Alternative rock band Sparkman are making moves. What began as Chris Vercauteren’s one-man act in Charlotte’s bubbling music scene has grown into a full-band, three-piece act after Brandon Clayton (drums) and Taylor West (bass) joined the party. Now, the Charlotte-natives have a brand new album on the way, due for release next month. We talked with Vercauteren about the trajectory of the band and got the scoop on their upcoming full-length ‘Searching for the Dawn’.
“Sparkman” is a really fun name, where did you come up with that?
– We had a dog growing up named Sparky who my dad used to call the “Sparkman” from time to time. I always thought it was fun nickname. When I started writing the solo-acoustic stuff, I decided to label them as “Sparkman” songs since “Chris Vercauteren” is way too long and hard to pronounce. As I continued to write songs and share them with friends and family, the name just kind of stuck. I like the name because it works for both a band and a solo project.
The new album sounds pretty different from your first EP, can you talk a little bit about the process behind this album versus the EP?
– I’m a huge fun of big-sounding alternative rock bands like the Black Keys, Kings of Leon, Portugal. The Man etc.. I’ve always wanted to be in a band like that, but have had trouble finding the right guys to make it happen. The songs off the first EP fit into your typical acoustic guitar-based singer/songwriter genre – it was the “safe/comfortable” route. For the album, I wanted to push the envelope a bit and pull from my alt-rock influences more. Rather than change my whole approach, I decided to center all of the songs around an acoustic guitar riff and then and throw some heavily distorted electric guitar/synth sounds in there. The result was definitely interesting, so we kind of just ran with it. “Searching for the Dawn” is what we came up with.
What is your favorite track from the upcoming album Searching for the Dawn?
– I’d say “White” is my favorite song from the album in terms of structure, instrumentation, and lyrics. It’s a really fun acoustic guitar part to play, and the album version has all kinds of heavily distorted synth/electric guitar sounds in it. It reminds of “Stranger Things” every time I hear it.
Have you performed any of these songs live yet?
– Yeah – I’ve been playing all of these songs live since the beginning of 2017. It feels good to finally share them with everyone.
What was your idea like behind the album artwork, the sunrise vibes?
– The sunrise imagery is actually my buddy, Michael Kuhn’s, vision. He’s been helping us out with all of our graphic design. He’s got an amazing eye for it. “Searching for the Dawn” is all about new beginnings – the search for a more meaningful life. We figured that a sunrise would be the best way to exemplify that theme.
If you had to pick a quote to accompany the album, what would it be and why?
– It’s kind of cliché but, I’d say Robert Frost’s Road Less Traveled is the perfect depiction of the album. All of the songs are about finding the right path in life – to be your best self and to not let others impact that. There are so many distractions in life (money, parties, booze etc..), so the album is all about questioning where you’re at and then deciding what you’re going to do about it. Ideally, you’d build your own path.
– “Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all of the difference.”
What’s your favorite song right now?
– Right now, I’d say it is “Multi-Love” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra. I’m OBSESSED with the keys and the melody. Can’t stop singing it.
Describe the moment when you nailed down the album name “Searching for the Dawn”?
– Admittedly, my girlfriend actually thought of the name. She’s heard my songs more than anyone else, so she knows all of the themes behind each song. I was struggling to come up with something, so we met up for lunch to see if she could help. She asked me what all of the song names were and “Dawn” is one of the songs on the album. Knowing that all of my songs are about the search for a better life, she came up with “Searching for the Dawn” in about 2 minutes. It was an AHA moment – none of my ideas even came close to that one.
What is your all-time favorite album?
– I’d say 3 albums have equally had a tremendous impact on me. In no particular order:
- Before These Crowed Streets – Dave Matthews Band
- Brothers – The Black Keys
- Youth and Young Manhood – Kings of Leon
Talk about one of your favorite moments with the full band thus far.
– Brandon and Taylor are great guys to hang out with, which makes every gig really fun no matter where we play. It’s a super stress-free project – we’re always goofing, grabbing drinks, going to shows etc.. The highlight for me was definitely getting the opportunity to play The Visulite on 6/1. We’ve never sounded so good. We’re used to playing crappy venues where we can’t hear ourselves, so playing there was a real treat. I’ve seen so many heroes of mine play on that stage, so that show is definitely my favorite moment with the band. We also recorded that whole set, so we’ll probably release that sometime in the near future.