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Will Sprott Of The Mumlers Releases First Full-Length Solo Record, ‘Vortex Numbers’

In Music
Will Sprott moved to Seattle without a job or place to live, but he isn’t too concerned about all that.

Will Sprott moved to Seattle without a job or place to live, but he isn’t too concerned about all that.

By his own admission, Will Sprott has been doing “some strange things for money” these days.

After spending five years in Oakland, the San Jose-born singer, songwriter and former leader of The Mumlers is now living in Seattle. He moved there about a year ago, without any idea of where he would live or work.

He’s been able to pick up odd jobs—as a tour manager for Seattle band La Luz and for a bike delivery service. One of the oddest occupations of late came in the form of a contract position for a Boeing subcontractor. Off and on for about six months, the 33-year-old Sprott, would show up at 4 a.m. in the morning, sit in a chair and tally the number of people who jaywalked across a given street, drawing an accompanying diagram of the route they took. He says his employer used the information he gathered to figure out where to place crosswalks.

As Sprott discusses his various and sundry gigs, he chuckles and through his languid drawl it’s clear that he isn’t worried about finding ways to make rent. He seems confident that everything will work out, and in many ways things already have. As an artist, the struggle to stay afloat has proven inspirational, he says.

“I think a lot of the songs are about that very thing—about not making everything super easy for yourself,” he says, referring to his brand new album, Vortex Numbers, which came out this week. “I like making things difficult for myself. For now, at least, I’m glad to be taking in a wider world.”

It shows. The songwriter’s travels away from his hometown of San Jose have resulted in some of the best music he’s ever written. On the 10-track Vortex Numbers—which finds Sprott meditating on the end of a relationship, the soul-crushing and soulless nature of the rat race, and the challenges of being a strange person in a strange land—Sprott boils down all the best of what he did on previous Mumlers releases, producing a compact album that nonetheless plumbs the depths of the human experience with his clever and vivid lyrical constructions.


“You might not see my face anymore,” he sings to an unnamed former lover on “Under My Eyes.” “I might not hold you in my arms like I did before. Please don’t think I’m leaving you behind. I’ll carry everything in the bags under my eyes.” The song moves forward over a dusty, shuffling beat, a warm guitar line and shaky harmonies, which recall the loose and rambling chemistry of Jagger and Richards.

He creates a spooky atmosphere on “Psychic Lady,” a song with a propulsive beat, which recalls “Coffin Factory” from the 2009 Mumlers release, Don’t Throw Me Away. The song describes the various roles people play in society, from scientists to wrestlers to the titular psychic lady.

“Everybody’s got a job,” he sings. “I’m going to do my job. When you are through, you will be paid, don’t forget you will be paid. You will be given what you have earned. You will take home what you deserve.”

It’s the kind of observation that would be banal in almost any other context, but in the hands of Sprott it turns into something infinitely more profound.

If Vortex Numbers feels at all like previous Mumlers records it’s due mostly to Sprott’s unique lyrical style and preference in chord progressions. The arrangements themselves are far more stark than anything he’s done in the past.

“I think this album is a little bit more stripped down,” Sprott notes, a fact that may have more to do with the fact that he’s going it alone this time, than any deliberate decision. The Mumlers was a six-piece band that took “a really maximalist approach” to recording, he observes. For the new record, he says that he didn’t consciously try to pair anything back.

“I was just making songs,” he says with a shrug.

And he plans to continue making songs and sharing it with his fans, including the hometown crowd—hopefully. A tour is in the works with La Luz, and while there is no San Jose date planned just yet, he aims to book one. Just like everything in Sprott’s life, he seems quietly confident that he’ll find his way, one way or another.

Check out Sprott’s “A Dog Will Love You When Nobody Else Will”

And take it back to 2009 with “Coffin Factory” by The Mumlers:

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