By Matt Swift
It’s too easy to look back to find excitement in earlier rock: A time when radio wasn’t strictly playlisted, bands didn’t have a median age of fifteen and commercial considerations weren’t the foremost factors involved. You could wear your headphones for hours listening to poets, freaks and misfits that were all somehow able to get their music into the mass market hands of impressionable and sensitive teens. Nostalgia but what’s it’s legacy? Hope is not lost! While It has become harder to find these bands and artists, they exist in every country around the world, growing stronger every day.
SPRAWL was formed in 1996 by Ralph Kircher and Jonathan Agensky. Both Ralph and Jonathan had been playing in other bands in Toronto, but were looking for something that had been missing to their musical experiences: a real commitment to music. There are many people that play music for many different reasons, but it is the compulsion of a select few that allows them to live and breathe music and endure all it entails. It is this connection that allowed the duo to quickly get down to the business of songwriting. They recruited bass player Mike Khoo shortly thereafter and began playing shows in and around Toronto. Their first EP titled TEAR AND DRAIN was released in 1996. It was recorded at Ralph’s SIGNAL TO NOISE Studios in Toronto, a home to Dee Dee Ramone, Treble Charger, Carole Pope, Sylvain Sylvain, Chris Spedding as well as newer artists from Danko Jones to Robin Black. A cross country tour followed shortly thereafter. The full-length follow-up to this record, titled FASTER THAN YOU was released in 1999.
Incorporating elements of electronica, punk and classic rock songwriting, it was an introduction to what the duo dubbed songcore: letting particular songs speak in the language that they wanted to speak in. Not every song needed to be fast, not every song needed to be slow, not every song needed to be heavy, not every song needed to be soft. They all had their own distinct voices, that were nonetheless related by the natural quirks and inclinations of their authors, acting now as producers under the moniker Los Vaqueros Analogicos (The Analogue Cowboys).
In the summer of 2000, the band began work on the album now titled SARAH VELADORA, a pun on (Cera Veladora) or votive candle. The title is also a wink at the fact that every song happens to be about the girl that is always just out of reach. More organic in nature, and featuring the bands’ obsession with vintage instruments and quirky effects devices, this record was becoming a reaffirmation and expression of the bands’ post punk roots. A brief interruption occurred when NYC producers Pat Dillett (Soul Coughing, Arto Lindsay, They Might be Giants, Queen Latifah) and Camus Celli (Tina Turner, Chaka Khan) asked them to come to Brooklyn to record some demos. Another delay in finishing the record came when Mike left the band to devote himself 100% to Greenpeace campaigning just before the NYC sessions.
At this point, Matt Swift stepped in to take over bass duties, quickly connecting with the SPRAWL ethos. Unfortunately the NYC demos never made it onto the record, but the band learned a lot from working with producers of this level. In the spring of 2001, through a personal connection, the band recruited guitarist Chris Naylor. It was his openness and ability to embrace the band’s songcore vision that allowed him to seamlessly integrate and bring an added dimension to their live show. “it was an introduction to what the duo dubbed songcore: letting particular songs speak in the language that they wanted to speak in”.
Sprawl has produced music that has been featured in highly acclaimed movies such as GINGER SNAPS and SIX, as well the CBC series OUR HERO. They have been playlisted on campus stations across Canada. The band has grown to packing venues such as the Horseshoe Tavern (Toronto), constantly gaining notoriety for their highly intense, dynamic and unforgettable performances. SPRAWL has performed at festivals including NXNE and CMW, and will continue to make records with or without external industry support. The band is about to release its third and most realized record SARAH VELADORA, and will be coming to a town near you. Stay tuned and never lose faith in the underground. SPRAWL is: Ralph Kircher – lead vocal/guitar, Jonathan Agensky – drums/percussion, Matt Swift – bass, and Chris Naylor – guitar.
Similar artists: BRMC, Guided By Voices, Supergrass, Flaming Lips, Dandy Warhols, Sparklehorse, Yo La Tengo, Blur, Swervedriver, Strokes, Catherine Wheel. Influences include The Beatles, Echo & The Bunnymen, PJ Harvey, Jesus & Mary Chain, Sonic Youth, Jane’s Addiction, David Bowie, Pixies, T Rex, Velvet Underground, Japan, My Bloody Valentine, Smiths, Elvis Costello, The Who, Bauhaus, The Kinks, Pil, Dinosaur Jr, The Cure, Blondie, Jeff Buckley and The Stranglers.