A local folk band has busked its way around San Marcos and plans on getting boots stomping and hands clapping outside of Texas.
Christian Sparks, lead vocalist, has been playing music since he was 13 years old. It was a family tradition to sit around the campfire enjoying his father play songs on the guitar. Once his father got arthritis in his hands, Sparks took initiative in upholding the family tradition by learning how to play guitar himself.
Sparks and Hunter Lenington, drummer, went to the same high school and would occasionally get together to play music. They lost touch after high school, but when Sparks moved to Austin and found that Lenington was in San Marcos, they joined forces once again. This time in a serious attempt to make music under the name Christian Sparks and The Beatnik Bandits.
Both had backgrounds in folk music and settled into the sound with ease. They began playing at local songwriters’ nights in Austin and San Marcos.
Sparks has been writing music for about five years and draws inspiration from his emotions and imagination. He considers himself a writer first and would continue to do so in other mediums if music wasn’t an option.
“When you are able to put down exactly what you’re feeling and have other people relate to that’s the best feeling ever,” Sparks said.
After a year of performing, the band was approached by Maxwell Yi, a music producer. Within days, Yi had Sparks and Lenington recording their music at Fire Station Studios in San Marcos. There, the band found a key player to complete their sound: guitarist Sam Lathrop, a recent recording technologies graduate.
“I heard one really good song and I thought they had just gotten lucky,” Lathrop said. “But a few months later we recorded a few more songs and I was just blown away.”
Sparks’ voice echoes with experience far beyond his years. Partnered with raw acoustic guitar and masterful drums, the band’s music is reminiscent of the folk genre and contends with artists like Bob Dylan and The Lumineers.
While recording music, the band continued to perform and busk locally. They would walk to campus playing music and perform outside Alkek.
Sparks said he enjoys entertaining more than anything else and his bandmates agree.
“I heard someone say whenever you’re playing on stage, it’s the only moment in life where everything else just fades away and it’s complete satisfaction,” Lathrop said. “You don’t think about phone calls or due dates. (You are) just living right there in the moment.”
Thomas Moriarty, digital media innovation senior, became a fan after attending a band performance of theirs. He said he found himself immediately engrossed by their sound and charisma.
“Their music was just right up my alley,” Moriarty said. “I just had a bunch of ideas as soon as I met them. Creatively, we’re just kind of in the same headspace I think.”
Moriarty said the band took note of his enthusiasm after they performed at The Spot. Sparks approached him with the idea of joining their team as a promoter and creative assistant.
“I’m kind of here for whatever they need,” Moriarty said. “We jokingly call my position ‘the facilitator.’”
Moriarty said he mainly helps promote their music and maintain their online platforms.
Christian Sparks and The Beatnik Bandits can be found performing locally at Tantra Coffeehouse and The Spot. However, on the heels of their self-titled debut album, the band is gearing up for a summer tour in late June. They will be touring around Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and other parts of Texas.
Lanthrop said he feels it is time for the band to branch out and start performing to a different audience after playing in San Marcos for so long.
“We don’t want to bore anyone so we’re trying to move out as fast as we can,” Lanthrop said. “It’s been such a natural progression and we’re excited to see where the tour takes us.”