For over 20 years, Albuquerque, New Mexico-based duo, the Handsome Family have been wandering the country presenting their desert-soaked gothic folk music. The married couple, Rennie and Brett Sparks, has released a dozen critically acclaimed records (studio or otherwise) – experiencing glowing reviews abroad from such periodicals as Mojo, Uncut and NME. They’ve recently earned a heightened degree of interest based on the success of the hit television series, "True Detective," and the inclusion of their song “Far From Any Road” as the opening theme song of season one.
The Handsome Family will make their debut Granite State appearance when they take the stage at the Music Hall Loft on Thursday, Sept. 29th.
EDGE caught up with Rennie Sparks to chat a bit about the origins of the band, the music, being “found,” and the what life is like as a married couple on the road, slinging tunes.
EDGE: Let’s talk about the latest record, “Unseen.” What sorts of goals did you establish for yourselves (if any) at the outset of this record?
Sparks: We always have the same goal: try to create beautiful objects. We don’t always succeed, but it’s a worthy fight.
EDGE: It’s not your first time at the rodeo, but you certainly have a number of more eyes (and ears) on you these days. Did you feel any pressures of that?
Sparks: No, it’s all we want as musicians, to have our songs heard. Invisibility is only a good thing if you want to sneak around. Very glad to have found some new fans through the TV show theme.
EDGE: You’re probably tired of talking about it, but, hey, us Granite Staters need to know ... How’d you all connect with the creators of “True Detective”? How’d the inclusion of your music as the title track of that show come to fruition?
Sparks: We really don’t know. It was a third party, a sort of broker, that we communicated with. They sent us a contract and said sign this if you’re okay with HBO using your song for the theme of this show. Of course, we signed, but we weren’t sure until the show actually aired that it was going to start with our song. And, sadly with the second season, we didn’t know until it aired that our song was no longer a part of it.
EDGE: Have things changed at all since that exposure became a thing? I mean, you’ve gotten some great press from outlets such as Mojo and Uncut, but, now … Television.
Sparks: All good things. We have found new fans worldwide and it’s keeping us afloat in very rough seas. We are thankful.
EDGE: Let’s trace some roots … Why music? Why do you seek it? Why do you create it?
Sparks: For me, it’s always about stories. I like to tell really short stories and I like to hear my husband sing them. For Brett, it’s about creating harmony. He always hears another part to each melody he writes. He keeps layering until he feels satisfied. Thankfully that can get pretty intricate. The purpose of art is to add to our available reality. We hope our songs do that for our listeners' ears— extend the known world song by song.
EDGE: What are the pros of being in a band with your significant other?
Sparks: We don’t have to miss each other. We always have a friend along. Plus it always feels wonderful to sing harmony with someone you love.
EDGE: Are there cons?
Sparks: Sure. We can get tired and angry. And, we literally can spend weeks together, constantly in each other’s presence except when in the bathroom. That can be kind of intense.
EDGE: Did you guys form the band prior to becoming “an item” or was this a "well, we’re married and need a hobby … wanna pick up some instruments and see where they take us?"
Sparks: Brett was always a musician and I was always writing stories. Took us about five years of marriage before we thought up the idea of combining forces. I guess we just thought we were supposed to keep marriage separate from work.
EDGE: You guys have made a lot of records. What do you enjoy about piecing together a record? What keeps you inspired to keep on cranking them out?
Sparks: The search for beauty.
EDGE: You’re heading to visit us here in New Hampshire for a show at the Music Hall Loft on Sept. 29. Do you have any history with the Granite State? What excites you about the show? What can folks expect when they come out to see you perform?
Sparks: This will actually be our very first show in New Hampshire! We are thrilled.
EDGE: Do you enjoy the road? How do your travels influence and/or inform you music?
Sparks: We definitely have learned to hear music in strange ways. I was in a restroom along the highway the other day listening to the ceiling fan hum for about ten minutes in a strange state of bliss. It helps if you can imagine the whoosh of the highway is the roar of the sea.
Go & Do
What: The Handsome Family
When: Thursday, Sept. 29, 8 p.m.
Where: The Music Hall Loft, 131 Congress St., Portsmouth
More info: www.themusichall.org