Spark has been on my radar since their demo, which landed them on my 12 Hardcore Bands to Check Out in 2018 list. The German outfit plays a potent blend of straight hardcore inspired byt the straight edge revival of the late '90s and early '00s and the melodic strain of the style that came out of the DC in the late '80s.
Their 2019 split EP with Belgium's Chain Reaction was a banger, and though it's taken a few years longer than I had hoped, Spark is finally gearing up for the release of their debut album, Supernova. As someone who's lived with the advance of the record for a few weeks now, I can tell you that the wait was worth it.
To help spread the word about the forthcoming album, I spoke with Spark vocalist Andy Villhauer about their backstory, the lyrical side of Supernova, and his thoughts on European hardcore bands getting a fair shot in America.
For the readers who might not be familiar with the band yet, what's the the backstory on the formation of Spark and the musical influences that drew you together?
Spark started, because my homie Adrian (former guitarist) and me wanted to start a straight edge hardcore band that sounds like the bands we fell in love with when we got into hardcore in the mid-'00s, meaning all the Youth Crew revival and “modern hardcore” bands that were big at that time, like Carry On, In My Eyes, Have Heart, etc.
We then wrote and roughly recorded the first couple of songs to send them out to friends, who could potentially join the band. The first full lineup got together in 2017 to write and record the demo, which eventually dropped a couple days before NYE 2017, so it would be out for our first show on January 1, 2018.
The last time we spoke, you said about the Spark writing process: "How many riffs does a good hardcore song need? That’s right: two.” What can you tell me about the material you’ve tracked for the Supernova album?
[Laughs] On the LP we definitely put more than two riffs in our songs, even though there are some short bangers on there too for sure. For Supernova, we included way more influences than we did for our early material.
We listened to a lot of more melodic bands like all the revolution summer stuff or Supertouch, but also some rather forgotten bands from the '00s era like Go It Alone. I feel like we’ve managed to give the listener a diverse listening experience without sounding like five different bands at once.
In terms of lyrics, what kinds of themes did you tackle on the album?
Supernova probably has the most personal and introspective lyrics I’ve ever written. I wrote a lot about dark thoughts and emotions I’ve experienced during the last couple of years. It sounds like a fucking cliché, but bringing all these personal issues to the table for the record felt therapeutic in a way. On the other hand I also wrote about political and social issues.
To pick one example: The title track, "Supernova," has the line “It starts and ends with you." It is basically a critique of people who put social / political momentums like e.g. the BLM movement on the side and simply call it a “(social media) trend”. White western people are most of the time full of themselves and very lazy when it comes to topics like that. “Why should I care?” “Why should I change?” “It doesn’t concern me,” etc.
However, if we truly want everlasting change, we all have to care. Fighting racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. should never be seen as a trend, but as a necessity.
You’ve previously worked with Control Records, so it makes sense they’re handling the European release of Supernova. How did the relationship with Sunday Drive Records in the States come to be?
Yes! We’re big Control Records fans, so it’s awesome that he also handles the European release of our LP too. Thank you, Geert!
Jonathan of Sunday Drive Records actually contacted us after seeing the Hate5six live video of our Cologne show with Have Heart in 2019. We didn’t know the label before, but after checking out what he released and how he handles the label, we knew that this is just the right place for a band like Spark.
I love how diverse the label roster is, but at the same time it all makes sense. Since our LP is a bit more melodic than our old stuff, it fits the hardcore bands on the label, but also the more melodic / emo bands.
I’m curious to get your thoughts on how you view the state of hardcore today, especially since you’re based in Germany. Do you feel that American hardcore listeners pay enough attention to bands from Europe? I think there are so many bands that fall through the cracks because of this.
It’s definitely tough for hardcore bands from mainland Europe to get international attention. However, we’re not mad about it. I kinda get it too. Especially the US have so many bands of their own, why should they care for even more bands from the other side of the world? The European hardcore scene is also not as vibrant as the US scene. Most bands don’t make it past the local band status and most of the time they don’t even want to, which is fine, but that doesn’t help [laughs].
Then again, three of Spark also play in a NYHC style band called Echo Chamber and they are playing next year’s edition of FYA Fest, which is nothing but amazing. So I guess every now and then if the stars are aligned and your band is as great as Echo Chamber, people from overseas might pay attention.
However, I guess I can speak for all of the bands from our circle (be that Echo Chamber, Spark, Spirit Crusher, Exposure, etc.) when I say that we’re just down to rock wherever with whoever wants to rock with us. It doesn’t matter if that’s somewhere in Europe or someplace else. We don’t play music to please a certain audience. You’re either with us, or you’re not. It’s all love.
Thank you once again for the interview Carlos. You’re the man. I love No Echo. Shout-outs to Control Records and Sunday Drive Records for making it all possible!
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