We had the chance to interview Christian Sparks and the Beatnik Bandits at a recent show and first off, they are a fun bunch to interview and put on one hell of a live show. The band formed in Austin, TX and has a sound that is a bit Alt-Folk/Alt-Country. If we had to comp them, we would say, think Shakey Graves, especially vocally. Their self-titled EP just dropped in March and it's great. So we'd recommend giving this a read and then giving them a listen!
1. How did you come to pursue music and how long have you been at it?
Christian - "I think we've from a young age decided we wanted to make music. But I had met Hunter
in our hometown like 10 years ago or something, something crazy like that. We've been playing music our whole lives."
Hunter - "And we [Christian & Hunter] have been playing music together for a while now. And we both just kind of decided to move down to Austin like two years ago. So now here we are."
Sam - It's cool. We're in Corpus Christi right now, I'm from Corpus Christi, and moved up to the Austin area to San Marcos for school, but kind of the same story. I've been playing in bands for half my life, playing music my whole life. I ran into them and everything just clicked.
Will - "Yeah. Well, this is actually my first show [with the band]. But I've been friends with them a little while and Sam and I went to school together, we studied audio engineering. So I've been doing music since before I did audio during the last couple years and have been more focused on just like the recording and live (sound) side. But I still was like, Oh, no, I still don't feel right, not having playing being some aspect of what I do. So I had been in a band for a while, but it's been a decent while. So I'm glad to be playing with people again. And these are cool guys. I did front of house for them a number of times. That's how I got to know their music."
2. Could you walk us through your process of writing music?
Christian - "I've been writing a number of those songs, like I was kind of doing my own thing years back, I was trying to write songs for myself. And I wrote those songs, and never really did anything with it. I threw them up on YouTube, after recording on GarageBand at my house and never really got a response from it. But I knew that I wanted to perfect performing better because I wasn't, I wasn't that skilled a performer, or I didn't really know how to express myself on stage yet. And so I wanted to take time to learn those trades. And through years of just performing at different places, I just kept writing and kind of collecting songs.
And then I brought one of the songs on the EP to Hunter, when we had met back in, he was going to Texas State, and this is about a year ago I brought it to him is called "Beesting". So I brought that to him. And we had not played in years together. And the first thing he played on it, I was like, 'That's exactly what I want on the song'. And so once we found that, we decided that we both had the drive at that point that I felt like we'd never had before as
musicians that we really wanted to do this. So we said 'Okay, well let's just try harder than anybody else that's around us. And let's just keep pushing our music and keep trying to become better musicians'. But songwriting wise I'd say it just kind of comes to me when it comes to like songs, like little phrases I hear throughout like meeting people, and I hear them and they tickle me the right way, and I just jot it down and then take it home and pull it apart, put it back together. And you know, like that."
Hunter - "I don't really know for like, if this has anything to do or related wise. But basically, busking has been a major thing of what we do, like just something that we go out and did every week so that's also like kind of where me Christian started as far as like in the Austin area we got together and we're like 'Hey we don't have any shows let's just go out on the street or go out on the campus and just show people our music' So it's worked so far, it was kind of ritual for us just like me and him and we still do it today."
3. What artists have inspired you in your career?
"We're all inspired separately by different people. But we all have like a common love for rock music, like 60's and 70's music. Neil Young, Bob Dylan, even artists that sound different than us like Post Malone and Chance the Rapper, the way he's done marketing himself and made music is very inspiring."
4. Do you have any favorite music gear (guitars, amps, effects pedals, keyboards, etc.) that you love to use? If so, what’s the story on them?
Hunter - "I don't even know the year, but it's not it's not just Ludwig and not just Leedy, it's a Leedy and Ludwig snare that has an original calf head and we used to record "One Man Killing Machine". I did some brush work on it and like it's just it's just priceless to me because it was gifted through family friends, they found it underneath a cabin in Arkansas."
Sam - "My guitar, it's kind of funny, I've had my guitar for like 11 years it's a Fender Stratocaster it's a Mexican Stratocaster and I bought it and ever since I have found out a bunch of cool things about it. One of the cool things was what I realized years into having it, that whoever put my pickups in they put it in backwards (the bridge pickup) and so as long as I had the guitar basically, they were backwards. So I just went to get it fixed like two weeks ago and the guy opened it up and he said 'Oh my goodness these pickups are from the original person who did pickups for Fender back in the 60's'. She's the original one. She's the only person who worked there that long. And I guess she just passed away."
Christian - "I have a Martin X Series that I love. And I really like kind of grown into it. Just playing it in just like it's treated me well. I've treated it awfully and it's treated me well. So yeah, I really respect the guitar. And just because I've just dug into it. It still sounds good. Two weeks into having it, I let someone use it at a house party, but there's a lot of musicians there. And the guys like, 'Hey, like, you got that Martin. You mind if I use it for a song?' I'm like, you know, I was feeling nice. I was like, 'You know what? Go ahead. Use the guitar'. What are you gonna do? Like, what's, gonna happen? He's strumming and he plays what they call cow punk music. So he's like, strumming, like really hard. We've all been drinking pretty much. I mean, I don't drink much. But these guys drink a lot. And he cut his finger halfway through. And so the tip of his finger starts bleeding. And he's just splattering blood and it's just going on the inside of my brand new Martin that I just got. And, and so still today. There's still just blood splatters on the inside of my guitar from this guy. I don't know. I thought about like naming the guitar something like Bloody Mary."
5. Can you describe the vibe at your live shows? Also, what do you enjoy most about a venue when you do a show?
"Energy, that's our number one. I mean we should all be having a good time, like everyone, should. It's because that's one of the biggest compliments we get is when people come up It's like, you guys, when you're playing like we are (having fun). And so I think a lot of people pick that up. And then the thing that can be hard about some venues can be the sound. But we usually get treated pretty well."
6. What is one thing that you want the public to know about your music?
"We're putting our whole heart into it and that we're doing it and we're not going to stop doing it."
7. Do you have any upcoming projects you would like fans to know about?
Check out our Self-Titled EP on Spotify.
Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @BeatnikBandits