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Sparks Shares Incredible Stop-Motion 'Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)' Video: Premiere

Sparks
Courtesy of BMG

Sparks

Sparks fans can thank Franz Ferdinand, in part, for the group's first new album in eight years, Hippopotamus -- including the track "Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)," whose video is premiering exclusively below. The stop-motion video for was directed and designed by BAFTA Award winning animator/puppeteer Joseph Wallace.

Brothers Ron and Russell Mael tell Billboard that they were focusing on a film musical, Annette, when they joined forces with the Scottish rockers for the 2014-15 project FFS, which led to a self-titled album and limited touring. Doing that revived their interest in making a more conventional Sparks album. 

"We had spent quite a lot of time working on these long, narrative musical ideas as opposed to songs, and the FFS collaboration kind of rekindled our passion for working with three- and four-minute songs again, and within a band format and also playing live," Ron Mael acknowledges. "So we decided to try working that way as a band again as Sparks and not kind of do it like we're slumming in some kind of way. And we were really pleased at what we were coming up with and also the ability to play these songs. We saw them as being able to be done in a live format."

That said, the 15-track Hippopotamus, which comes out Sept. 8 (pre-order here), has plenty of the quirky wit the Maels are known for ("Missionary Position," "So Tell Me Mrs. Lincoln Aside From That How Was The Play?," "Life With The Macbeths"), as well as a kind of melodic grandeur that may have seeped in from the more enveloping Annette project. "I'm sure there was some influence, even if we weren't always conscious about it," notes Russell Mael, adding that Sparks' work with Annette director Leos Carax (Holy Motors), who makes a guest appearance on the Hippopotamus track "When You're A French Director," also left an impact. "It's a pretty dense album, and I think maybe that might've been affected by working in that kind of musical atmosphere for a while. We really like to bring in things into our songs that aren't traditionally used in pop songs, and so just having worked in that kind of grandiose and hyper dramatic sort of way really infused this album to some degree." But the Maels are quick to note that Hippopotamus did not in any way borrow from older endeavors.

"We really wanted this to be completely fresh material," Russell Mael says. "A lot of people build up a backlog of songs and you can kind of go, 'Let's explore that song we did six years ago,' but we feel that's kind of lazy. We really felt this album had to be started from the ground floor up, not, 'We've got this song left over from two years ago, we can polish it up and maybe it'll be good enough.' We really wanted this to be, 'What's good enough right now?' and hopefully be bold and striking and representative of us at present and not having any ties to the past."

Sparks has been in Europe performing in advance of Hippopotamus' release, resuming on Sept. 11. The duo has U.S. shows booked during October in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and Russell Mael predicts "there's probably going to be more stuff announced after that." The Maels don't anticipate a return of FFS, however; "It seemed like one album was kind of the right amount for the collaboration," Ron Mael explains. "After that it would be diminishing returns for everybody." Annette, meanwhile, is on tap to begin filming with director Carax during the early part of 2018 with stars Adam Driver and Michelle Williams. Amazon Studios will distribute the film, which is Carax's first English language outing.

"It's a really big production," says Russell Mael. "We wrote the whole story and the dialogue is all incorporated within the songs, so it's a really big undertaking. It kind of escalated from being this little project that was maybe our next album to becoming a big feature film. We've dabbled in a few film musical projects with really great directors through the years and unfortunately, for various reasons, they didn't see the light of day. So for us to have something this far along like this is really exciting."

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