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Edgar Wright, Sparks (re)introduce the world to an underappreciated band in 'The Sparks Brothers'

Jami Ganz, New York Daily News on

Published in Entertainment News

Edgar Wright’s new documentary could spark up a new a new appreciation for an overlooked band.

“The Sparks Brothers,” now lighting up theaters, “is both a celebration and an introduction” to Ron and Russell Mael, better known as the pop and rock duo Sparks, Wright told the Daily News.

As noted by many of the famous faces in the film, from Mike Myers to Duran Duran and Amy Sherman-Palladino, there are Sparks fans and there are people who’ve never heard of Sparks or believe the duo to be fictional. Or British. They’re neither, though they did have significant success in the U.K.

“We lived in England for a couple years in the mid-’70s and we would come back to Los Angeles and on the marquee of the Whisky a Go Go, it would say, ‘From England: Sparks,’” Ron Mael, 75, told The News. “Who were we to argue with the manager of the Whisky a Go Go?”

The California-born brothers have recorded addictive tracks like “The Number One Song in Heaven” or last year’s “Pacific Standard Time” and have also penned the upcoming Adam Driver movie musical, “Annette.” But they know a lot of people have no idea who they are.

“The response that I’ve already had when people who have not heard of Sparks say, ‘Hey, I saw the documentary. I hadn’t heard of them before but now I haven’t been listening to anything else.’ I’m like, job done,’” laughed Wright, known for directing “Shaun of the Dead.”

The filmmaker was driven to make a documentary about Sparks not just as a longtime fan but because the pair has, in recent years, been “bringing out albums that were as bold and as ambitious and innovative as anything that they’d done when they’d first started.

“And that to me was highly unusual for a band that’d been going as long as they have,” said Wright. “Like most other bands, I think there’s sort of a dip in quality, and that was the opposite. … I just felt aggrieved as a fan that there wasn’t a Sparks documentary. And I kept saying that out loud and then I guess at some point, you know, I realized that I had to make that documentary.”

 

The “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” director wasn’t the first to approach the brothers about turning their five-decade musical journey into a documentary.

“We kind of have always felt that what we’re doing, both musically and in a visual kind of way, is kind of more interesting” than what would be shown in a documentary,” said Ron. “But it was Edgar Wright and we always loved his films. … Having the faith that the documentary would kind of use that Edgar sensibility … in the same way he’d done it in the narrative films, we had no hesitation.”

Sparks was thrilled to see how both the director and interviewees, a mix of admirers and collaborators, spoke of the band following its own vision.

“That was something that we didn’t expect to hear and it sort of has had this real emotional kind of resonance to it from the people that have seen the film so far,” Russell Mael told The News. “We know that there’s a lot of kind of closet Sparks fans out there, but to hear them finally kind of speak, and speak on film, is kind of a different thing.”

“They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes and Ron and Russell are a glorious exception to that. And so, I was already like sort of a die-hard fan and now even more so,” Wright said.

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