Interview: The Handsome Family at the Tractor Tonight

If we were to a make a list of “lesser known” musicians we feel all music fans should hear, we’d have enough sheets to re-wallpaper The Sunset. In the upper echelon of said list would be our favorite purveyors of morbidly clever Americana known as The Handsome Family. Hyperbole aside, we highly recommend the band and recommend checking them out when they’re in town, which luckily for you (and us!) is tonight.

The husband and wife duo of 21 years will be headlining the Tractor Tavern with support from Sean Rowe. We were lucky enough to interview the lyrical mastermind Rennie Sparks in advance of show.

Of their working relationship, Rennie tells us “it’s always the same… I write the lyrics then Brett writes music then we argue a lot” but goes on to sweetly sum up in the end “it’s nice to sing harmonies with someone that you love.”

Continue on to read our exchange, become more familiar with their work and head to the Ballard watering hole tonight for the live experience.


If our readers are anything like us, many of them first heard your band through your relationship with Jeff Tweedy and/or Jason Lytle. Through what circumstances did you first meet Jeff and presumably later Jason?

Jeff has been a great friend to us for many years, always trying to help us in so many ways. We played at his wife’s amazing bar, Lounge Ax, many times before it closed. Jeff loaned us the equipment to make our third record and came over to do a lot of harmonies and guitar parts. He’s just a big-hearted, generous person. Jason was just this amazing surprise. One day we got a Grandaddy CD in the mail with a little note saying he liked our music. Lo and behold, what a great band!

As a band noted for your storytelling chops in songs that often focus on historical figures, are there people making headlines today that you’ve considered or would consider immortalizing in song?

Right now I’m trying to write about Stephen Foster, so I guess I tend to look backwards a lot.  Our song “Snow White Diner” is pretty much a retelling of a true story I read about while eating hash browns in a diner.

What should people expect when they come to see you at the Tractor?

To get to know us better and hopefully see the humor and beauty of our songs. Also, to see just how much my husband is starting to look like Colonel Sanders.

Do any memories of Seattle come to mind as you think back on past tours through the area?

My mom once asked me to pick her up some dried flowers at Pike Place. I carefully transported them from Seattle to Chicago by van, then Chicago to New York by plane, and then she frowned and said I’d bought the wrong ones.

Are there any Seattle area bands that make it to your van playlist as you tour the country?

Jesse Sykes

Anything planned for any free time you’ll have while in Seattle?

Trying to not be frightened by all the sentient pine trees.

1/20 at The Tractor Tavern :: The Handsome Family :: Sean Rowe :: 8 PM :: $15

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: