“The album was inspired by spending a lot of time in the desert, spending so much time in movement across the country, and being in a kind of particular poetic, existential state at a reflective time,” says Indigo Sparke of Echo, her debut LP, which was released this February via Sacred Bones Records. The LP follows up Sparke’s debut EP, Night Bloom, which dropped all the way back in 2016, but during our recent chat the singer/songwriter admits to feeling like a completely different person from the one who recorded Night Bloom: “I kind of almost wanted to take that stuff down, take it away. It really didn’t feel like me at all, but it’s like all the past versions of you informed who you are now… Back then I think I was just figuring it out, figuring out who I wanted to be.”
Although Indigo Sparke tells me that she feels largely disconnected from her first EP, that period of her career certainly provided stepping stones for her more recent work. 2017/2018 saw Indigo supporting indie rockers Big Thief in her native Australia (She was also supposed to provide support for their sold out 2020 tour of Australia and New Zealand, before the pandemic hit.), which eventually led to Big Thief vocalist/guitarist-turned-friend-and-collaborator Adrianne Lenker co-producing Echo.
“Adrianne and I have a very like psychic connection, so it was easy to work with her. There was an inherent understanding of what we wanted to do when we were in there, where we didn’t have to verbalize. It was almost telepathic, always in the flow, feeling each other. So, there was no overexplaining or trying to find words… She would be the one to articulate, actually, like she would be like, ‘more goth,’ or like, ‘in the desert,’ or something like that [laughs].”
Indigo has stated, rather bluntly, that Echo is, “an ode to death and decay,” which accounts for the album’s somber simplicity. The album was born out of her travels across America throughout 2019 and does indeed channel the dusty Americana spirit of desert highways and aged hotel rooms. When I ask her if there’s any music that accompanied that period, she tells me, “Adrianne and I were listening to a lot of this album Become Desert and Visions of the Country by Robbie Basho, and a lot of Grouper. I had been revisiting Mazzy Star and Beck… Those were the soundtrack to my internal landscape.” Although the album has received a bevvy of critical praise, Indigo tells me that that’s not usually the kind of thing she pays attention to, although she was particularly amused by one reaction: “It’s kind of funny reading reviews sometimes. I tend to avoid that, although I did really enjoy the Pitchfork review, where the writer called it, ‘a dark little star,’ [laughs].”
In addition to music, Indigo Sparke also works in the visual arts, having previously studied acting for three years and currently immersing herself in the world of photography. She’s also released three music videos from Echo: “Baby,” “Everything Everything,” and, most recently, “Colourblind.” In an essay she penned for Talkhouse, she discussed the video for “Colourblind,” which was inspired by Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas. During our chat she tells me, “I feel things visually more than I do with any other sense. I feel like I’m constantly seeing visuals for things, a constant mirage of images in my mind, like seeing visual imagery or visual poetry that’s going with it.”
According to Indigo, there is a follow-up LP already in the works, but she tells me that she can’t really give details about that: “I am very excited about something that’s potentially going to happen that I probably shouldn’t talk about [laughs]. But, yeah, I’m hoping to record my next album in the next two months.” However, just a few weeks ago Indigo released Castle Demos, a limited-edition cassette (You can get it digitally, too.) of three songs from Echo in their earliest forms. During our chat she tells me that this is not something she had planned to release but is very excited that she did. She also admits that this was her first real experience with cassettes.
“We recorded them to tape as early demos. Adrianne and Phil Weinrobe and I had been talking about it and Phil was like, ‘Let’s just try some of these songs to tape in this amazing castle.’ Those recordings, when I first heard them, I didn’t really think much of them or didn’t think they sounded that different, but when I revisited them I loved them so much and I was like, ‘I really love these and they need to come out.’ Around that time Adrianne had given me a little tape machine and that was like my first experience with tapes and I finally “got” it [laughs]. I was like, ‘Yeah, this is really cool.’”
Finally, I ask Indigo about the highlights of the past five years, and her musical career in general, and she tells me that, as she gets older, she’s learned to not focus so much on moments that have happened, but on experiences as they come. However, she does tells me that there is one that would really stand out as a scene in her story.
“It’s so funny because when you start out or are growing you think you’re gonna get to this apex point in your career and you think, ‘I’m gonna get there,’ but then when you focus on your work and you’re not thinking about the outcome is when interesting things start happening. There is no destination point, there is no apex point. You’re in motion, you’re still moving. So, I’m trying to be present in the moment right now. But an amazing and synchronistic and beautiful moment was when I applied to SXSW — and I didn’t have a crew at the time — but Bob Boilen came out to see me, because he really liked the title to my song, ‘the day I drove the car around the block,’ [laughs] and he asked, ‘Would you like to come and do a Tiny Desk?’ And that’s like a Mecca of music, everyone extraordinary has played there… That was really a beautiful moment.”