Indie Rock's Best Well-Kept Secret

By Andy_Argyrakis
Posted: Mon, 02/22/2010 - 18:24

album promo image for Indie Rock's Best Well-Kept Secret

By Andy Argyrakis, senior music editor,

To alternative and indie rock fans, the name Aaron Sprinkle is one of the most recognizable and respected, if only for the lengthy lists of projects he's been involved with, coupled with artistic innovation on all accounts. He may be a less familiar face to more casual listeners, though chances are even the most unaware Christian music fan owns a CD that he's performed on, written for, or produced. Need proof? Just check out these six degrees of separation, or more literally, a half dozen major undertakings in the switch hitter's career thus far, starting with the scoop on fronting the band Fair, who just dropped the sophomore album Disappearing World (Tooth & Nail).

More than merely Fair
The moniker for Sprinkle's latest band is definitely deceiving considering the mounds of critical acclaim its 2006 debut The Best Worst-Case Scenario received, followed by the escalating buzz behind a follow-up that's been nearly four years in the making. For those already in the know, the group is known for near-perfect pop hooks with an indie rock slant to tip the scales a little closer to the underground than the mainstream. Even so, there's plenty of radio potential in the three-minute ditties derived from key 1960s, '70s and even a few '80s influences.

"We really just let our core influences come out with no restrictions," Sprinkle tells of the catchy sound. "It's very Smiths, New Order, Cure, Pink Floyd and Beatles meets 21st century."

While a musician's dream come true, there are plenty of relatable moments for the average listener, thanks to Sprinkle's relatively broad thematic brushstrokes. Seamlessly blending generalities with poetic explorations results in ten equally likeable tunes, a completely unpredictable, accessibly arty exposition.

"I really wanted every line of this record to have weight," he assures. "I wanted to make sure that I could sing every song with conviction. Thematically it's about a lot of the usual stuff: life, love and loss. I'd say it's also about the struggles we face in life and how the only victory we'll ever see over them is through surrendering to Christ."

Solo strides
Prior to forming Fair, Sprinkle's artist career was steeped in singer/songwriter sensibilities, spanning four full-length CDs, an EP and live project from 1999–2004. Though many of these releases hit the street on smaller record labels that have since gone by the wayside, they're nothing short of legendary projects for die-hards, who will have to wait for an indefinite period for his next individual offering.

"It's really a seasonal thing for me," Sprinkle confides. "I write for a specific project and I'm not really in solo mode right now. Maybe someday I'll do another solo record. [As far as my favorite solo CD], I'd have to say [2001's] Bareface, as far as the proper records go. It's the one that really came together the way I envisioned it. I think [2004's] Lackluster is pretty cool though too."

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Production powerhouse
In today's climate of self-made success stories, you may be scratching your head as to why you've never heard of indie rock's best-kept secret, yet you probably know the names of the projects graced by Sprinkle's name in the credits. He's perhaps most lauded in the production department these days, churning out a practically unstoppable stable of hit records and obscure favorites, spanning Jeremy Camp, MxPx, Kutless, Hawk Nelson, Pedro the Lion and Thousand Foot Krutch to mention a mere smattering.

"The thing that makes the most impression on me is the relationships I develop with the bands," he asserts, shrugging off sales statements or chart placement. "Some of these guys are seriously some of my best friends. Making a record is almost like living together for a very short but intense period of time. Spending up to 16 hours a day with people can develop some serious bonds."

So what's his all-time favorite project behind the boards? It's a difficult question for someone with such a vast catalogue, but one that includes the following: "Acceptance's Phantoms is still such a great record to me," he ponders. "This one seems to still have cult status, especially with a lot of band people. Copeland's You Are My Sunshine was such an amazing thing to be a part of and I feel like I really learned a lot from those guys as well. It's probably the most beautiful thing I've worked on. I still think Jonezetta's Cruel To Be Young is one of the best records I've ever made, but it's such a shame it never caught on. Anberlin's Cities is another great one. I feel like it's possibly the most epic record I've had the honor to be a part of. This is a great example of a group of people with a strong, like-minded vision that really came to fruition."

Remembering Rose
Before finding fame behind the scenes, Sprinkle also fronted the short live Rose Blossom Punch from 1997–1999. The group released just two albums, but was quickly embraced in the alternative rock scene given its crunching guitars and aggressive vocal delivery.

"Rose Blossom Punch was my first go at 'frontman' and it was a time when I learned a lot of tough lessons and had a chance to make music with some amazing people," Sprinkle recalls. "I still want to find a way to release our EP that never came out."

Growing upLu
As one of the very first faith-inspired grunge bands, Poor Old Lu made history for more than one reason. Expanding the alternative rock scene with accomplished musicianship, the group's discussion of controversial topics like drug addiction, sexuality and spiritual questioning was a breath of fresh air for struggling believers, as well as non-believers considering Christianity for the first time.

"Poor Old Lu was such an amazing time of my life," Sprinkle confirms, though he remains humble in the recollection. "It's where I cut my teeth in this crazy biz. I feel like the early '90s was kind of the birth of the scene as we know it today. It was really fun to be a small part of it."

A lasting legacy
Last but not least, the final component to our six degrees of separation from Aaron Sprinkle is the legacy he's left thus far, despite showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Scan the bodies of work by countless acts in the alternative rock spectrum in the faith-based scene, alongside several secular artists, and it's next to impossible not to notice his fingerprints, even if they're only figurative. And if his creative outpouring over the past two decades is any indication of what's to come, get ready for this unsung hero to slowly but surely become a household name and get the proper credit that's been deserved since his first days on the job.


About the Writer

Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, Illinois Entertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, and He's also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel's very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).

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