Plus, what happened to the music they wrote for Tim Burton’s planned ‘Mai the Psychic Girl’ movie.
One of the many films to world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was director Edgar Wright’s incredible documentary on the band Sparks, called The Sparks Brothers. While you might not be familiar with the band, over the past fifty years, brothers Ron Mael and Russell Mael have released over twenty albums, had a number of hit songs, and have influenced countless musicians around the world. In addition, unlike some bands that stay in the same lane with their music throughout their career, Sparks has consistently evolved and changed directions, always chasing where the music takes them without compromise. And as it turns out, time and again Sparks turn out to be ahead of the curve. The more you learn about the brothers and Sparks, the more you’ll realize how unusual and special they are.
While almost every music documentary features interviews with the band and select performances, as you might expect from a film by Edgar Wright, he takes what you’ve come to know about these kinds of documentaries and flips the script. He’s done this by using fantastic footage of Ron and Russell Mael (Sparks) from their entire career, interviews with the brothers and some of their famous fans and fellow musicians and unique animation, all infused with Wright’s sincere love of the band that puts his own unique spin on the music documentary. Just as Sparks are singular in the music world, so too is The Sparks Brothers in the documentary world. I absolutely loved every second of this doc and believe that even if you’ve never heard of Sparks, you’ll walk away from the end of the film a converted fan.
Shortly after seeing the film I got to speak with Wright and Ron and Russell Mael. They talked about how the documentary happened, Wright’s history with Sparks, how director Phil Lord is the one that told Wright to make the film in the first place, why Ron and Russell felt Wright was the perfect filmmaker to helm the doc, what album someone should start with if they don’t know Sparks’ music, which record label was their favorite, what happened to the music they wrote for Tim Burton’s planned Mai the Psychic Girl movie, and more.
Check out what they had to say in the player above and below is a list of everything we talked about. For more on The Sparks Brothers, you can read Matt Goldberg’s glowing review.
Edgar Wright, Ron Mael and Russell Mael:
- Do Ron and Russell still have PTSD from trying to play all the Sparks albums over 21 nights in London?
- Was it tough to get financing?
- Wright talks about his history with Sparks and how it was tough to learn who they were in the pre-internet era.
- How Wright used Twitter to speak with the guys and what happened next…
- How at a Sparks show in L.A. at the El Rey in 2017 where he realized someone should make a documentary about the band. Phil Lord suggested Wright had to do it. And he pitched it to Ron and Russell that night.
- With Ron and Russell’s history of movie projects not working out when Wright pitched the idea of a doc did they think it would never happen?
- Why they were hesitant for a long time to go into detail about the history of the band.
- Why they thought Wright was the perfect filmmaker to tell their story.
- Was anything off limits?
- Have Ron and Russell ever had any big fights?
- Which of the fourteen labels they’ve been on was their favorite?
- What Sparks album should a new listener start with?
- Did they ever use the music they wrote for Tim Burton’s Mai the Psychic Girl or is it still locked away?
- What is Wright working on in 2021?
Making ‘Mank’ looked very different than watching ‘Mank’.
About The Author