Will Anderson’s (Col ’08) life is pretty hectic these days. As a fourth-year student and lead vocalist of Sparky’s Flaw, he attends class Monday through Wednesday, takes the band out on tour Thursday through Sunday, and spends his nights bent over a keyboard or notepad composing new songs. “Midnight to dawn is my best writing time,” he says, seemingly oblivious to the notion that other people actually use those hours for sleep.
Sparky’s Flaw is a classic story of a high school garage band made good, and is as homegrown as they come. With the exception of lead guitarist and fellow fourth year Nate McFarland (Col ’08), the band members all attended Charlottesville High School together and built their local following by winning Battle of the Bands and touring the regional circuit. They cut their first album, Live From the Recording Studio, as 10th graders. Their name? From a kid they knew in high school who wore tailored suits every day but shoes held together with duct tape—his only flaw.
Eventually, the band—they describe themselves as “acoustic-driven pop rock”—caught the attention of Charlottesville-based Red Light Management, which represents artists such as Alanis Morissette, Ben Harper and that other local group made good, the Dave Matthews Band.
After being noticed by a music lawyer who, Anderson recalls, “called like every day for a month” to represent them, the five-member band was showcased in April 2007 at BMI’s Pick of the Month, a major industry event that showcases up-and-coming bands. Soon they had a deal with Mercury Records and—as if their schedule weren’t hectic enough—spent winter break in Los Angeles recording an album. Anderson jokes about the hustle of his “student by day, musician by night” lifestyle, but is obviously thrilled (if not a little shell-shocked) with the band’s snowballing success. He credits a smart team of managers with keeping them on track and keeping himself and McFarland in school. “It was practically in the contract,” McFarland jokes. That being said, the group can’t wait to hit the road full-time after graduation in May.
While the band’s star has risen over the past year, they’ve had their share of less-than-illustrious early gigs. They recall the time they were asked to stop playing at an eighth-grader’s pool party so that everyone could do the cha-cha slide. And then there was the performance at the county fair when the tent collapsed on them.
Those may have been character-building experiences for the band, but they couldn’t have done much to prepare Sparky’s Flaw for the roar of a sold-out show as they took the stage recently at the Satellite Ballroom on the Corner. Anderson routinely complimented the crowd’s singing, and for good reason—the audience seemed intimately familiar with the lyrics of every song, the kind that comes from endless repeat listening in cramped dorm rooms.
Local reviewers and fans who’ve been calling them “the next big thing” for years are happy the band is proving them right. “You won’t be able to get a ticket a year from now,” predicted one concertgoer. With a record in production and a big-time touring partner in the works for summer, the band’s Satellite Ballroom show may have been one of the last small-venue performances before Sparky’s Flaw catches fire.