The Basement Tapes: The Lovely Sparrows

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Local indie folk-pop band the Lovely Sparrows have graced the Austin scene for more than half a decade, creating tracks that embrace lead singer Shawn Jones’ melancholy lyrics, Southern spirit, classical music performance training and whimsical imagination.

From the music video for their popular single, “The Year of the Dog,” where in a paper-constructed forest, Jones sings about his loyalty to love to Jones’ latest project multimedia project for the band’s second LP, music from the Lovely Sparrows is more than just songs and lyrics.

The band will be releasing their EP, Tall Cedars of Lebanon, in the upcoming month and their second LP tentatively in October.

The Lovely Sparrows will be playing with fellow local bands at Scoot Inn this weekend and will be kicking off their tour this month.

The Texan interviewed band mates Shawn Jones and Lauryn Gould, as well as the band’s upcoming book illustrator Derek Van Giesen, about their upcoming EP, LP and the album’s analogous art book.

Daily Texan: You were telling me how there’s a delay in the EP, hence why the performance Saturday is now more just a concert than a release party. So what has the recording process been like?

Shawn Jones: Well, I didn’t even think we were going to put out an EP because normally, I just have the right amount of songs for the full length — that we’ve been working forever on, but this time we had a bunch of songs. A lot of them are older stuff that we never put out. A couple other ones that kind of end with being mellower, slower that was bogging down the full length. I want this full length to be another kind of break. I’m very much like ‘OK, I did that, now I want this to be something different,’ or ‘oh OK, we’re a quiet, go-to-the-bathroom folk band, well no, not anymore,’ or ‘Lovely Sparrows are this, and I’m like no.’

Lauryn Gould: We just want to make people dance.

Jones: Yeah, we’ve turned into a dance band.

DT: What’s each of your favorite song to dance to?

Jones: Well she’s like a dancer dancer, so maybe something from the ‘20s.

Gould: Yeah, I like to swing dance, so I like jazz.

Jones: I’ve only got like tiny movements; that’s about all I have. [laughs]

Gould: You know, I can even dance to some bhangra. I can dance to some Indian hip-hop.

Jones: Yeah, I don’t know. That last Destroyer show was fun.

Gould: We had our own little dance party.

DT: So what’s the inspiration behind the upcoming LP? And do you have a name for it yet?

Jones: The EP, we have a name for. It’s going to be called Tall Cedars of Lebanon.

DT: That’s beautiful.

Jones: Why, thank you. Just wait, you’ll soon know why. The LP, I’m thinking right now should be self-titled cause it’s coming out with that book. I think I just want to call the book and the LP, “the Lovely Sparrows.” So Derek’s doing all the art for the book.

DT: So what made you decide to just make a book with the LP?

Jones: I guess right now after Bury the Cynics came out, I had writer’s block for like three or four months and I was like ‘gah, I don’t want to do this anymore,’ so I just started writing these little short stories, kind of like exaggerated autobiography stuff and ended up working on that for three months and at one time it was like a 20,000 words little novella. So I called Derek and left this 15 to 20 minute rant on his machine saying ‘oh, you know, I got this idea, and its going to be this multimedia project, and oh yeah, I can’t pay you in advance, but you’re the only person I want for the job so, uh you don’t want to do it, I don’t want to do it.’

DT: So how did you feel about that, Derek? That’s a lot of pressure.

Derek Van Giesen: Well, there was a lot of back and forth to reigning back into something I could just sink my teeth into.

Jones: Reign into a 160-page book. [laughs]

DT: What are some of the stories about?

Jones: I guess the last couple of years I really got into David Lynch and Twin Peaks, and I don’t want to say too much cause it’s still in the process and it won’t be until October before it comes out. Solely possibly that this week, it’ll take another left turn. But it’s kind of a dark comedy. It’s got a loose plot that shifts through this weird other place, other world maybe.

Ghoul: Science fiction? Kurt Vonnegut style?

Jones: Science fiction, I don’t know about that. There’s definitely some Vonnegut in there.

DT: Going back, can you tell me more about the inspiration behind the LP?

Jones: Well, working on that book kind of got me out of that writer’s block and so I started writing songs with that in mind and I didn’t really realize that those were going to go together yet. It hadn’t dawn on me that giving someone a 20,000 page, sorry, [laughs], that would be crazy! 20,000 word book and saying, ‘hey, you have to read this to get what’s happening on the record,’ that might be a little pretentious. But I was drawn from that to get the songs. But the songs are more — there’s stuff from growing up in the South, weird religious imageries and working with perspective… not making anyone a martyr, a delicate balance to not make anyone weepy.

DT: So having been in the Austin music scene for quite some time, how would you describe the scene when you first got here and how it is now?

Jones: I had a really, really good time there for a long time. It was actually with a lot of KVRX kids and stuff. There was this house venue called Jessie’s Bed and Breakfast that our friend Michael Landon ran out of his house and he got all of these great K Records people like Phil Elverum and the Microphones, Karl Blau, Moldy Peaches, and all of those northwest folk bands to come through and we opened for them and stuff.

Ghoul: Those were the days!

Jones: Those were the days. And it was really fun and it kind of bottomed out for a while and actually the last couple of years have been awesome too. Made a lot of friends, like with the Sour Notes and Eastern Sea.