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Agent Sparks interview 

Agent Sparks
Submitted by Eric Alexy on 2005-09-20
Three years ago, as Audiovent unveiled its long-awaited (long awaited in the sense that anyone who had heard their 1999 indie release "Papas Dojo" knew the band was on to something massive) major-label debut, "Dirty Sexy Knights In Paris," the Calabasas, Calif.-based four piece seemed--in an industry where nothing is as it seems and even less is guaranteed--to be on the verge of being rock stars. If the songs from the 12-song release--think "Make Yourself"-era Incubus gone Goo Goo Dolls-- werent shoe-ins for massive radio play (and anyone whos heard "One Small Choice" can attest to its Papa Roach-rivaling catchiness), then, well, the band did have a little secret in the bag: Three of their four members were related to members of Incubus. Given the needle in a haystack chance a new band has at making any type of impact (and thus a sophomore record), most wouldve capitalized on such glaring factoid till no end. This is even better than having Rivers Coumo pen your first single, or Tom-Lord Algae mix your album, or a guest appearance from Jacoby Shaddix, there label mustve assumed. But, the band, nixed any plans at becoming rock stars off their family ties--Incubus wasnt even so much as mentioned in the bands bio. And, almost like clockwork, the bands first two singles (relatively) stalled at radio, their tour cycle ran out, and their A&R crew seemed less than enthusiastic about the bands eventual follow-up. You know what happens next in these stories. Fast forward to 2005--after the band parted ways in mid-2004--Audiovent guitarist Ben Einziger (brother of Incubus Mike) and bassist Paul Fried (Bens step-brother) quickly assembled a new project, Agent Sparks. Einzinger now handles the majority of the songwriting and vocal duties, with vocalist/keyboardist Stephanie Eitel and drummer George Purviance now in tow.
So, Ben, lets start from the top. What exactly happened with Audiovent? Obviously things didnt go over with Atlantic as well as you guys probably wouldve liked.
Ben Einzinger: We each wanted to go in different creative directions, so we decided it was best to not move forward musically.

Tell me a bit about how Agent Sparks came together, and how difficult it was to move on to another project given how much time and effort youd invested in Audiovent.
Ben Einzinger: It was a bit intimidating at first, considering Id always been a guitarist. However my whole life, Id been singing and writing songs. Once I was able to write whatever I wanted, I felt free, like the flood gates were open. I began to write a bunch of songs, that seemed to come much more naturally than any other musical project Id worked on in the past. I told Paul Fried (our bass player) to trust me, that I would make something out of these songs. Meanwhile our friend Stephanie Eitel (vocals/keys) was performing at night clubs in Hollywood singing jazz/blues songs. I was really blown away by her voice, and asked her to join the band. I would play acoustic guitar in my backyard and show her new songs Id written. From there, we began singing together. Eventually we asked our good friend George Purviance to join the band to play the drums. He was the final piece missing from the Agent Sparks puzzle. Once he joined, everything came together.

So how did it come about that you and Paul would continue working together, whereas Jason and Jamin went their separate ways? (And, out of curiosity, what are those guys up to nowadays?)
Ben Einzinger: Aside from Paul and I being step-brothers, we artistically wanted to go in the same direction. I know Jamin is in a new band thats doing very well. I believe Jason is pursuing a career in acting.

Howd you recruit Stephanie and George into the fold? I noticed Stephanie actually did some guest vocals on the new Weezer album.
Ben Einzinger: For a quick second one of the people who worked with Weezer, was working with us. Stephanie auditioned for the part, and got the gig. Which we thought was great, considering we really like Weezer.

Obviously Incubus--maybe youve heard of them?--worked with Immortal on several of their albums, but it looks like the infrastructure of the label has changed rather immensely since then (namely theyre no longer affiliated with Virgin). What appealed to Immortal about you, and howd that deal come about, seemingly so quickly to boot?
Ben Einzinger: Being a band for only seven months major labels started to come to our shows in Hollywood. One night Happy Walters (CEO of Immortal), came to see us play at the Viper Room. The next day he offered us a deal based on our live show, without even hearing our demo. For some bands, major labels are the place to go to. However with state the music business is in at the moment, I wanted to be at a more intimate label, where I know wed be a priority. It was also very important for Immortal Records to keep us on tour, which I think is crucial.

Agent Sparks seems to have a throwback sound of sorts, recalling more so the great acts of the late 70s and early 80s then anything of recent memory. Were these influences youve had all along and just now let them come to the fore a bit more in your songwriting?
Ben Einzinger: Its interesting, because when I hear our music, I hear the influences that Ive been influenced by. However almost every band weve been compared to, was not one of my influences. I was really musically moved in the early 90s. The sincerity of music at time, took over me. I remember hearing Nirvana on the radio when I was in 7th grade at my friend Zacs house. And couldnt believe the sound they made. Then it was Pearl jam, Sound garden. As I got older I really got into the Beatles, Radiohead, Bjork, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, The Stones, and so many more artists it would take too long to list. Also growing up, watching my brothers band Incubus all the time, was really inspiring to me. Theyre such a great band.

And, I noticed you guys also list Far as influence. "Water and Solutions" has some pretty seminal-sounding stuff on it that seems to now be getting its due just a bit. Tell me a bit about your thoughts on Far and how theyve influenced your sound?
Ben Einzinger: Kind of like I was saying before, I really enjoyed them as a live band, even more so than their records. I would walk out of there shows exhausted by there performance. Its a shame they didnt receive the credit they deserved.

So Mike produced your forthcoming EP/DVD. Tell me a bit about how that came about, and how your experience in the studio differed with him behind the boards as opposed to a bigshot producer like Gavin Mackillop.
Ben Einzinger: We all had a truly amazing experience working with Mike. Most record labels and bands tend to have the misconception once you make a record you need to become this way better band, under the umbrella of your producer. However Mikes way of working isnt like that. He let us do our thing. Where he was most helpful, was helping us decipher what parts were great and which parts needed to work. His way of working, is to be well rehearsed, and to work quickly. He also didnt let me overthink certain parts of our songs. My ADD can tend to make neurotic when it comes to part of a song that I dont think is working properly. That was how we recorded our whole EP and LP in 2 weeks.

I think everyone that heard "Papas Dojo" when it came out several years ago just knew that you guys were eventually going to be huge. Obviously things didnt quite pan out as well as expected, as far as commercial expectations go. How has that affected, if at all, your expectations going into Agent Sparks?
Ben Einzinger: I learned that nothing is a sure thing, and you have to work as hard as you can to try and be successful. If things dont work out, Ill be glad that I was given another shot.