Interview: Yellow Red Sparks

Indie folk band Yellow Red Sparks of East Irvine, California originally began as a solo effort by singer/songwriter Josh Hanson; with a mother who sang in a band and brother who tours the world playing music, music is in his DNA.  Literally.

In 2012, Hanson entered the Nashville-based International Songwriting Competition on a whim, and won first place, a $25,000 cash prize, and a load of gear.  “I never thought in a million years I’d win.  At the time I was in a place where I was just kind of ‘over it.’  When I won, it took them 10 minutes to convince me that I’d won.  I couldn’t believe it,” he recalls, adding, “When that happened I thought ‘well, maybe I’ll keep going for a little bit.'”

Hanson met upright bassist Sara Lynn Nishikawa through a mutual friend, the two started playing together, and Yellow Red Sparks became a duo. The pair will release a new EP called New Fangs, Old Pangs, on October 16th: “We’d been touring a lot; I like writing, and I just wanted to get back in and record.  There wasn’t really an intention to put something out, it was more about recording some songs and maybe showing them to people.  I think the inspiration came from some personal things I’d gone through, health things and family stuff; I felt like ‘new fangs’ represented a new toughness that I felt, going through these things that hurt me, and I felt like ‘old pangs’ are like old hurts.  For me, the EP is about me going through things and overcoming things and coming out with stronger defense mechanisms.  It’s kind of a lot,” says Hanson.  “i don’t even know if I felt that while I was writing it, but looking back at it now, I think that’s what it is.  It’s always therapeutic for me, helps me deal with things.  Even if I stopped ‘making music’, I wouldn’t ever stop making music.  I’d be 70 in a rocking chair writing songs.  I have to write. I might as well put it out there and see if people like it.”

The duo recently released the EP’s first single, “I Want My Knife Back,” a vintage-inspired head-bobber of a tune with a curious title; “For the longest time, I just called it “Knife Back,” like if someone’s stabbing you in the back, you’re kind of like ‘hey, I want my knife back,’ you know?  To me, it’s just about regaining control of things.  It was inspired by a really bad relationship, and just about the push and pull of that, and now knowing how to get past that or out of it.  Once I got out of it, I felt a release, like I’m on a better path,” Hanson explains.

For now, the band plans to release the EP and see what opportunities unfold, which may or may not include some touring; says Hanson, who is currently in the throes of writing,  “I’m really curious about what the next year holds.”

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Susan Hubbard

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