During a 30-year career, Brett and Rennie Sparks have created songs that transform the mundane landscape of modern life into a place of mysterious portent. Loose Music has released their first two albums, Odessa (1994) and Milk And Scissors (1996) for the first time in Europe. The albums, described as ‘individually vital’ by Uncut, are also released on vinyl for the first time.
Handsome Family songs take place in parking lots and big box stores, under overpasses and in airports. They sing about Custer’s last stand and automatic lawn sprinklers in the same song. Rennie’s lyrics often focus on the myriad creatures that live at the edges of the man-made world: the sparrows, rats, cockroaches and crows that share our cities.
Many great songwriters have covered their work, among them Jeff Tweedy, Jason Lytle, and Andrew Bird as well Christy Moore. David Bowie wrote the words, “The Handsome Family” in a notebook right before his death.
About the making of their first records, Brett says, “I tried to form a band when we first moved to Chicago in 1992. After rehearsing with a string of mullet-headed yacht-rockers, I gave up and decided to make a band with my wife Rennie playing bass and my friend Mike Werner on drums.
Rennie and Mike were new to their instruments and my guitar playing was very limited. But that was back in the post-punk days and you could do what you wanted, it didn’t matter if you were technically good, as long as you had songs and ideas.
We were influenced by early country and DIY indie rock, and played both kinds of songs in the same chaotic, distorted style. We played every no-pay gig on Chicago’s Division Street we could book.
For Handsome Family fans these records are a must. Odessa reveals the early style of the band and Milk & Scissors illustrates how their songwriting transformed after Rennie began writing lyrics.
Odessa and Milk & Scissors are available on vinyl, CD and digitally through Loose Music