The Handsome Family are one of those bands who have been around for so long that you can’t imagine modern americana as a genre without them, Brett and Rennie Sparks being the masters of songs that transform the mundane landscape of modern life into a place of mysterious portent.
They take place in parking lots and big box stores, under overpasses and in airports. They sing about Custer’s last stand and automatic lawn sprinklers in the same song. Rennie’s lyrics often focus on the myriad creatures that live at the edges of the man-made world: the sparrows, rats, cockroaches and crows that share our cities.
Many great songwriters have covered their work, among them Jeff Tweedy, Jason Lytle, and Andrew Bird as well as Christy Moore. David Bowie wrote the words, “The Handsome Family” in a notebook right before his death. Who knows what could have been?
Next month our lovely friends at Loose will release their first two records, ‘Odessa’ (1995) and ‘Milk & Scissors’ (1996), on vinyl LP. This will be the first time these records have been released in Europe. About the making of their first records, Brett says, “I tried to form a band when we first moved to Chicago in 1992. After rehearsing with a string of mullet-headed yacht-rockers, I gave up and decided to make a band with my wife Rennie playing bass and my friend Mike Werner on drums. Rennie and Mike were new to their instruments and my guitar playing was very limited. But that was back in the post-punk days and you could do what you wanted, it didn’t matter if you were technically good, as long as you had songs and ideas. We were influenced by early country and DIY indie rock, and played both kinds of songs in the same chaotic, distorted style. We played every no-pay gig on Chicago’s Division Street we could book.
At one of these shows we were all wearing sailor outfits and drinking heavily. My glasses fell off my face and when I stomped on a distortion pedal I broke them in half— that was the night Patrick Monaghan of Carrot Top Records asked if we wanted to put out a record on his new label. That same night Dave Trumfio offered to record a free, professional “demo tape” for us. We were astounded that anyone was paying attention to our songs given our chaotic stage presence.”
And why not find out for yourself at one of the Handsomes’ famously relaxed shows – here’s where they’re playing in the Spring across Europe:
THE HANDSOME FAMILY EUROPEAN TOUR – SPRING 2020
22 Apr – GOTEBORG Musikens Hus (SE)
23 Apr – STOCKHOLM Bryggarsalen (SE)
25 Apr – COPENHAGEN Hotel Cecil (DK)
27 Apr – HAMBURG Knust (DE)
28 Apr – GRONINGEN Oosterpoort (NL)
29 Apr – AMSTERDAM Paradiso Noord (NL)
02 May – BRIGHTON St Luke’s Church (UK)
03 May – EXETER Phoenix (UK)
04 May – CARDIFF Globe (UK)
06 May – DUBLIN Liberty Hall (IE)
07 May – BELFAST CQAF @ Festival Marquee (UK)
09 May – GLASGOW Community Central Halls (UK)
11 May – BIRMINGHAM Hare & Hounds (UK)
12 May – MANCHESTER St Philip’s Church (UK)
14 May – LEEDS Wardrobe (UK)
15 May – NORWICH Arts Centre (UK)
16 May – BRISTOL Redgrave Theatre (UK)
17 May – LONDON EartH (UK)
>>> Please help to support musicians affected by the coronavirus crisis in the UK by donating £2 a month to us - we'll send you an exclusive 20 track curated playlist every month plus the opportunity to win tickets and CDs. Click here for more information.