The Handsome Family are an alternative country husband-and-wife duo comprising Brett and Rennie Sparks. This Southern gothic tune was selected for the theme song for True Detective by the show's music director, T Bone Burnett. Though it fits in nicely with the HBO crime drama's themes, the song has actually been around 2003, when it was a track on The Handsome Family's Singing Bones album. "People keep asking us how we managed to write such a perfect song to open True Detective," said Rennie Sparks. "They compliment us on all the various connections to the storyline we've managed to include and how perfectly our song emotionally sets the pace for each episode. They think I'm lying when I say that the song was written long before the TV show was a spark of an idea. Maybe time really is a flat circle."
Songwriter and co-vocalist Rennie Sparks was surprised at the song's prominent placing in True Detective. "They contacted us a year ago," she said, "to use the song for 30 seconds as as interrogation scene. We knew nothing until the show premiered. Brett saw that opening sequence and hit himself so hard he bruised his legs."
This was used as the opening song for Guns n' Roses' 2014 world tour.
Written by Rennie Sparks just after the duo had moved from Chicago to Albuquerque, New Mexico, the song is a hymn to the majesty and darkness of the desert. She explained to Uncut magazine: "Here we have a lot of jimson weed. It's a horrible hallucinogenic and poisonous. During the day these bugs just look like a little pile of weeds, but at night, as soon as the moon comes up, you see these enormous white trumpets appearing from them. They always grow in the strangest places, on the sides of highways or in abandoned lots."
"There is a special kind of moth that comes out at night that has a beak like a hummingbird and it goes and sits down that trumpet," she continued. "It's very sexy. In June, they suddenly appear en masse and that each as big as a hummingbird. Then a month later, they're all gone."
"I wrote the lyrics for 'Far From Any Road' inspired by all this," she added, "then I probably told Brett I had some ideas for the music that he ignored!"
Brett Sparks added something like 11 castanets to the mix. He explained to Uncut: "I knew that I wanted Latin percussion. If you listen to the first measure of (Miles Davis and Gil Evans') Sketches of Spain, it has this beautiful sound of a chorus of castanets, it sounds like cicadas, like the Spanish night. I just loved it, so obviously I wanted to steal it (laughs). And that's a perfect way to create the frame for that song, for the place the song lives – the desert, at night."
"So I listened to that over and over, trying to figure out how they got that sound," Sparks continued. "You just have a bunch of people barring of castanets at random, so I did the same on pro-tools. They're always moving around, going down in the mix and coming up at different points. I went crazy with the percussion, there's cowbell and guoro too. Obviously, the classical guitars are evocative of the desert too."
"Then I tried a trumpet on a keyboard and was like 'That's cool,'" he added. "So I told my friend David McChesney that I needed to find a trumpet player and he was like, 'Oh, I can do it...'"