Lunch With Jeremy Malvin of Chrome Sparks, A Wünderkind Of Percussion Electronica
The only guy capable of wearing a white turtleneck after Labour Day and still look fly as hell.
Photo by Daniel Dorsa.
One of the ABC's of journalism says that while working, you should refuse gifts of any kind. But I've learned that when homemade lasagna is on the line—exceptions should be made.
Jeremy Malvin of Chrome Sparks has vowed in a New Year's resolution to have lunch with a different person every day for a year. Today, I'm number 296. The menu: his bandmate's mom's homemade lasagna and a fruit salad, all politely shoveled in with a plastic spoon.
"If I set up a lunch date, I know I'll be out of bed," he says. "At the end of last year I had a couple of really interesting lunches and figured I'd keep doing it. I meet new people and I'm more forward about it. It has led to relationships I never thought I would have."
Jeremy's relationship with music, although, is longstanding. He's been recording in various capacities for years, and is currently on the roster of a North American tour with The M Machine and equally explosive live performers, The Glitch Mob. His three-piece percussion centered band, Chrome Sparks, has been his thought-provoking music venture to swing past the monkey business and to the top of the down-tempo music playground.
"The three piece [band] is where I finally felt comfortable. Every other group before this felt a bit off—unless it was a solo show, which I never felt necessarily comfortable doing in the first place," says the front man. "I like it to be more of a live experience. I come from a background of playing in bands and as much as I love 'DJing,' when I'm doing a performance of my own music, it's a separate thing."
Motivated by his obsession with synths and a background in percussion, the Pittsburgh man's laidback electronic project came to fruition in 2011 with his first EP release, My <3. The recordings, DJ sets and guest mixes he's formulated as Chrome Sparks are done by himself, alone—the Chrome Sparks live realization came later. After embodying everything from a one man show to an eight piece band, it was the trio setup, with two of his friends, which stuck. "I do some synths and samplers. Bill Delelles, my old buddy from the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony, is using a big electronic mallet instrument called a MalletKAT, a percussion controller used as a sampler that's made to be like a steel drum, and the keyboard. The third guy, Aaron Steele, is the drummer."
It's a modest explanation for the meticulous and cohesive performance that is Chrome Sparks in real time. The highly anticipated performance of his 2012 track "Marijuana" is a complex, acrobatic arrangement of live music. Jeremy maneuvers between pads and synths, to cyclical tambourine shaking. Midway, he joins Bill on the MalletKAT (or E-Xylophone, he says) and together they duel out a duet on the sophisticated instrument. Frankly, the performance makes those surprise "B2B sets" that plague EDM as a "live music experience" look artificial and shallow.
As effortless as their performance appears, it was no walk to the record shop. "I don't like decision making, I just like recording," says Jeremy. "I'll record a lot of crap, then take away from it and then piece it together." The notable sound differences from his initial release My <3, to the Sparks EP in 2013 and this year's, Goddess EP signify this creative method. Each release has carved its own ambience and tone, and each EP indicates Jeremy's desire to leave his sound undefined.
"I went through a period of time where I liked a certain sound and then it changed, as things do. From electro-house, to stuff that wasn't so boxed within what I felt was like a set of rules and sounds," he says. "I wouldn't describe my sound right now… maybe, emotional bass music. But I wouldn't say that. Even though I just did." Nibbling on fruit salad, Jeremy notes his musical training—he's studied music and percussion at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbour. His education, although not definitive, was an integral part of his evolution from a bedroom producer to adding a plethora of tour dates into his iCalendar. "There was a lot of discipline within practicing. I was learning how to perfect things, and how to get from an idea, to a goal, to accomplishing that goal," he says. "I feel like if I didn't study percussion, or any sort of instrument in a music school—or anything in college that required perfection and discipline—then I might not have known how to get from my idea to where I think I am now." But Chrome Sparks wasn't always Chrome Sparks. Before embarking on electronic music, Jeremy played the drums for bands like Stepdad, Rich Aucoin and Miniature Tigers. While in school, Jeremy began producing under a variety of quirky titled monikers. From Professor Purple's upbeat electro cadence, Roommate's beachy lyricism, and J.S. Rokk's classical and electric fusion—they're all a far cry from the meditative and ethereal sounds that ooze from his current releases.
"Everything about music making for me is not Chrome Sparks," he says. "That's been the thing I've definitely put the most time and effort into, and it's working out the best, but I like doing other things when I'm recording, or playing drums for different people and recording different kinds of songs." His adherence to a "consistent musical aesthetic" is admirable. He sees the importance in separating some musical embodiments from others, so to avoid pureeing music into a potentially muddled listening experience—something that even music festivals are a culprit of. For Jeremy, his first festival-goer experience at Lollapalooza he says although was fun, wasn't the musical experience he prefers. "I like being able to think before and after a show and I felt like [at a festival] I didn't have time to absorb each set because I hop from one to the other," he says. "You know how after a movie, while on your way to the next place with your buddies, you talk about that movie for a lot of the night. You ruminate on it. I don't get to do that at festivals and I really like that. It ends up being a bit of an overload for me."
As for his lunchtime ritual, Jeremy has a solid two months to go. Although he's chosen his lunch dates wisely, he's still encountered some rejections—a prominent folk band front man—and some brag-worthy lunch dates achievements—comedian and Parks and Recreation writer, Megan Amram.
The quality of the lasagna, albeit cold, should be noted here. If I wasn't prewarned it was made with a mother's touch, I would have guessed it. Gobbling lasagna with a plastic spoon isn't something I recommended, but grabbing a bite with this intrinsically multitalented producer, certainly is.
Keep your eyes out at airports and highway rest stops. You just may get a tap on the shoulder from a skinny kid in a white turtleneck who asks, "Hey it sounds really weird but I have this New Year's resolution where I eat lunch with a new person every day and I was wondering…"
Chrome Sparks EP Goddess is out now on Future Classic and a full length LP is anticipated before February 2015, to accompany a summer tour. So keep your eyes on his Soundcloud and Facebook for more updates and music.
Whatever you do, check out his Tumblr and New Year's resolution success story on Lunch with Jeremy.
Rachael enjoys wearing white turtlenecks too and is on Twitter: @rachaeldamore