Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Entertainment journalist with 20 years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, and B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. My memoir, ChemBro, is out now!
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In November, Brooklyn based funk/soul band Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds had their van broken into, and $11K worth of instruments and equipment stolen. The emotion they felt after telling their fans about it was one not usually associated with crime.
“It’s hard when something like that happens,” Sister Sparrow lead singer Arleigh Kincheloe explains, “but the thing is, we got such an outpouring of love on the back end of that, I ended up feeling like wow, my heart is warmed that there are so many people out there who would come forward and say, ‘Hey, whatever we can do to help you, we believe in you.’”
While the eight person funk/soul outfit spends a significant amount of time on the road, averaging well over one hundred shows per year over the past three years, the robbery took place close to home, with their van parked just up the street from where their guitarist, Sasha Brown, lives. According to Kincheloe, the vans of touring musicians are an easy target, as they’re fairly obvious.
It wasn’t always that way for the Dirty Birds crew, however. Kincheloe remembers, “We used to travel in an old Ramada Inn airport shuttle van. Nobody robbed it, we never got pulled over, and it was a piece of crap, but we loved it. We upgraded because it died many times, and we had to, but it was a stealth-mobile. Nobody knew who you were.”
On December 13th, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds’ van was parked outside of Fairfield Theatre Company StageOne, in Fairfield, CT, where the band was performing on back to back nights. It was a return visit to the area, and one quite a few fans had been waiting for.
While backstage, surrounded by memorabilia highlighting everyone from local musical heroes, to legends such as B.B. King, Kincheloe recalls a conversation from earlier that day at a local grilled cheese eatery around the corner. “The guy there brought up that the first time he saw us was (in 2011) at the Acoustic Cafe (In Bridgeport, CT), and I realized, oh yeah, we played that place a few times, and it brought back these memories of how insanely enthusiastic the crowd was ... We had so much fun there. That was one of those things, it felt like people were coming out of the woodwork, and we didn’t know that we had fans, and they were just stoked, and sweaty, and so fun. We were all just a mess after that show. It was awesome.”
Wild shows have become the norm for Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds. Some of them could even be defined as explosive. When the band performed at a rugby tournament after party in Saranac, NY, Kincheloe says the male, and female, rugby players were out of control. “They literally were lighting fireworks off inside the place,” she remembers. “We played three really long sets. We were so exhausted after that show that the owners of the club were like, ‘You should just sleep here. We put mattresses, and sleeping bags down,’ and we were like OK, we’re just gonna crash here.”
As the band was passed out in the bar’s green room, none probably dreamed that a few short years later they’d be working with music industry legend, and former American Idol judge, Randy Jackson. That’s what happened, however, as the Grammy winning producer was in the studio with them for the recording of their recently released EP, Fight.
Jackson’s initial impact was a zen-like one. According to Kincheloe, “He’s so chill, and he created this atmosphere for us to be really relaxed.” When it came to the recording of the album, however, he knew exactly what he wanted from the band – imperfection. It may sound strange, but Kincheloe explains, “A couple of the vocal tracks I had tracked live with the band, as we were tracking their instruments, which is not that common. Usually you go back and overdub, but he was like, ‘No, no, no. You caught something on that track, and you should keep that. Even if it’s not perfect, the emotion is there, and you can hear that.’”
For Kincheloe, and the rest of the band, it was an eye opening experience. “I think that was really something interesting we learned from him, that we weren’t trying to be perfectionists. He kinda taught us that you really don’t need to be, and plus, you’ll never get it perfect. It’s music, it’s not supposed to be perfect. Go with the good vibes. He was all about that.”
While imperfection might be perfect for recording, for her writing, Kincheloe prefers the quality of solitude, opting to leave the city for the comfort of her father’s home in the Catskills. “I like to go up there and kinda just shut things out, and be in the mountains, and just be quiet,” she explains.
Before she makes any return trips there, however, Kincheloe and crew have a few more shows to perform this winter, including a special show at Brooklyn Bowl on January 31st, where they’ll be covering an entire album, as chosen by their fans. Voting has been taking place on the band’s Facebook page, where they’ve given the option of ten classic albums to choose from.
It only makes sense that the fans would make this decision, being that for Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, whether it’s been sweaty shows, or stolen instruments, their fans continue to be an inspiration for them.