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Interview: Will Sprott of the Mumlers Returns to South Bay, Gets Medieval

In Music
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South Bay fans may wonder where Will Sprott and the Mumlers have been. The singer-songwriter known for sparking the South Bay’s wave of freak-rock a few years ago hasn’t been nearly as ubiquitous here since he moved to the East Bay. But he’s been perhaps busier than ever, doing six tours last year. He returns to San Jose Saturday (March 24) for a show at San Pedro Market.

It’s been a couple of years now since the Mumlers second album, Don’t Throw Me Away. If the folky debut was surprising, offbeat and well-executed enough to get Sprott national media attention, the follow-up surpassed it in every way with its gritter, Stax-on-acid soul.

But Sprott felt that in many ways he didn’t get to capitalize on the album’s strengths live, because it was just too hard to get the big, unwieldy Mumlers line-up on tour. In 2011, he decided he would “say yes to everything,” which meant doing some dates as a solo act, some with the original crew, some with a whole new Mumlers group, and a few with a mix of original and new members. Touring with The Tallest Man on Earth last year, he was playing sold-out 800-seat clubs in the U.S. and Canada.

He’s also been working on his follow up to Don’t Throw Me Away, though he doesn’t yet know if it’ll be released under the Mumlers moniker, his own name, or something else entirely.

I have a whole album written, and now I’m just trying to record it,” says Sprott. “I’m really excited about the pile of songs I have.”

Once again, the upcoming album promises to be something unexpected. It’s not a revisiting of his sound on the last record—in fact, there are no horns at all. Instead, Sprott is focusing on bizarre new uses for vocal harmonies, although it turns out they’re not so new after all.

“Someone at one of my shows asked me if we were hocketing,” he says.

Don’t worry, he had to look it up, too. “Hocketing” was a medieval singing technique where two or more people alternate singing the same melody. It turns out he was in fact hocketing; the technique shows up on new songs like “Little Bells,” of which he’s especially proud.

“It’s really weird,” he says. “It’s unlike anything I’ve done before.”

Will Sprott plays Saturday, March 24, at San Pedro Market in San Jose, 9pm; free.
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