Jim Ward breaks down every song on Sparta’s new album ft. Thursday members & more

Sparta are back with a new self-titled album, and this one's a little different than past Sparta albums. Singer Jim Ward and longtime bassist Matt Miller made it remotely with a cast of collaborators, including Tucker Rule of Thursday on drums, as well as Thursday vocalist Geoff Rickly trading lead vocals with Jim in the chorus of "Dark Red Quicksand." Guest vocals also come from Kayleigh Goldsworthy ("Mind Over Matter") and Angelica Garcia ("Spiders"), and there's guitar from Michael James Adams, keyboards from original At the Drive In bassist Kenny Hopper, synth/guitar from Jeff Goldsmith, and whistling by Jim's wife Kristine. It also has an anything-goes vibe, musically speaking, with some of Sparta's classic post-hardcore in the mix but a variety of different styles of music too.

The album's out today, and for more background on the LP, Jim has given us a track-by-track breakdown. Stream it and read on for what he had to say...

The record begins with a simple little melody, whistled by my wife Kristine. She uses that whistle to call our cat Funny Face. After 2 plus years of being in a house with pretty much just my family, I wanted to begin with that- as a reminder to myself to cherish these times before I went back to work. The song began as a ripping riff, Tucker Rule brought it to full bore and the vocals felt they could only go the same way. I tried to juxtapose that energy with a Beatles-esque treatment of vocal line on the bridge- to round it out

Almost the entire record was built around key parts I began experimenting with at the beginning of lockdown- the record evolved over almost the entire pandemic (I made Daggers in the middle of working on these songs) - this is a good example of the process- I started at my home studio, spent a long weekend at Red Bull Studios Santa Monica and finished back at home. It was weird and isolating- being in a huge studio with just the engineer James. Every track on this record was done via email, never another person in the room with me.

There was a brief moment around 12 years old where I thought I would be a minister. I was at church camp and I was moved by the moment- it was the first time I remember there being a bigger world, I’m not sure how to describe it- maybe Stars Wars has it right- the force. It didn’t last long as I discovered punk rock and the hypocrisy of organized religion (IMO) - but that moment has always stuck with me. This song is about that time/place

A love song to my favorite person ever. Kristine and I have been together more than 25 years- she has been through all this craziness and I owe her everything for keeping our family going. This song has fantastic guitar playing by Michael Adams - he is such a shredder and a tone genius. I hope I get to do more with him.

I’ve always loved playing keys and don’t do it enough- I released all preconceived notions of what Sparta was supposed to be on this record- so I didn’t care if things were possible live, or how we would accommodate all these keys- I just kept making stuff until I was (somewhat) happy. This song has a lot of stuff going on, and I love it.

This is a stream of consciousness recording. One mic, one guitar, one take- made up on the spot- left as is. There are no written lyrics for this, it’s just what it is- I took that track and duplicated the whole thing in Logic three times- hard panned two and started to really layer effects. Gabriel Gonzalez mixed and mastered this- he definitely wrangled this into what it is- the rough mix I sent him was wild.

Bass line born at a late night session years ago at Sonic Ranch with my friend David Garza- I’ve wrestled this song for years before coming back to it during lockdown- it needed focus and time- Jeff Goldsmith added atmosphere with synth/guitar- spaced out guitars on my end and Tucker's beat made this what it is- and I do believe in the human race, I have to.

I couldn’t get the harmony I heard in my head into the mic, so I cold called Kayleigh Goldsworthy and asked if she’d be up for it- thankfully she was and I made a new friend. Maybe the greatest gift Covid gave me was this new way of writing/recording- having the guts to reach out to people I’m a fan of and asking. I tend to assume people don’t know who I am or like my music (it’s a mental health issue) - it’s been so rewarding to connect with other artists. This was the first single because I wanted the first words people heard from this record to be "Anybody can do anything."

The original bass player in ATDI was Kenny Hopper- he went on to be in great bands (Crime In Choir) and moved towards synthesizers- having him on a few of the songs really inspired me, another friend I charish and hope to do more with. The chorus of this song was heavily inspired vocally by Laura Jane Grace, one of my favorites and I tried to channel her energy and delivery.

Another seed from that late night session with David. Geoff Rickly sang the chorus, this is the best example of freedom in this record. There are no rules in this version of Sparta, better or worse- I love screaming with Geoff even if we weren’t in the same room, hopefully we will be soon.

If you don’t know Angelica Garcia then stop reading right now and go listen to everything she’s done. An absolutely unbelievable talent, her future has no limits- I sent her this track after seeing her open for Chicano Batman- Carlos told me not to miss her, and holy shit. She totally makes this song what it is.

The closer, the final word. Everyone in life is going to have people that are less than honest, less than trustworthy, ending up being shitty people- it’s just life. My thinking was a character in this position- I’ve offered an olive branch but it was not accepted. So I’m sorry that I couldn’t live a lie and be someone I’m not- it’s just not me, starting with that thought and then moving into society as a whole, I was reminded of a line in the O'Rourke/Cruz debate during the 2018 senate campaign- Beto said something nice about Cruz in the closing moments, Cruz responded by being an asshole, so Beto said ”True to form,” so I asked Beto if I could use this audio from his campaign- he’s answering a question about protest. Everyone has terrible people and things happen to them, how do you respond- intelligence and integrity and protest and honesty is our best bet.


Jim also has a new episode of his Let's Get A Drink podcast up with guest Beto O'Rourke:

Sparta -- 2022 Tour Dates
10/14/22 - Fingerprints - Long Beach, CA (Acoustic In-Store Performance)
10/15/22 - Soda Bar - San Diego, CA