L.A. art-rock duo Sparks teases 2017 album and tour with film

Ron Mael, left, and brother Russell Mael of L.A. art-rock duo Sparks tease the release of a new album and a tour for 2017 with a short film.
(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

Long-running L.A. art-rock duo Sparks will have a new album next year and brothers Ron and Russell Mael have put together an ambitious film teaser for the project.

Coming off their collaboration with Franz Ferdinand in 2015, which yielded the album “FFS” and a tour with the combined forces of both groups, Sparks will return with the yet-untitled album in 2017.

The teaser film, shot inside a large industrial factory of some sort, shows human and robotic factory workers and other machinery going about their labors as the phrases “Manufactured in Los Angeles,” “Years in the Making,” “Artisan Crafted” and “Attention to Detail” appear successively on the screen.

The Mael brothers’ albums in recent years had jettisoned standard rock guitar-bass-drums instrumentation for synthesizer and string-dominated efforts including “Lil’ Beethoven” in 2003, “Hello Young Lovers” in 2006 and “Exotic Creatures of the Dark” in 2009.


They also wrote, on commission from Swedish national radio, a radio drama, “The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman,” released as an album and performed live in L.A. in 2011 in a semi-staged production for the Los Angeles Film Festival, en route to a still-gestating feature film treatment to be directed by Canadian filmmaker and longtime Sparks fan Guy Maddin.

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It’s all part of the Maels’ ongoing quest to defy expectations and turn pop music cliches inside out.

“From our perspective, and maybe there’s some self-delusion there, we see ourselves being what pop music should be about,” Ron Mael told The Times in 2009. “People who are singing really mundane things to mundane music are really abusive of the privilege of being able to do pop music.

“There’s so much freedom there, apart from any of the rules,” Mael said. “We can’t understand why what we do is thought to be so eccentric, when it’s just something we think is exciting.”

The teaser film clip offers no overt clues about the content or style of the new album, but the music accompanying the images is full of stentorian atmospherics and ominous chords.

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