Video by Rennie Sparks. From Hollow, due September 8.
Follow Brett Sparks as he conducts a home inspection throughout every cellar, attic, cubby hole, closet, crawl space, storage area, shed and courtyard around what might be his own home. Rennie Sparks describes the song as “a jingle for an increasingly desperate pest control service.”
Personally, I would never hire the Handsome Family to exterminate any unwelcome interlopers in my house because I have a feeling they’d just befriend any centipedes or snakes they might encounter. But you should give them a try. I’m sure they’re very professional and capable.
Video by Rennie Sparks. From Hollow, due September 8. Single out now.
How great is the Handsome Family? We are so lucky to share a world with them. Their songs are timeless classics. Brett Sparks’ voice is rich and deep and Rennie Sparks’ lyrics are equal parts spooky and comforting. Every time they announce a new album I am grateful they are still going. “We’re astonished to be breathing,” Rennie told Folk Radio, “Let alone still be inspired to write songs and sing together. There’s been a lot of smashed coffee cups in our house over the years, but we’re still unable to resist the urge to make music.”
Brett told NPR about the origins of the new song: “It was a bleak winter during the middle of the pandemic. One night around 4 a.m., Rennie started screaming in her sleep. She screamed, ‘Come into the circle Joseph! There’s no moon tonight.’ Scary as it was, I thought, ‘Man, that’s a good chorus!'”
And that pretty much sums up the greatness of the Handsome Family. Dreamy and nightmarish, but we’ll be alright as long as we’re all in the circle together. Cover the mirrors! Call the dogs!
From Through the Trees, released twenty years ago on Carrot Top Records.
This is a new video made for an old song. “Weightless Again” is the song that originally turned me on to the Handsome Family. Rennie Sparks describes it as “Maybe our most American song: it’s about suicide, drug addiction, deforestation and Moby Dick as well as the great angst that only comes from the lack of real cream for coffee.”
It’s one of those songs that just socks you in the gut.
Remember the first time we slept together
You said it felt like when you learned to float
This is why people OD on pills and jump from the Golden Gate Bridge
Anything to feel weightless again
Once you hear something like that, you’re going to follow that band to the ends of the earth. At least I am.
And now Through The Trees is turning 20 and, to celebrate, Loose Music is releasing a deluxe edition on March 9 featuring heavyweight sky blue vinyl and an exclusive bonus CD, comprised of 15 tracks of “demos, session tracks, live performances, and bickering,” alongside the story behind Through The Trees, written by Rennie Sparks.
Jeez, I stop paying attention for a minute and when I open my eyes the Handsome Family has released four more videos from their latest album, Unseen, released last September. I guess it’s been nine months since they shared the video for “Gold”, and after that they’ve cranked out quirky, homegrown videos for “Back in My Day,” “Tiny Tina,” “The Red Door,” and now “King of Dust”.
I’m so happy these guys are still together and still putting out great music.
A great new Handsome Family song from their album Unseen, due September 16. It’s crazy to realize they’ve been putting out spooky, heartbreaking music for over twenty years now. I’ve been a fan for almost that long. In the very early days of GLONO we did an interview with Rennie Sparks. She gave better responses than my goofy questions warranted, which just goes to show how cool she is.
I was elated when the HBO drama True Detective chose their song “Far From Any Road” as its theme song for its first season. They were finally getting the attention they deserved. Hopefully all those new fans continue to dig what Brett and Rennie Sparks are whipping up in their Albuquerque home studio.
Brett: When you’ve been called “the Gomez and Morticia Adams of country music” enough times, you will fucking take off your little gothic cowboy hat.
Rennie: You have a gothic cowboy hat? Is it made of cobwebs and lizard skin?
Brett: I got a cobrasnake for a necktie.
Rennie: Honestly, though, when you try to write songs you don’t think about what other people will think about it.
Brett: I kind of do. I want to write things that will satisfy my … spectral need. [Laughs] I want to make my stuff so that it works for people. I don’t have exclusionary intentions. I’ve been through all this shit; I wrote abstract, atonal music, I worked in prepared piano music, I went to school and studied bullshit harmony and counterpoint for no reason, but I try to take that stuff and roll it up into a little ball that people can play with.
Their new album, Honey Moon, is due April 14 on Carrot Top.
A novelty can get you attention, but what then? Successful acts use their novelty to get a foot in the door and then let loose with the real deal once inside. Ask the White Stripes—or the Handsome Family.
The Handsome Family got their foot in the door as a husband & wife duo (Rennie and Brett Sparks) singing spooky dirges supported by a drum machine that was started and stopped by hand on stage. It was quirky, it was neat, and it was novel. But the Handsome Family realizes that only goes so far and they’ve expanded their sound (and their charm) on Singing Bones. Sure, the lyrics still lean into the creepy zone, but the instrumentation and production are now worthy of Rennie’s lyrics and Brett’s musical arrangement. Purists may shout out “Judas,” (can you imagine?), but Singing Bones is the Handsome Family finding their confidence as recording artists.