Los Angeles brothers Ron and Russell Mael are the heart, brain, and collective trousers of Sparks, an extremely influential and almost totally inexplicable pop band that's endured for over four decades of continued original work. They first earned success as ex-patriots in the British power-pop scene of the early 1970s. They were a fixture on the BBC variety show circuit due to their massive hooks and irresistibly weird look—a 1970s rock fop frontman who happened to be brothers with a silent, scowling keyboard Hitler. Their 1974 album, Propaganda, is one of the best and most underrated of the entire glam-rock era. Their 1979 record, No. 1 in Heaven, produced by dance legend Giorgio Moroder, was only about 25 to 30 years ahead of its time. Those are but two highlights of a 22-album career that made a huge impression on artists as famous and widespread as Paul McCartney, ABBA, Morrissey, Kurt Cobain, and Arcade Fire. The first box set of their material, Sparks: New Music for Amnesiacs, the Ultimate Collection, was released this week.
Their current tour, called "The Revenge of Two Hands One Mouth", hits Webster Hall this coming Monday. It will feature the Maels playing alone as a duo, working their way through a recorded history that numbers overs 250 songs. We talked to Ron and Russell as they prepared in L.A. where, luckily, Ron had just narrowly avoided jury duty (having a Ron Mael mustache likely helps). We discussed their enduring career, their current shows, and the very different modern music industry in which they've managed to survive. Also, how no keyboard player in history has ever looked cool.