A Google search of Will Sprott yields a rather peculiar guy. With a haircut that lies somewhere between a mod and Lloyd Christmas and a speaking voice with an overly tempered cadence, you imagine that you’re going to get a bit of a jocular shtick — his music is anything but. There is that old-soul presence to his sound, down to every detail. From the sparse arrangements and reverb-heavy guitar sounds of ’50s rockers to old-school R&B phrasing, earnestness, and female back-up singers, his sound is soulful, captivating, and even has a haunting quality to it in a manner similar to Lee Hazlewood’s music. He was part of an indie folk collective called The Mumlers before going solo. There are similar threads, but The Mumlers were more on the rock side and had additional instrumentation. Sprott is touring in support of his new album, Vortex Numbers, out on Hairdo Records. Sprott rolls into Northeast Florida for two shows this week, on Aug. 21 at Shanghai Nobby’s and Aug. 22 at rain dogs.
While he was on the road, Will Sprott answered some of our questions, riffing on his current fave jams, his dream band, and his hope of summoning Kool-Aid Man.
Folio Weekly: Your music has rich throwback elements that hark back to several genres and artists. Is this shaped by personal proclivities, your folks’ record collection, or something else?
Will Sprott: I like raw music and recordings where you can imagine it being played in a room or you can hear mistakes or the tempo shifting as the people get more excited. I guess that’s why I gravitate to older music. I was definitely around a lot of soul music growing up because that’s what my mom’s record collection was, but I guess I got into old rock ’n’ roll and weird ancient folk recordings on my own just as a nerdy teenager digging around in record stores.
Is the creative process as a solo artist different for you than it was as a part of The Mumlers?
For me, it’s not very different. I still just try to write songs that I think are cool and play them with my friends.
What can we expect at a live Will Sprott performance? Solo? Full band? Costume changes?
I’m touring with a full band. We’re a trio this time around. I keep hoping Kool-Aid Man will burst through a wall in the middle of a show. Maybe that will happen.
What’s your current “Oh Girl, That’s My Jam” jam?
“What Are Those Things (With Big Black Wings)” by Roger Miller and “Ripped Open By Metal Explosions” by Galt MacDermot.
To what three inanimate objects would you equate the sound of your music?
A rubber rat toy, disco ball, and a wig with matted hair.
What was the inspiration behind the material on Vortex Numbers?
I think a lot of the songs are about me knocking my head against things in my life that I don’t like or that I can’t understand and trying to find some beautiful hidden passageway through things that seem messy and brutal.
Why did you decide to release the album on Hairdo Records?
Hairdo is my label. I would have put it out on something bigger if somebody wanted to but I didn’t have anybody offering to do that and I don’t like trying to sell myself. I like having the label and I anticipate I will continue to release things in all sorts of formats by artists I like, at a very slow rate, forever.
If you could collaborate with any band or musician, who would it be?
The California Raisins as the band and then three clones of the singer Wendy Rene singing harmonies, with George Harrison playing guitar.
What is Will Sprott’s spirit animal?
Have you played in Jacksonville before?
I’ve never played in Florida before. Every tour I’ve ever been on has skipped Florida, so we were really excited to play there this time. We very deliberately scheduled a bunch of Florida shows because we’re excited to play there. We have six Florida shows!