mixture of innovation and plagiarism was largely due to desperation, in most cases. Since parting ways with Sony after our second album (The Illusion of Safety) we've had to get a lot more creative with fewer resources. This led to an amazing life experience where rather than being in a warehouse filming a video for 30 hours that cost the earth we lived in an RV and made a guerilla video from Las Vegas to Austin made by Craig Young and Grant Cummings for considerably less money but it's a video we're so proud of.


MPS
Do you prefer gigging or do you find songwriting and studio work more satisfying?

IS
For me it started with a love of performing. Ever since Al and I first played a gig at a local girl's school when we were fifteen and were enthusiastically received in a manner that the performance in no way deserved, I was hooked. The ego calmed down over the years (a little) and was replaced by a rush from being in the moment with an audience. The tech side of a studio was under appreciated by me till the third album cos I didn't fully engage with it. I'm currently playing catch up. I feel I spend more time in the studio these days writing for projects I'm involved with for other artists. Gigs are a luxury. So is having an audience!

MPS
Can you pick out a favourite gig?

IS
Playing at a baseball stadium in Osaka for the Summersonic festival was an incredible experience for me. I really love Japan and it was literally and figuratively the furthest I'd come from playing guitar in my bedroom in Reading as a boy. Really hard to pick a favourite though I always hope the next gig will be the best.  

MPS
You reputably borrowed the band name from the city of Indiana’s nickname - did your time in the Indianapolis provide any musical inspiration too?

IS
Al and I had a lot of fun on Indy's midwest streets of bronze. It was entwined with memories of failing miserably for the football/soccer team on which Al and I had scholarships. I had bad asthma at the time, Al had shin-splints. I think it helped make our minds up to return to London and get serious with the band. The humbling of said failure, though hard at the time has been invaluable in terms of writing with more honesty and knowing yourself better.


MPS
Can you tell us which artists would you count among your musical influences?

IS
Earlier with the Hoosiers it was the likes of supertramp, Flaming Lips, The Cure, Elliot Smith. Lately I've been moved by Sun Kil Moon, Josh T. Pearson, Father John Misty and Nils Frahm.

MPS
If you could go back to any musical era what would it be?

IS
Anything but Britpop. I'm soooo over irony.

MPS
What was your first guitar and what guitar are you playing at the moment?

IS
My mum and dad were not gonna splash out on an electric straight off - and rightly so - so I had three years of classical lessons on a half-sized, nylon string £30 job. Then after begging they got me a Fender Squire Stratocaster. The stuff of dreams for me then. Now I really enjoy playing a Duesenberg Fullerton TV.

MPS
Tell us about your Strymon pedals, what made you chose them?

IS
I'm not the most technical player and I use my ears to find a lot of hooks in my playing. I always feel like pedals can bring a lot to the party and love how some players (Jack White and Josh T. Homme to name two) use their fx to give their guitar sound a unique identity. I have a lot of pedals. Having split my one big rig into two smaller rigs I swore that was enough. That I was done. I'd heard it all. Don't need nothing new. ... Then a project I'm involved with was playing a show with Alex Vargas and he and his guitarist Tommy made me feel like I could learn to love again. They had all the big daddy Strymon pedals and there I was thinking I'd heard everything a fine reverb (for instance) pedal could do. It opened my ears and I knew I had to have them! It's been a big leap, because to be honest, they're not the cheapest pedal on the market. They're a professional pedal for professional players.

MPS
What else do you have on your pedalboard?

IS

A delightful Keely-moded Ibanez Tube Screamer. I'm loving the new, more versatile Digitech Whammy v5, the pedalboard friendly Boss RE-20 Space Echo, the sweet as candy-floss Crazy Tube Circuits' Pin Up fuzz and lots of smaller friends.


MPS
Is there anything you have parted with that you really miss?

IS
I lent a pal my Boss SL-20 Slicer. I still need to figure it out, but you can't help but be inspired by it. It chops up and rearranges the guitar signal into a groove pattern. So much fun to play with. James? If you're reading this: give it back.

MPS
Can you think of anything that really changed things for you?

IS
When I went from playing my own amateur, factory line amp to the band's Orange amp it was a real step-up. Even I noticed the sonics and I'm a tonal ingrate.

MPS

Is there any advice you can offer to people starting out on their musical journeys?

IS
Find what moves you emotionally and make that. Don't just follow what's happening now and don't try and copy who you're into. Knowing what make you tick can help. Don't be scared to be yourself. If no-one else is doing it, it'll be scarier but that's a good thing. Honest.

 

Find out more at thehoosiers.com

 

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