Interview With Eric Sparkwood of Foghorn Lonesome

“I have a video of myself crying!”

I was in the middle of one of my usual YouTube binges, when in the background of a Gothic makeup tutorial, I heard some music that really appealed to me. It had a kind of dark wave, electro Goth  vibe to it. Immediately, I thought “I need to know who this band is!” A quick look in the description revealed to me that the song was ‘Svea’ by Foghorn Lonesome, something I later found out is that ‘Svea’ is the name of Eric Sparkwood’s grandmother.

Eric Sparkwood is the face behind Foghorn Lonesome. He started in 2011 as a one-man band in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2016, he played his first show with Jessica Isaksson on vocals and Nikita Smirnov on bass. In 2017, Krzystof Rozwadowski and, long-time producer, Tomas Rosenberg joined the band.

After speaking to Eric Sparkwood I could understand how the music came to be. It was clear he uses his life experiences as influence in his music. Even as someone with such talent to produce this music, Eric revealed to me that he does have his struggles. He came across to me as someone very kind, thoughtful and dedicated to his music and fans.

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From left to right: Krzystof Rozwadowski (Bass), Eric Sparkwood (Lead Vocals/Bass), Jessica Isaksson (Vocals), Tomas Rosenberg (Drums). Photograph by Bo Reinerdahl.

How did you come up with the name Foghorn Lonesome?

“I never reveal that actually. But with a quick Google search I’m sure people can figure that out.”

What made you want to start creating music? Is it something you would like to pursue full-time?

“I started playing bass when I was 16 and joined my first band. I guess it felt like the natural thing to do at the time, since I’d been constantly listening to music as a kid. I have mixed feelings about having this as a full-time thing since the music industry is in bad shape these days.”

I’m curious to know more about how you feel about the music industry. What do you think the main issue is nowadays?

“I think the main issue is that artists don’t get paid. We’re not signed to a label, but usually they tend to make most of the profits. I grew up before the internet and the MP3, so we had to pay for all of the music we wanted. Most people today don’t. But I’ve let go of all that. Sometimes I offer free downloads on the music on SoundCloud. I’m very grateful if someone purchases the music off Bandcamp or iTunes, but it’s fine if people don’t. The most important thing is that people have access to the music. Today’s mainstream music isn’t for me. But I do wish I could write three-minute pop songs. Then maybe I’d be summering in the Hamptons.”

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Foghorn Lonesome’s logo

How did you meet the other members?

“Jessica and Krzystof answered an ad I had online for new band members and I already knew Tomas since he produced all my music. The debut album was done and recorded by the time the band was put together.”

How would you describe your music?

“Melodic, varied and dark I suppose.”

What are the current projects you are working on?

“At the moment, we’re rehearsing for a show in March. I’m also off and on working of two new songs: ‘Strawberry Moon’ and ‘Stockholm, You Have Let Me Down’. There are demo samples of them on SoundCloud. I’m also working on another song, which at the is titled ‘Dumb Boy’, but the song isn’t the priority right now. I’ve also been putting tigether an acoustic rendition of a previous song. But I’m in no rush to finish them. I’m rarely in the mood to work on them.”

Do you have a favourite song you have produced or that you recommend people listen to first?

“No, I don’t have a favourite song. If someone was going to be introduced to Foghorn Lonesome, I would recommend songs like ‘Svea’, ‘Uliecry’, ‘All I Want Is Some Love’, ‘Night & Gale’, ‘Winter Blue’ and ‘Like A Storm’. Choosing just one is difficult.”

Where do you get your influences from?

“I would say my personal experiences are where I draw most of my influences. I think all of the music I’ve been listening to in my life has gone into my musical DNA. But when I discovered Diary of Dreams back in 2003 I was introduced to a new genre that kind of combined electronic music with gothic music. So when I started Foghorn Lonesome I knew that these genres would come together in my music too”.

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Eric Sparkwood (Lead Vocalist). Photograph by Darklark.

Foghorn Lonesome seemed to disappear for a while, but you are back with new social media pages and working on a new gig and some songs, was there a reason you took a break from your music? 

“My girlfriend left me and I hit rock bottom. Then I hit a level lower than rock bottom and did some things I’m not proud of. Eventually, I started working on new music.”

Do you find that writing helps you deal with that? 

“I’m not sure, but usually I would say no. The problem doesn’t go away just because you express it. Sometimes it can make you feel worse. You just get reminded of it when working on the song. Especially when writing the lyrics.”

I’ve listened to your song ‘Like A Storm’, and something that always fascinated me was at the end of it you have a monologue with you crying in it. I wondered if you were crying for real during that recording. Could you talk a bit about that?

“The crying is real. It was the first thing I wrote and recorded for the song. It’s a very personal song, but in that part I took things one step further and let it all out in the moment there. When I recorded that part my sound card wasn’t working because it was old. So the only way for me to record it at the time was through the microphone in my laptop. But the only way to activate the microphone is if you record a video. Then I removed the video part and just kept the audio to use in the song. I still have the video of me sitting in front of the computer crying recording that part which I won’t be showing to anyone.”

