It seems so obvious, yet so wrong to make children measure up to their parents. The transgressions of the past seem ripe for repetition. Yet the offspring are typically anxious to avoid the pitfalls of the past while also excelling in new achievements of the present.
Members of the El Paso, Texas, band Sparta have inevitably been confronting and reinventing their own genealogy. Fortunately for some, and unfortunately for others, Sparta is the regrouping of underground rock gods At the Drive-In, who went on hiatus for good back in 2001. Last year saw the birth of two At the Drive-In offspring bands, with lead singer Cedric Bixler and Omar Rodriguez forming the Mars Volta while Jim Ward, Tony Hajjar, Matt Miller and Paul Hinojos formed Sparta. Their debut LP, Wiretap Scars, was released in August 2002. The snarling intensity of At the Drive-In lives on but has now been coupled with an increasingly melodious loud/soft dynamic.
Ward, lead singer of Sparta, is conscious of the advantages of an established rock pedigree. For one thing, says Ward, “It’s a lot easier to get your demo to a label when you (already) know 10 people at the label.” These connections have certainly accelerated Sparta’s acceptance among fans, the music industry and the media.
The band’s name association with At the Drive-In also opened other doors. In their first year, Sparta had the chance to tour with other high-profile bands like Weezer, Jimmy Eat World and Dashboard Confessional.
However, this quick success has also brought a desire to distance the band from ATDI as a unique entity. “I’m sure to some people (playing with Weezer right away) might have looked a little lame,” explained Ward. But at the same time, Ward has seen Sparta undergo maturation as well as separation from its parent band. He pointed out that “When you change bands, you change chemistry, you change the way that songs are written.” This has given the members of the group a chance to take on new roles. Ward moved from backing vocals and guitar in ATDI to lead vocalist/guitarist in Sparta while Hinojos moved to bass from guitar. Another interesting adjustment is the increasingly-shared responsibility of lyrics and songwriting. Ward feels Sparta is more of a team effort now, because “We sort of share the responsibility … I don’t write all the songs or the lyrics, nobody writes all of everything.”
Sparta has recently been touring as part of SnoCore, a winter-themed music event. This year’s lineup features hardcore bands GlassJaw, Hot Water Music and Dredg.