The Handsome Family’s new record began with a scream in the night. “It was a bleak winter during the middle of the pandemic,” says Brett Sparks. “One night around 4 a.m. Rennie started screaming in her sleep. She screamed, ‘Come into the circle Joseph! There’s no moon tonight.’ Scary as it was, I thought, man, that’s a good chorus!”
The Handsome Family (songwriting and marriage partners Brett and Rennie Sparks) have been defining the dark end of americana for over 30 years. Brett writes the music and Rennie writes the words. Their work has been covered by many artists including Jeff Tweedy, Andrew Bird and most-recently Phoebe Bridgers. Their song “Far From Any Road” was the opening theme for HBO’s True Detective season one and still receives thousands of Shazams every week from all over the world.
Their eleventh studio album, Hollow (out Sep. 8, 2023) delves into the natural world at the edges of the man-made. It is a record lush with leaves and shadows and echoing with occult mystery.
Handsome Family songs may be dark, but there’s always laughter on stage. Rennie sings as well as plays banjo and bass. She often introduces songs with seemingly unrelated stories. Brett, with his deep baritone and stentorian presence, is the undeniable center of stage. The two are often joined by multi-instrumentalists Alex McMahon and Jason Toth as well as fans, new and old, some returning again and again to see them live over the decades.
“We’re astonished to be breathing,” Rennie says about the band’s longevity, “Let alone still be inspired to write songs and sing together. There’s been a lot of smashed coffee cups in our house over the years, but we’re still unable to resist the urge to make music.”