What is the song writing process like for you?

“I always start working on the music first. Then the lyrics. Sometimes I have to put some more effort into it. Maybe I’ll go sit at the cafe and listen to the song and try to come up with lyrics and vocal melodies in my head. When I’m really into working on a song I will listen to it a lot. I’ll listen to it when I’m out for a run or on the subway and at the same time be thinking about the lyrics. Usually you reach a point where things just feel done. Then you know it’s time to stop. You can rework things forever if you wanted to.”

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Eric Sparkwood (Lead Vocalist). Photograph by Darklark.

You seem very interactive with fans through social media and I noticed on your Instagram page that you have some fans who got tattoos of your lyrics, how does it make you feel to know that your music creatively inspires and also connects so strongly with people?

“It means I must be doing something right. It’s a great honour of course. James Hetfield of Metallica said it well when he said: “It means a lot to me when my darkness can connect with your darkness and make it ok.” So if my shit can help someone else cope with their shit better then that’s a good thing.”

Do you have other hobbies outside of music that would help rejuvenate your creativity?

“I try and run often. I go running for an hour. I get energy from that. Sleeping is probably the best thing I know. It’s the closest to death I can get.”

You recently became a grandfather, how that make you feel?

“Old.”

What is your ultimate goal as a band?

“I don’t think there is a goal. We’re lucky if we can get a gig somewhere. It’s difficult for all bands to get anywhere. Originally my goal was mainly to release an album and hope some people would enjoy the music. Both of which I have achieved.”

Where has been your favourite place to perform?

“We’ve only had three gigs so far. The first one was the best. It was at Klubb Död here in Stockholm. We might be doing a festival in August.”

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Eric Sparkwood (Lead vocalist). Photograph by Jonas Fransson.

Would you like to travel and perform in other countries?

“We’ve looked into it. Unsuccessfully so far. Again, it’s hard to get gigs.”

How do you think your music has evolved?

“That’s hard to say. Two songs have been released since the debut album, ‘Like A Storm’ and ‘Neon Thighs’. I think they sound like they could’ve been on the album in the sense that they’re similar in style. Now I’m working on some new music. I don’t know. It sounds similar I suppose. I guess I haven’t really evolved. Hah.”

What has been your greatest challenge?

“Finishing the debut album was a long and tiring ordeal. It demanded a lot of patience. Something I don’t usually have.”

More of a fun question: What would you do if you had £10 million?

“Pay off my debts and buy a house far away from everything and everyone.”

Any hopes for 2018?

“A fatal heart attack.”

You can find Foghorn Lonesome’s tracks on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Bandcamp, SoundCloud and Spotify.

You can also follow them through their social media on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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My Response to: “Women can’t sing rock”. (20 Best Female Rock Singers)

So recently in my hometown, Middlesbrough, a pub called Doctor Browns banned female-fronted bands, with the excuse that ‘women can’t sing rock’. You can read more about the incident here.

I personally thought this was a sexist and unjustified complaint. Fair enough, if you don’t want your business to fail then you only hire the best musicians. But saying ‘women can’t sing rock’ and therefore aren’t welcome to perform there is discriminating.

They claimed customers ‘didn’t like’ previous female rock singers they hired – I don’t think this justifies an outright ban on female rock singers. This simply suggests they didn’t hire a good enough singer.

Banning all other female singers based on someone else’s less-than-impressive performance is incredibly unfair. People shouldn’t be refused a chance based on their gender.

I found it appalling that gender discrimination is still happening in my area. I personally believe women can be incredible rock artists, so I thought I’d respond to this by listing some of the best female rock artists I know.

I realise genre of music is rather debated, but I’ll just say these are the artists that are loosely described as rock. Obviously their music may incorporate other genres, but in my opinion they deserve a place on my best female rock artist list. So here it is, my favourite 20 female rock artists in no particular order:

#1 Siouxsie Sioux:

Siouxsie was an obvious choice for me to mention on this list. As the lead singer of one of my favourite British bands, Siouxsie and the Banshees, I think she represents the best of female gothic rock. Siouxsie has been adored since the 70’s with her iconic look and haunting music – and all but invented goth.

#2 Stevie Nicks:

Stevie Nicks is an American singer best known for her work with Fleetwood Mac. She had a chart topping career and is often referred to as the ‘Queen of Rock and Roll’, so she definitely earned her place on my list of the best female rock artists.

#3 Lzzy Hale:

Lzzy Hale is the lead singer from the band Halestorm. Lzzy pretty much sparked my interest in rock music. She has one of the most powerful female vocals I’ve heard. I’ve seen Lzzy sing live and at the time she had a bad throat, but powered through and I can honestly say she still sounded better live and I couldn’t even tell she had been ill.

