Exclusive Interview: Sparks “there’s element of us – artistically at least – being outsiders maybe that’s something that resonates with some members of the gay community”

BAFTA-nominated British filmmaker Edgar Wright’s debut feature documentary, The Sparks Brothers, about his favourite band, Sparks, which opens in theaters Friday June 18th, offers a fascinating insight into the lives of the enigmatic bandmates and siblings, Ron and Russell Mael and their creative process, which has resulted in 25 albums over their five decade career so far. Among the 80 interviews conducted for the film are appearances from former bandmates and fellow musicians like Beck, Björk, Andy Bell, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea, Duran Duran, Heaven 17, New Order, music journalist Paul Morley, famous admirers like Mike Myers, and a devoted, stage-invading fan. Over the course of the doc, Wright seeks to answer how it’s possible for a single band be successful, underrated, hugely influential, and criminally overlooked all at the same time.

Russell Mael, director Edgar Wright, and Ron Mael. THE SPARKS BROTHERS. Credit: Jake Polonsky / Focus Features.

At one point during the film, the late Rhino Records veteran and friend of the band, Gary Stewart, comments on Sparks’ “huge gay following”. When The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann had a chance to speak with Sparks and filmmaker Edgar Wright ahead of today’s release he asked them about that moment in The Sparks Brothers and the importance of acknowledging the band’s gay fans in the documentary.

“We’re happy that it came up and it was addressed in that way by Gary”, Russell told The Queer Review, adding, “obviously, we love anybody if they like Sparks, it doesn’t matter if you don’t like Sparks, we might love you anyway!”

Director Edgar Wright filming Ron Mael and Russell Mael in a Japanese airport. THE SPARKS BROTHERS. Credit: Richie Starzec / Focus Features.

Ron contemplated that Sparks’ outsider status, “at least artistically, might resonate with some members of the gay community. We aren’t a part of the mainstream and we’ve come to accept it, as uncomfortable as it can be a lot of the time as you can see in the documentary.”

Edgar Wright told us about his admiration for the “sense of enigma” generated by Ron and Russell that leaves their songs open to interpretation “in terms of who the narrator is or what sexuality the narrator is.” The filmmaker also noted that during a part of his interview with Erasure’s Andy Bell for the documentary, that didn’t make it into the finished film due to time constraints, he told him that certain Sparks songs, including Music That You Can Dance To, were “floor fillers” at London’s legendary gay nightclub, Heaven. “That made me very happy because I could just imagine that, and that song, which maybe is not as big as it should have been, was a smash that one club. I like that.”

Watch the full interview below and read James Kleinmann’s ★★★★ review of the film. The Sparks Brothers opens in US and Canadian theaters today Friday June 18th 2021.

Interview: Ron Mael, Russell Mael & The Sparks Brothers director Edgar Wright on Sparks’ gay fans
THE SPARKS BROTHERS – Official Trailer – In Theaters June 18

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