Features April 5, 2018

Chrome Sparks on what keeps drawing him to work with Australian artists

Zanda Wilson
Staff Writer
Chrome Sparks on what keeps drawing him to work with Australian artists
Image: Tonje Thilesen

Chrome Sparks is the electro-tinged solo project of US musician Jeremy Malvin. A talented percussionist who received formal training at the School of Music at the University of Michigan, the Chrome Sparks identity first emerged in 2010 as Malvin began to release music on Bandcamp, before he burst into the public consciousness two years later with breakthrough single ‘Marijuana’.

Malvin is the sort of musician that works tirelessly to get what he wants, and will stop at nothing to make his dream collaborations happen. It was this drive and desire that’s seen him make music with a number of Australian artists, on Elizabeth Rose’s 2015 single ‘Another Earth’ and the recently released ‘I Just Wanna’ (featuring Melbourne duo Kllo) from Sparks’ forthcoming debut album.

TMN caught up with Malvin to chat about what draws him to Australian artists and the way his unique musical background has, and continues to, inform the music he is creating today.

This is far from your first musical project. Was there anything specific that triggered your move to start making electronic music as Chrome Sparks?

Since before I was doing classical percussion, I have always been making my own music. [I] started doing that just with guitar and boomboxes and recording two different boomboxes back and forth into each other to multi-track. And then, when I was in high school, I got a laptop, got into Justice and Daft Punk and all of the French dance music that was coming out.

That really inspired me to start making what I considered dance music at that time. I was able to get my hands on some computer programmes and just started transitioning from more guitar-based stuff that I was doing when I was younger to electronic stuff in high school.

How do you think your unique background has, and is continuing to, inform the music you’re creating now?

I certainly think what I studied in college helped to inform my music… the music theory classes that I took helped to flex my muscles harmonically and studying classical music in Bach and Mozart and all of that. Just from a basic music theory standpoint it definitely helped to increase my knowledge of harmony and melody and chord progressions.

Specifically in the percussion world, what stuck with me a lot was learning different sort of feels. I was in the Brazilian Samba group in college and that really opened my mind to what can happen outside the strict grid of making music. And, at the same time discovering artists like Flying Lotus, who take their own feel of drum programming and make something completely unexpected that doesn’t line up to the grid, was super inspiring.

Having only previously released singles and EPs, what challenges did you come across when putting together something that was going to make sense as a long-form, cohesive body of work?

That’s always been a struggle for me. I’ll go to the studio one day and make something that sounds like it’s from an Air album, then the next day I’ll just wanna make something inspired by techno. It’s sometimes hard to find ways to combine that.

That’s certainly something I thought about a lot in the process, when trying to put together different influences and different sort of tracks that I was working on. I tried to hone in on ways to make them more cohesive as I was in the process of working on them.

You spent a month in that cabin in New York while creating this album. Is isolation normally a part of your process?

Isolation has always been a part of my process just in that I generally work alone. But that’s isolation within Brooklyn, which is the farthest thing from actual isolation – I’ll be working by myself but then I’ll be seeing friends in the evening. [But] I’d heard from friends and people I’ve met that travelling somewhere different and isolating yourself can do wonders for that whole process. So, I gave it a go.

To be able to rid myself of all of day-to-day thoughts is very cleansing and definitely opened me up in a different way to allow myself this creative space in which I could explore a bit deeper than I ever had and dig a bit deeper into myself.

There’s a bit of an Australian theme there with featuring Kllo on the new album, and you’ve previously worked with Elizabeth Rose. Is there anything that’s specifically drawn you to Aussie artists?

Yeah, I really love a lot of the stuff that has come out of Australia and a lot of the musicians I’ve met from Australia have just been wonderful, talented people, with whom I’ve been interesting in working.

So, Elizabeth, I think we met through Twitter and just being into each other’s music and reaching out. And then, my friends had introduced me to Kllo and after hearing their music I thought, “I have got to work with them.” I think the common thread between many of the Australian artists I’ve heard of and worked with or had a desire to work with, is just that I think they’re making interesting stuff that I really wanna hear and be a part of, and they’re just supremely talented.

Are you relieved that the album is done?

It’s funny; it’s a combination of great relief in that I’ve never really had that many songs in the works at any one time. So, there was a lot of buildup of… I don’t want to say stress, because that’s not the overarching emotion in the process – though it’s certainly part of it.

I think just excitement in that I have this baby that is in utero, and I’m very confident in it. Probably more so than I would be with a foetus because I actually know what it’s going to be and how it’s gonna sound to people and I can’t wait for them to actually experience.

So, maybe a baby or foetus is not really the best comparison, but I think it’s funny because it’s a combination of that: of being extremely excited that there’s this thing that I have and other people have yet to experience. I think any artist is like this – they finish one thing or even often times before they finish it, are more excited about what’s coming next.

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