6 Questions: Retribution Gospel Choir's Alan Sparhawk


For better or worse, Duluth-based indie-rock touchstone Low has a reputation for minimalism. Lately, Low guitarist/singer Alan Sparhawk and bassist Steve Garrington have been making the rounds with drummer Eric Pollard as Retribution Gospel Choir. 2 (Sub Pop), the trio's dynamic second album, kicks up stinging hard-rock clouds that may inspire you to pump your fist once or twice. (Check out this January 26, 2010 live set from In advance of RGC's February 20th show at the Triple Rock Social Club, we put a few questions to Sparhawk.

Gimme Noise: Is there any particular person, party, or institution -- individually or collectively -- to whom or to which you'd like to serve retribution? If so, what form would that retribution ideally take?

Alan Sparhawk: For me, retribution is about paying back what you have taken, or making up for a wrong, so it would be stuff like taking back the adjustable wrench I took from my first job at a hardware store in Bemidji, or trying to make up for selfish time away from my family. However, I've got a thing against Dick Cheney, if that's what you're asking.

GN: What was your first reaction upon learning that you'd officially been signed to Sub Pop?

AS: I had already worked with them before, so it wasn't as much a surprise. It's great to be working with people you trust. I've been very lucky with that over the years; I knew they would do a great job with us.

GN: Does "Working Hard" pertain to a certain time or circumstance in your life, or is it more a general expression of rock-meets-hard-place frustration?

AS: The lyrics are short and vague, but it's definitely observing frustration with the pace and demands of life, etc. It feels like a rally cry for well-meaning failures.

GN: Was anything -- say a tooth, or an astral plane, or an amp, or drum sticks, or a guitar string -- actually broken during the recording of "Something's Gonna Break"?

AS: Nope. Accuracy is the key.

GN: What are your biggest musical pet peeves?

AS: People who don't sing with their real voice, too much gear on stage, fake accents, bad pitch, stupid lyrics, the saxophone...

GN: Have you ever shown up somewhere to play a show, only to find the audience confused because you're a rock band, and not an actual choir?

AS: Every few shows, we get a few people who come to hear a choir, but the promoters are happy to give [them] their money back.  Sometimes they stay anyway.

RETRIBUTION GOSPEL CHOIR play with Andrew Broder on Saturday, February 20, at the Triple Rock Social Club. 18+. $10. 8 p.m.