Venue Address (Get Directions)The Compound Grill
Date and Time
Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 at 8:00pm
SPARTA SPARTA "Wake up! Can you hear me?" So begins "Cut Your Ribbon," the lead track on Wiretap Scars, the first full-length offering from El Paso, Texas' Sparta. Set for release Aug. 13, 2002, on DreamWorks Records, the album is both a logical extension of, and a quantum leap beyond, the ragged promise of the three-song-and-one-remix Austere EP, released in March of 2002. Wiretap Scars is the sound of the underdog triumphant. "Before Sparta, I was struggling," Jim Ward recalls, "trying to find a happy, ideologically perfect place. Once Paul [Hinojos] suggested pursuing what is now Sparta, there was no more questioning. It felt undoubtedly, wholeheartedly the right thing to do. And the writing process was totally and immediately carefree, loose and happy. Knowing each other so well music-wise made for good chemistry, but the new energy has made for a really welcome chapter in all of our lives." When Ward talks of chapters in the members of Sparta's lives, he's not exaggerating: There's history there. Despite their relatively tender ages, the various members go back as bandmates and peers at least to 1994. The family tree begins with Ward, Paul Hinojos and Tony Hajjar playing in at the drive-in, which Ward co-founded in 1994, and intersects with bassist Matt Miller's former band, Belknap, and the Restart label. Restart was founded by Ward and Hinojos as an outlet for other El Paso artists. It released Austere (with DreamWorks) and has also issued records by Universal Recovered, Airplanes Are Better and more. If El Paso has the dubious distinction of shaping the sound and aesthetic of Sparta from day one, Wiretap Scars works in color and perspective from all corners of the world. Growing up on the Texas/Mexico border, the band members--whose ethnic makeup ranges from Mexican to American to Lebanese--have witnessed the division of First and Third World living conditions by a chain-link fence as a fact of daily reality. This inevitably shapes the moods and textures of songs like "Cataract," which evokes the expansive vistas of their native town, or the bleak yet hopeful struggles of "Echodyne Harmonic." Elsewhere, new worldviews and experiences inform "Air," with its protagonist preferring life-ending disaster to the responsibility of life-changing decision, "Collapse" and its imagery of bodies "shut down in Bordeaux," and the seemingly more autobiographical "Glasshouse Tarot" and "Red Alibi." Early Sparta fans will no doubt notice the creative leaps and bounds that have taken place since work-in-progress versions of "Cut Your Ribbon," "Air" and "Collapse" first surfaced in spring 2001 on the band's Spartamusic.com website. Likewise, Austere featured early versions of Wiretap Scars' "Cataract" and "Mye," as well as a remix of "Echodyne Harmonic" and the non-LP "Vacant Skies" ("Vacant Skies" appears on the U.K. and Japanese pressings of Wiretap Scars only). Primal as they were, these formative efforts nevertheless helped to build a following almost instantaneously, as fans turned out to watch the material evolve as Sparta made its way from Texas to Iceland and virtually all points in between in its first eight months as a band. "Our first tour was awesome and humbling at the same time," says Hinojos. "We basically had to start from scratch, cobbling together 11 shows in the western U.S., but the response was instant. We were blown away by not only the support we had from the kids--who came out in force--but also by the response we received from them. We can't express enough gratitude for that." Since then Sparta has done more than its share of traditional touring in the U.S. and overseas, including a stellar showing at this year's South By Southwest conference and an extremely successful co-headline outing with Thursday. They eventually landed at Armory Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia, where work began in earnest on Wiretap Scars with Jerry Finn (Blink 182, Green Day, Sum 41) producing. "When we started writing together," says Hajjar, "Our main focus was just to have a good time and release the energy and music we had boiling up in us. Our early demos were recorded in the space of about a week. Austere was more focused because we started finding our place as a band. Working on the first full album was even more so: Two weeks of pre-production, Jerry Finn and the choice to make the record in Vancouver, removed from everything we know in El Paso and Los Angeles--it was a completely different kind of energy." And so, this underdog has grown into a formidable beast, one that has crisscrossed the globe and recorded an incredible debut album in barely a year--and is holding its own on an arena tour with Weezer and Dashboard Confessional at the time of this writing. Clearly, this is a band that believes in making every moment count, as a lyric from Wiretap Scars closer "Assemble The Empire" indicates: "Don't make this fake/ Last second of life." Hajjar concludes: "The whole process has been rapid, but super-positive and fun. Overall, we're just so ready to work."