Sparks haven’t visited Australia for 23 years. So what are brothers Russell and Ron Mael of the prolific art pop duo excited about exploring when they land in Oz? “I’m looking forward to the coffee,” says Ron.
Their upcoming tour through Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane will give them plenty of opportunities to explore the coffee scene. Zooming from their respective homes in Los Angeles, the pair tell Broadsheet they’re particularly interested in flat whites. “Sometimes we order them [in LA] and people stare at you,” says Russell. “The interpretation of a flat white is so different at every single place … we’re curious to see what the real deal is.”
The duo has experienced something of a pop-cultural resurgence in the past few years, fuelled by the release of two films in 2021. The first is The Sparks Brothers, a documentary from Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World director Edgar Wright. The doco, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, functions as a career retrospective of sorts.
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The brothers, who have flown under-the-radar for much of their decades-long career, are often described as “your favourite band’s favourite band”. And Wright interviews everyone from Beck to Jane Wiedlin (the Go-Go’s), Flea, Gilmore Girls showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino, Fred Armisen and frequent Taylor Swift collaborator Jack Antonoff about the duo’s ongoing influence on pop music.
Then there’s the brothers’ work on Annette, Leos Carax’s dizzying pop opera starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, which earned them Best Original Score at the 2022 Césars. The absurd critique of modern fame set off a flurry of internet discussion – largely around the haunting puppet that plays the titular character, and that intimate Driver-Cotillard musical scene – propelling the duo back into the cultural conversation.
Australians might be familiar with the Maels via their association with Cate Blanchett, who stars in a music video from Sparks’ latest studio album, The Girl Is Crying in Her Latte. Blanchett dons a canary yellow Stella McCartney suit and large headphones, and maintains a deadpan expression while dancing expressively to the album’s title song. “She wasn’t sure after she heard it whether she should be crying or laughing, thematically, with the subject matter and all of the song,” explains Russell. “We said, ‘Do anything you want and it’ll be great because you’re Cate Blanchett.’”
When they’re not on stage, don’t be surprised if you run into the brothers at your local grocery. One of their favourite things about travel is exploring local supermarket aisles. “We like museums, but supermarkets are up there on a similar level,” says Russell. “That’s where the real culture is, you know,” adds Ron.
Sparks are touring Australia through October and November. More details and ticket information available here.