Red Sparowes - Biography
The Red Sparowes is an all-instrumental post-rock project based out of Los Angeles that was formed by members of Isis, Pleasure Forever, Angel Hair, Halifax Pier and The VSS. Known for their atmospherically heavy, hard-charging soundscapes with gratuitous use of pedal steel courtesy of Greg Burns, the original members of Clifford Meyer (of Isis), Burns (of Halifax Pier), guitarist Josh Graham (who did visuals or Neurosis and later of A Storm of Light), bassist Jeff Caxide (of Isis) and drummer Dana Berkowitz came together in 2003 as a creative outlet from their respective groups. After putting out a demo and signing to Neurot Recordings (Neurosis’s label), The Red Sparowes toured with the popular mathcore group The Dillinger Escape Plan in 2004, and since that time have released three full-length albums, three split discs and an EP called Aphorisms (2008). They have also toured multiple times throughout the US and Europe, with acts like Chicago-based instrumental post-metal band Pelican and Breather Resist, while drawing comparisons in sound and spirit to The Cure, Neurosis and Tone.
The line-up changed after the first tour in 2004 when Caxide and Berkowitz moved from Southern California, and they were replaced by ex-Pleasure Forever drummer David Clifford and former Angel Hair guitarist, Andy Arahood. With this line-up the band went into the recording studio for the first time and made At The Soundless Dawn (2005, Neurot), which was seven by turns languid, pulsating and meandering tracks—often straying into metalgaze—with wordy titles such as the nearly 20-minute closer, “The Sixth Extinction Crept Up Slowly, Like Sunlight Through the Shutters, as We Looked Back in Regret.” The jammier elements and seemingly improvisational forays drew comparisons to the ambient duo, Sunn O)))). Not long after Soundless Dawn’s release The Red Sparowes put out a 12” split with the post-rock band, Gregor Samsa (Robotic Empire), which contained the track “Buildings Began to Stretch Wide Across the Sky, and the Air Filled with a Reddish Glow” from the LP. They played headlining dates in Europe in 2005, which gained them international recognition, and later toured North America with Pelican and Big Business.
The Red Sparowes returned a year later with the Tim Green-produced Every Red Heart Shines Toward the Red Sun (2006 Neurot), a collection of eight post-rock soundscapes recorded at Prairie Sun and Louder Studios in San Francisco. Green (who has worked with Comets on Fire and The Melvins) helped further canalize the instrumental parts into a structured sound. This followed by a split EP with Grails called Black Tar Prophecies Vol. 1, and a subsequent tour that delivered the band for the first time to Moscow. That same year, The Red Sparowes put out a limited edition live album entitled Oh Lord, God of Vengeance, Show Yourself!, a response to having their touring van broken into and all of their rented equipment stolen during a gig in Stockholm, Sweden. The proceeds went to help replace the looted equipment, and the title itself was reflective of their feelings towards the thieves.
They toured throughout 2007 before undergoing roster changes. Graham would depart the band to begin a project called A Storm of Light, and long-time acquaintance and former Made Out of Babies guitarist Brendan Tobin took his place. By the beginning of 2008, the Sparowes were back in the recording studio—this time with Toshi Kasai (Tool, Big Business)—putting down the three tracks that would make up the Aphorisms EP (2008), released digitally at first, and later as a 12” vinyl album in 2009.
The Red Sparowes next released their third long player, the more progressive eight-song The Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies the Answer (2010 Sargent House), again with Kasai engineering behind the knobs. The album would be the first for new guitarist Emma Ruth Rundle (replacing Tobin), who’s third guitar layer helped the overall sound stray a little further into heavier territory. Excruciating was the first of The Red Sparowes’ albums to chart on Billboard’s Heatseekers, climbing to number 27.
The group toured the United States and Europe throughout 2010.