In The Spotlight

Memphis Pencils & Messy Sparkles

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Musician/Band of the Week

Band, solo act both to release CDs

By Richard Davis
TFW Contributing Writer

How about two album releases for the price of one? Both local band Memphis Pencils and solo act Messy Sparkles (JD Paul, who is a member of the Pencils) will have new CDs out Friday, July 8 at Smoke & Barrel Tavern in Fayetteville.
After the party Friday, the Pencils will be on tour for about three weeks. Joel Paul of Memphis Pencils ran the gauntlet of crazy questions from the Freekly.

TFW: Who are the Memphis Pencils and why, when and how did they come to be? Would you think of yourselves more as standard No. 2 pencils covered in barbecue sauce or more like oversized elementary school type pencils with a dry rub or some other kind of writing instrument?
Joel: Memphis Pencils are Martin Bemberg (sometimes keys, sometimes guitar, always vocals), Joel Paul (mostly guitar, sometimes keys, sometimes vocals) Reed Faitak (bass) and JD Paul (drums). The band originally formed in spring of 2007, but Martin and Reed have been playing together since the age of 13. The current quartet came to be this past spring when Jim Sloan left the band.
Believe it or not, this is the first time we’ve been asked to consider ourselves in terms of food and pencil metaphors.
As far as barbecue goes, it would make most sense to say we’re Memphis style (with slaw), but to be honest we just aspire to be whatever kind of barbecue gets all over kids’ faces.
As far as pencils go, being a progressive pop band we’d say we’re more like Progresso Pencils, which are thick graphite pencils with no wood casing but a layer of lacquer to facilitate clean handling. (We are useful for broad, expressive work and shading over incised detail or where a visible paper tooth is desired.)

TFW: What’s different for “Shhh, I’m Rustic” compared to “Crayon Jewels”? Are there similarities? And why the name for “Rustic”?
Joel: “Shhh, I’m Rustic” is far more sophisticated than “Crayon Jewels.” It’s more layered, more thought out, more meticulously recorded, and more cohesive. The songs are just better. The name doesn’t have any specific meaning. Like “Crayon Jewels,” it just sounds good.

TFW: Are there differences in listening to the Memphis Pencils live compared to recorded?
Joel: Definitely a big difference between live Pencils and recorded Pencils. When playing live we can’t include all the layers that you’ll find on the recordings, but the performances have their own magic. The more stripped down version tends to be less expansive but more energetic.

TFW: Where do the Pencils draw their inspiration from musically? How about nonmusically?
Joel: Musically we’re inspired by all sorts of things. The thing we all have in common is an intense love for “Graceland” by Paul Simon. Nonmusically, Martin is really inspired by love. He fell in love with a Turkish girl who moved back to Turkey in September. He subsequently wrote his favorite songs to date, “A?k?m” and “Day Come Chrome,” and the songs that appear on his solo album “Sills” (some of which we perform as Memphis Pencils).

“Helium Efforts” – Memphis Pencils

TFW: When listening to “Helium Efforts,” I was momentarily struck with thoughts of Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album and the song “Woke Up Laughing” by Robert Palmer. Does that make me crazy?
Joel: Certainly not crazy. Like we said, we love “Graceland” and a lot of African music. As for “Woke Up Laughing,” had to look that one up, but no … still not crazy. That’s a pretty righteous song.

TFW: What can people expect with the Pencils/Messy Sparkles dual album release for Friday at Smoke & Barrel? What’s the name of the Messy Sparkles album? Is it difficult for JD to balance being a Pencil and being Messy and Sparklesy?
Joel: The release show is going to be “absolutely bizonkers” as a wise man once said. Expect Reed to dance like Reed dances. Expect JD to do something hilarious. And expect us all to be super jazzed that we’re finally making public this record that we worked on for a full year (catharsis).
Messy Sparkles’ album is called “Feeling Good Forever.” JD takes on the challenge of being in multiple musical acts like he takes on the challenge of eating at JD China, which is, simply, with gusto. Life’s a buffet for him.

TFW: What kinds of activities do the Pencils get up to when not making music?
Joel: We play a lot of Monkey Ball on (Nintendo) GameCube together. Reed’s a cook and sometimes Martin’s a poet.

TFW: How much traveling do the Pencils do in their performing and what areas do you visit?
Joel: It’s been quite a while since we traveled. September was probably the last time we played outside of Fayetteville and that was in Conway at one of the best house shows we’ve ever been a part of. