Sparks

1972-
Russell MaelVocals
Ron MaelKeyboards

Sparks Artistfacts

  • Sparks are the brotherly duo of Ron and Russell Mael from Los Angeles. Their father was a newspaper artist (painter, cartoonist) who died when Ron Mael was 11 and Russell 6, while their mother was a librarian who opened a psychedelic novelty shop with her second husband. "Our family weren't eccentrics or had any black sheep we can be proud of," Russell claimed to Mojo. "But we were exposed to stuff that we didn't realise what effect they would have on us."
  • The Mael brothers' first album was released under the name of Halfnelson but it flopped. Their record label thought the problem was the name of the band and Bob Dylan's manager Albert Grossman suggested their new monlker. Ron Mael told Uncut:

    "Albert Grossman suggested to us, since we were such funny people, that we should call ourselves the Sparks Brothers. We obviously glanced at each other and grimaced, but he was such an important person. ..We had to go along with part of it, so we took the Sparks part, semi - reluctantly."
  • Unlike other brotherly musical performers such as Ray and Dave Davies of The Kinks or Noel and Liam Gallagher of Oasis, the Maels have always got along and seldom quarrelled. Russell Mael told us the brothers secret for their sibling harmony:

    "Just sharing a common vision for what we're doing in Sparks. I think we share that mission – and I think the word "mission" is somehow more appropriate – where we don't discuss or talk about it but you just want to rebel against everything. Rebel against what you see in the world. Rebel against the lack of adventure in pop music. Rebel against all the bad people.

    It's a common purpose to what we're doing and in our small way we channel that sort of vision and mission through the music we have and the sensibility Sparks represents. We speak similarly so there aren't those kind of disputes that you find in some of those other brother acts that you've mentioned. It's more puzzling that brothers can be in a band and not get along. That seems even weirder to me. It's kind of weird to think that's more the norm for brother acts. But you hear it all the time with The Kinks and the Everly Brothers."
  • Sparks are renowned for their oddball, theatrical stage presence, typified in the contrast between Russell's outgoing, hyperactive frontman antics and the keyboard-bound, stoic Ron's deadpan scowling with his Charlie Chaplin-esque moustache.
  • Sparks tried to poach Brian May to join their touring band before he found fame with Queen. Ron Mael recalled to Q Magazine: "That was around the time of Propaganda. We approached him and he pondered it but it probably worked out best for both sides. I don't think that would have been a long lasting relationship. His style probably wouldn't have been a right thing for us. We're always trying to fool around with combinations."
  • A French TV show once refused to book Sparks because Ron Mael's mustache evoked Adolf Hitler. "That's when I realized it wasn't something I needed to stand up and defend," he told Q Magazine.

    His Charlie Chaplin mustache was duly trimmed to a Clark Gable one. "It's really more Ronald Colman," Ron stipulated to Q, "which is funny because that's who I was named after. He was my mum's favorite actor."

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