Song Sparrow Research is one of those whimsically beautiful bands. Guitars, cello, electric bass, drums, upright bass, glockenspiel and synth, all manned by five individuals creating a cohesive sound of jazzy chamber-folk. They are often labeled as Evolutionary-Folk, a term the band admits is “slightly nonsensical” but still, it tends to fit the sound of this creative group from Seattle.
Seattle used to be directly associated with the dirty habits of grunge but a lot has changed since the 1990s. The current bands coming out of the city tend to be on the more peaceful side. Bands like Fleet Foxes and The Head and the Heart celebrate the beauties of the outdoors with blessedly passionate indie-folk. Song Sparrow Research is in the midst of this as their love for nature appeals directly to many of the group’s themes.
Song Sparrow Research got their name from a study lead singer and guitarist Hamilton Boyce was involved in while attending the University of Washington where he studied Evolutionary Biology. “I think being in a place with so much nature and wilderness and amazing views of mountains and water has input in artistic leanings and inspiration,” Boyce comments. Simply looking at the tracklist for their new album, the self-titled Song Sparrow Research, many of the songs allude to Mother Nature’s touch. “As the Clouds Drift By,” “Rain Storm,” “Sounds of Summer” and “Seattle Heatwave” seem to speak to specific examples of nature in the Pacific Northwest.
While the beauty of the surrounding Seattle area is luscious most of the year, the sky today is covered with a grey haze of clouds. “I feel like the weather here puts me through a lot of mood swings which sort of affects what I write and what I play and how I play” says cello/bass player David Balatero before laughing, “I might play happier stuff if I were in California.” It isn’t all depressing. You find ways to put the grayness to productive use and when the sun does come out, everyone appreciates it more than usual. “(The feeling) is kind of manic because all of a sudden it is sunny and you’re like, ‘Yeah! We’re gonna go out and party in the sun!’ – way more excited than someone who has been living in 80 degree weather all year.”
Their music shadows the underlining attitude of what’s happening outside. And because the weather of Seattle is so indecisive, there are a lot of different styles involved. They are a band that is hard to put into a genre. They’re not quite rock, not quite folk, not quite country. All of it involves precise instrumentals and a jazz-influenced edge. They are a band quietly embracing the beauties of the world and creating heartwarming landscapes of peaceful thoughts.
After making music together for five years, Song Sparrow Research are finally hitting their stride. “This sort of feels like what the band is to us,” says Boyce on Song Sparrow Research, hence the new album being self-titled. They are young and confident and gaining rave reviews every time they play. For a taste of Washington, you should consider listening to Song Sparrow Research.