Interview: Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds
Tue, 31 Mar 2015 20:39:37
Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds take flight with their new album The Weather Below on May 19. We spoke to frontwoman Arleigh Kincheloe about this rabble-rousing, rollicking, and righteous rock ‘n’ roll record. The New York group has a penchant for stirring up blues, rock, alternative, and even some gospel-size hooks into a genuinely intoxicating musical pastiche. The Weather Below proves to be their boldest and biggest offering yet, reinvigorating good old fashioned rock in the process.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Arleigh Kincheloe of Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds talks The Weather Below and so much more.
Did you approach The Weather Below with one specific vision or vibe in mind, or did it all fall into place naturally while you were making it?
Well, we definitely set out to make something where everything works together. It gets lost sometimes in this day and age. People used to listen to records from front to back. It’s not like that anymore. They’ll listen to one song on Spotify or whatever. It was so important to us—and for our fans—to put out an awesome album that can stand up on its own together.
Was there an overarching theme you wanted to write about?
Yeah, a lot of the songs on this album were actually inspired by my family. That was one of the themes for sure. The songwriting happened over a long period of time—over a couple of years. Some of the songs might be more grouped together than others. The main thing that really helped us gel everything together was the time we got to spend in the studio working on it. We took three whole weeks off of the road. We were really able to focus only on that and immerse ourselves in it. It’s totally necessary if you want to have any sort of clarity or unifying theme or thought. You have to give it space to develop like that.
What’s the story behind “Mama Knows?”
I was in L.A. with my sister who lives there. I was just chilling and writing some music. That song popped out of my head one day. Because I was staying with my sister, I was inspired by family elements and wanting to talk about our mom. It all came together out of the blue. I love that. I always feel really lucky when a song comes to me like that because sometimes other songs might be more laborious. They might take a little longer. This one all happened. I was lucky. In terms of the production, I’m really proud of it partially because of the idea behind it, what it stands for, and how important my family is to me, especially my mother. The main reason I got into music was my parents, in the first place. My mom was a singer, and I really do owe it all to them. I’m really glad that’s the single. I can really get behind the message.
Where did “Cold Blooded” come from?
Sometimes, you’ve got to write a rock ‘n’ roll song. I like that one. Thanks for asking about it. That one is fun. It’s definitely a little more edgy. There’s one line I say in the second verse, “Old soup just needs some reheating.” Our baritone saxophone’s player says that. As the story goes, he and his dad were out to lunch one day, and there was an attractive older woman sitting at the table nearby. His dad was like, “What do you think of that woman?” He said, “She’s nice dad, but she’s a little on the older side for me.” His dad responded, “Come on, old soup just needs some reheating!” [Laughs] He told me that story, and I was like, “Oh my God, I have to put that in a song.” That one makes me giggle because of the backstory.
Is it important for you to tell stories with the songs?
I hope to do that. It’s definitely one of my goals. It can be really hard to see the forest through the trees. Sometimes you can write a song, and the story develops after that. I’ll have an emotion, write it out, and then it starts to make sense after that. A couple songs on this record are straight-up stories. “Don’t Be Jealous” is a song I wrote about life on the road. There are inside jokes in that song about things that have actually happened to us like breaking down in the desert and all of these things we’ve gone through together. If you listen closely, you can hear some things. The art of storytelling should be respected and carried on. I don’t claim to be good at it, but I definitely respect it.
What inspires that outside of music?
I love movies. With each record, the stories that come out of it are my life experience and whatever I’ve been going through. The first album was the innocent songs I wrote while I was teenager living out in the Catskill Mountains. As the records go on, I take my experiences with them, like moving to New York and then four years ago leaving everything behind and going on the road full time. We don’t have a whole lot of time to do much else other than traveling and playing. Nowadays, I’m more inspired by day-to-day. This record is super family-oriented. It’s not just my natural family, but the band has become a family. In this current iteration of musicians, we’re stronger than ever musically as well as personally. We’ve really gelled, and that inspires me a lot. We’re lucky enough to be in a band where we all like each other and we get to hang out and play music. It’s not easy for everyone who does it. Sometimes, people like to get on each other’s nerves, but we’re doing pretty well at being a big old family.
If the new album were a movie, what would it be?
It might be The Goonies [Laughs]. We’re just a bunch of kids, running around, getting into trouble, and looking for adventures. That’s what it feels like out there!
Pre-order the album on the band’s official site!