Austin, TX-based, self-described “freak parade” octet Sweet Spirit initially began as a solo project of its founding member and frontperson Sabrina Ellis. And when she started the project, Ellis’ personal and creative lives were falling apart in front of her — Bobby Jealousy, the band she fronted and co-founded with her then-husband had been disintegrating along with her romantic relationship. Ideally, Ellis conceived Sweet Spirit as a way to hone her writing and offer her an ability to perform solo. “It was supposed to be focused on me writing solo, and performing with the guitar,” Ellis said in press notes. But interestingly enough, when the Austin, TX-based singer/songwriter and guitarist began her latest project, she was simultaneously writing and performing as a member of a local garage punk band A Giant Dog — and her A Giant Dog co-founder Andrew Cashen was intrigued by Ellis’ newer material, which drew from soul, country and pop music. Cashen quickly joined as a way to challenge himself creatively and as a musician. “I’m very comfortable doing loud and fast,” Cashen explained in press notes, “so this is uncharted territory for me.”
Ellis and Cashen began writing material at a breakneck pace and then recruited a core backing band of four more members, with whom they rehearsed religiously before playing a series of attention grabbing gigs around town. Within their first six months as a live, performing band they caught the attention of Spoon’s Britt Daniel, who then asked the band to play at Spoon’s “secret” kick off show for the tour to support They Want My Soul, which resulted in both greater local and national attention, including playing 2015’s SXSW — without having an actual album under their belts or applying. Adding to growing attention, the members of Sweet Spirit opened for Spoon for a 12 of Spoon’s Midwest and West Coast dates.
Building on the buzz they were receiving, the band released their full-length debut Cokomo and a two song collaborative effort with Britt Daniel to critical praise from the likes of Stereogum, Consequence of Sound, Spin and other media outlets, which lead to two national tours. In between playing shows, the band squeezed in studio time with producer Steve Berlin, best known for his work Los Lobos and Deer Tick to record their forthcoming sophomore full-length effort, St. Mojo, which is slated for an April 7, 2017 release through Nine Mile Records. Interestingly, the album’s first single “The Power” is a relatively recent staple of their live sets and a fan favorite, while revealing a change of songwriting approach and sound — towards the anthemic hooks, power chords and thundering drumming of glam rock; in fact, “The Power” sounds as though it draws from T. Rex‘s “Bang A Gong” but being both a battle cry for the outcasts, rebels and misfits to stand up and be proud of what they are, and feminist anthem that says “defy shitty stereotypes and be the you, you’re always meant to be — no matter what.” Considering our world and sociopolitical climate in which conformity is constantly demanded of you and in which in some cases being yourself can threaten the perceived social mores and sensibilities of judgmental, hypocritical prudes, rebelling and being your truest and only self may be the biggest, most revolutionary act of your life.
Directed by Ed Dougherty, the recently released video for “The Power” takes the band’s self-professed freak show vibe and turns it up to about 22, as it features the band in a variety of costumes performing in front of what could be a cult of conformists — and it seems the audience is both awestruck and horrified by what they see, and perhaps even inspired to do something incredibly freakish and strange.