A singer-songwriter who makes his own illustrations is inevitably going to get compared with Jeffrey Lewis, and Sparky Deathcap is no different. The fact remains that the two makes massively different music about similar things. On new EP Tear Jerky, Sparky explores the break-up of a relationship through songs which he plays in front of a screen projecting his cartoons. We caught up with him before his gig supporting Los Campesinos! for a chat.
Are you excited to be playing Manchester?
I’m from Cheshire, at the moment I live near Chester. So, yeah, I suppose it’s nice to play here because it’s the closest thing to home territory for me.
And how was Swn festival?
It was really, really good – we only really got to see the bands on our stage, which is a shame because there were some good bands on.
You toured with Daniel Johnston – did you get to spend much time with him? What’s he like?
I wasn’t with him all that long, he was really lovely. He’s quite funny and aware of how people see him and things, but he plays up to that as well, so he’s quite childlike in that way. He didn’t really remember anyone from day to day because I think he sees all young people as one and the same – I mean, he’s getting on for what? 50 now? There was a tribute record called ‘A tribute the late great Daniel Johnston’ because so many people thought he was dead. But yeah, it was an incredible experience.
You’re not only known for your songs but also for your drawings (Sparky runs his own site, http://tearjerky.co.uk), but what would you consider yourself first – and artist or a musician?
I don’t know, it’s weird really. Before I took an interest in music I was really into drawing, but then I did an English degree, and it was then that i started taking music more seriously. It’s only now that I’m trying to keep the two things together. It’s duel things to be precious about, because whenever calls me a musician I’m like ‘What about my art?’ and whenever anyone calls me an artist it’s like ‘I’m a musician’. It’s tricky trying to combine the two.
We had a look at your drawings and liked the ‘6 brides for 7 brothers’ one. Are you a fan of musicals?
They’re interesting, it’s a modern form of opera. I like West Side Story, but I find musicals pretty hard to enjoy, especially the Lloyd Webber ones.
You’ve got a new EP out. Tell us a bit about it.
It’s on my own label and all the tracks are about a year old, and it was written around the time I broke up with a girlfriend, but it was largely influenced by the fallout from that. ‘September’ is directly about that – I recorded that whilst it was still going on. I did ‘Glasgow is a punk rock town’ a while ago, but I’ve re-recorded it for the EP. It’s basically 5 of my favourites – I write an awful lot of songs, but most of them don’t really go anywhere. I’m glad it’s out now as it means I can move on.
We’ve heard about you and Los Campesinos! helping each other out on tour. They’re your backing band at the minute, aren’t they? What else is in the pipeline?
I’ve got some tours coming up with them. They help me for a few songs and I play extra drums and percussion as well as some guitar in Los Camp at the minute. We’re going to do a few gigs together like that. After that I’m going to try release a couple of records maybe this year. I’ve been touring around this animated sort of ‘rock opera’ thing with some of my illustrations. It’s based around Valentine’s Day, so I’m going to try and animate that.
What are you listening to at the moment?
I listen to a lot of jazz when I’m just doing stuff around the house, and I listen to a lot of books on tape. I kind of go through periods where I find indie music quite difficult to listen to. It takes me so long to acclimatise to all the new stuff. A lot of my friends were like ‘Wow, Crystal Castles’ and I went and saw them and I was like ‘Is this what’s cool now?’. I think I’ve become a bit behind the times in terms of my influences, but I think it’s important to be sure about something and to stick to your guns. The problem with music is that attracts all the best people and all the worst people. There are people that I definitely feel a bit aggrieved about. You’ve got to have a bit of a thick skin at times, I suppose.