#4: Amy Lee:

Amy Lee is the lead vocalist of Evanescence. Critics vary on whether Evanescence should be classed as a rock or a metal band. Personally I refer to them as symphonic metal, but I think Amy Lee still deserves a place on this list. If you check out other symphonic metal bands you will see the majority are female fronted, such as Epica, Nightwish, Within Temptation, Delain and so on… all which deserve a mention as they are amazing bands, but I’ll try to keep this list to strictly rock.

#5 Patricia Morrison: 

Patricia Morrison is probably most known for her backup vocals in The Sisters of Mercy, and although Andrew Eldritch takes main stage as the lead vocalist, I think Patricia Morrison still deserves a mention for her musical talent and contribution to goth rock.

#6 Taylor Momsen:

From the sweet little actress who played Cindy Lou in The Grinch to the lead singer of the American rock band The Pretty Reckless, Taylor Momsen has come very far. Taylor Momsen is a talented actress and model, but the music she produces is worth some recognition for her contribution to female-rock.

#7 Hayley Williams:

Hayley Williams is known as the lead vocalist for Paramore. Their music has vastly evolved over time. I started listening to them back in what I like to refer to as my ’emo’ days, but I still have lots of appreciation for the music they are creating today.

#8 Avril Lavigne: 

Often referred to as the ‘Pop Punk Queen’, but releasing many tracks I would consider punk rock and alternative rock, Avril Lavigne has been massively successful. The Canadian singer is known for presenting a ‘rebellious’ attitude and looking eternally like a teenager, how does she do it? I grew up listening to Avril Lavigne and she has always been one of my favourite artists.

#9 P!nk: 

P!nk has released some incredible pop rock tracks and is an all around badass. She definitely represents the best of a girl-power attitude, just check out her motivational speech to her daughter here. I personally find her inspirational as an artist so I had to include her in this list.

#10 Emelie Autumn:

Emelie Autumn’s music is very different from any other music I have heard. Sometimes describes as ‘fantasy rock’, her creative and unique music alone earns her a place on my list. This quirky style of music is not for everyone, but I adore it and her work and talent is still to be admired.

#11 Dolores O’Riordan:

Dolores O’Riordan is an Irish musician known for leading the rock band The Cranberries. They have had worldwide success and produced some iconic tracks such as ‘Zombie’.

#12 Courtney Love:

Courtney love gained a notable presence in the punk and grunge scene in the 1990’s and rose to prominence as front-woman for the alternative rock band Hole. She had a highly publicised life after her marriage to Kurt Cobain (lead from Nirvana).

#13 Chelsea Wolfe:

I hadn’t known about Chelsea Wolfe long, but I fell in love with her haunting music. She is continuing the evolution of goth rock with her modern experimental sounds. If you are looking for a modern gothic artist then she is worth a listen.

#14 Ellie Rowsell:

Ellie Rowsell is part of a four-piece band called Wolf Alice who have been going since 2010. Their early work sounds folk-tinged but has evolved to a more rock-orientated sound.

#15 Natalie Bassingthwaighte:

Natalie Bassingthwaighte is known as the lead singer of electronic rock band Rogue Traders. I listen to their most popular song ‘Voodoo Child’ on repeat. For me it is a song that never gets old and will always be a favourite. I also come across a lot of fellow Whovians in the comments of this music video from when this song was featured in a Doctor Who episode.

#16 Debbie Harry:

I couldn’t miss Debbie Harry off this list. Most known for being part of the rock band Blondie. They pioneered early American new wave and punk scenes from the mid-late 70’s.

#17 Tina Root:

Tina Root is the vocalist of the band Switchblade Symphony who were prominent in the goth scene throughout the 90’s. As this is mostly an Alternative/Goth based blog I think it’s important to mention female vocalists who have had impact on the goth rock scene. Again, this is something that might not appeal to everyone, however, as this is the type of rock music I prefer to listen to, it’s worth a mention.

 

#18 Johnette Napolotano:

Johnette Napolotano is best known as the lead singer from American alternative rock band Concrete Blonde. Concrete Blonde built up their popularity in the 90’s with their top 20 singe ‘Joey’.

#19 Chibi:

Chibi is the lead singer of The Birthday Massacre, a band well known in the Goth scene. The Birthday Massacre’s musical style has been described as new wave revival, electronic rock, gothic rock, and dark wave. As an ongoing goth band and one with an amazing sound, Chibi deserved to be mentioned on my list.

#20 Theresa Jeane:

Last but definitely not least, Theresa Jeane is the lead sing from The Nearly Deads. I found this band a few months ago and have loved their music ever since. They appealed to me when I found their song lyrics relatable and was pleased to find they are rather interactive with their fans on social media. They quickly became one of my favourite alternative rock bands and I’m looking forward to seeing what their future in music will involve.

I think this list proves my point that women are totally capable of being successful rock singers. If you want to share your opinion on this debate or if I missed any of your favourite female rock singers off the list, then feel free to leave a comment. I’m open to discussions and hearing new music.

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