With his new band, Sleepercar, rolling down the tracks, Jim Ward says he's "not in a big rush to make any sort of decision" about his other concern, Sparta.

With his new band, Sleepercar, rolling down the tracks, Jim Ward says he's "not in a big rush to make any sort of decision" about his other concern, Sparta.

"One of the gut reactions I have now is to not plan too far ahead," Ward tells Billboard.com. "The last 10 years of my life have been very much part of a collective and planned out. Being part of a group gets old sometimes, and you need a break from it. You've got to remember you're an individual and can do what you want to sometimes."

After promoting Sparta's last album, "Threes," in 2006, Ward says the group has decided to "take at least a year off, and we'll kind of go from there. I wouldn't mind doing this band (Sleepercar) and seeing where it goes -- and working on my house and having my family around."

Sleepercar has actually been part of Ward's life since the waning days of his previous band, At the Drive-In, when he began writing the song "Fences Down" at a sound check prior to one of that group's last tours. The Americana-styled music didn't particularly fit the subsequent Sparta, either. But the musical differences helped him define what he wanted to do on Sleepercar's debut album for Doghouse Records, "West Texas."

"I don't know how much of it was conscious," Ward says, "but obviously I would get home from a Sparta tour and not want to play heavy music, which would just open that canal, that gateway to those songs."

Ward currently has Sleepercar on the road through mid-July and is hoping to schedule more dates soon. Mostly, Ward contends, he's overwhelmed there's an audience for this music at all.

"I'm blown away by it," he says. "It's totally a surprise to me. I thought I'd take a year off from Sparta and put out the record and play some shows, and it's gone much better than I could have expected. It's been fun to sell records to people who have absolutely no idea who I am."

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