The Sparks Brothers – The band few people have heard of, celebrate five decades of making music
How can one rock band be successful, underrated, hugely influential and criminally overlooked all at the same time? A band that has been in the background of almost every art form across the last 50 years, Sparks is your favourite band’s favourite band, and soon to be yours too.
THE SPARKS BROTHERS features commentary from celebrity fans Flea, Beck, Jack Antonoff, Jason Schwartzman, Neil Gaiman, and more. It takes audiences on a musical odyssey through five weird and wonderful decades with brothers/bandmates Ron and Russell Mael, celebrating the inspiring legacy of your favorite band’s favorite band.
Growing up in the ’60s, Los Angeles brothers Ron and Russell Mael thrived on a heavy diet of popcorn matinees and pop music until the spotlight of school talent shows launched them on a musical journey that has so far spawned 25 studio albums, along with adulation from artists across the musical spectrum. Their mother was a huge Beatles fans, and brought her sons to see the band twice, one time driving to Las Vegas for the show.
In his documentary debut, acclaimed filmmaker Edgar Wright (beloved by Toronto audiences for the seminal Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) brings five decades of invention to life through nutty animations and interviews with a who’s who of cool, and by digging deeply into the band’s rich, career-spanning archive. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, this charming love letter to innovation, music and two rebel artists takes us on a mood-elevating musical odyssey guaranteed to delight the faithful and create a whole new fanbase for this uniquely talented duo.
The Sparks have played Toronto a few times over the years, and are still putting out new music and touring, with two shows slated in the UK for 2022. Here’s some images from a 2015 stop at the Phoenix Concert Theatre, when they toured with members of Scotland’s Franz Ferdinand, whom they also recorded a full album with and formed as the supergroup, FFS. A not so favourable review was given for the stripped-down concert at Lee’s Palace in 2013. However, the band was here in the city long before these gigs, as this 1975 Massey Hall show proves.
The Sparks are almost impossible to describe, so I’ve included a list of videos below to watch as a visual introduction to this very interesting film.
The 1974 song, This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both of Us, is what first caught the attention of many unsuspecting listeners, and ignited a few to pursue a career in music.
While the band first gained notoriety in the UK and other parts of Europe, they still had their eyes on reaching American audiences. They penetrated this market in 1979 with the album, The Number One Song in Heaven, launching their rise to recognition in their home country during the 1980s when they collaborated with musical genius Giorgio Moroder.
The 1982 album, Angst In My Pants, was also a Moroder collaboration, and produced this interesting video of a surreal striptease only the Sparks could pull off.
The Sparks first album was produced by Todd Rundgren, and in a perfect circle of musical genius, the trio have collaborated once again for this new 2021 release!
Distributed domestically by Focus Features with Universal Pictures distributing internationally. Says Focus Features chairman Peter Kujawski, “It’s hard to imagine a better pairing of subjects and filmmaker than Ron and Russell and Edgar. For the past five decades, Sparks have been pushing the bounds of pop music with iconoclastic style and a perpetual mission to try something new rather than relying on the tried-and-true. It’s that perseverance that has made them among the most influential bands in history. In telling their story, Edgar has crafted an absolute joy bomb that will literally have you dancing in the aisles whether you grew up following them or are just now realizing how much their sound already shaped your life.”
Originally screened at Sundance, and now Canadian audiences will have an advance screening as part of Hot Docs, April 29 to May 9, 2021. A nationwide North American release will follow on June 18, 2021.
On a side note, the pair have always wanted to make a movie, and this year their first feature will be released. Watch the trailer for Annette below.
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.