Considering it doesn’t snow much in Texas, you can’t blame the El Paso-based Sparta for initially having reservations about co-headlining this year’s annual SnoCore tour with Glassjaw. Drummer Tony Hajjar tells Billboard.com the band almost balked at the offer without fully knowing (or understanding) what the tour was all about.
“We had heard about the SnoCore Tour in the past, but we thought it was a tour that you go through Vail and ski resorts and places like that,” says Hajjar. “We got it explained to us that you play real clubs in real venues like any other tour and then we started saying, ‘That is cool.’ To be honest, we were just being chickens about traveling in the snow.” The added bonus for Sparta was the band was able to choose its openers — Hot Water Music and Dredg — for the trek, which bows tomorrow (Feb. 11) in Albuquerque, N.M.
Comprising three-fourths of the now-defunct hard rock outfit At The Drive-in (Hajjar, singer/guitarist Jim Ward and guitarist Paul Hinojos with former Belknap bassist Matt Miller), the members of Sparta are still feeling a bit pigeonholed by constant comparisons to their erstwhile group — even though musically, there is little similarity to be found on the band’s DreamWorks debut, “Wiretap Scars.”
Hajjar says he is desperately looking forward to Sparta’s next album, which he hopes will further distance the act from ATDI. In regard to new material, he says the band has been noodling around without any clear direction.
“We have a lot of new material that we’ve been working on in quiet but we won’t be playing it live,” offers Hajjar. “We really haven’t had time to put the songs together, but there is a lot of excitement to start writing again. So hopefully, later this year, we will start. So far, the slow stuff we’ve been jamming on is slower than what we’ve ever done and the rock stuff that we’ve been jamming on is probably a lot more rock than we have ever played in our lives. A little bit like … I don’t know … more rock. I don’t want to curse myself. I’m going to stay quiet.”
On SnoCore, the foursome will play “Wiretap Scars” in its entirety (including one song, “Echodyne Harmonic,” which hasn’t been played live before) as well as “Vacant Skies,” found on the “Austere” EP. Sparta was also recently named as an opening act for a dozen shows on the first leg of Pearl Jam’s upcoming North American tour. In the meantime, the band is looking forward to the diversity found on this year’s SnoCore trek.
“You’ll be experiencing four bands who don’t sound anything alike,” says Hajjar. “You’ll see a tour that expresses a time period in a sense of where music is right now or where music is maybe going to go — I’m talking about mainstream. It’s just good to see new music. And the thing is, you’re experiencing a lot of bands that work very, very hard for what they are doing, so at least you’ll see a lot of people doing it for the right reasons.”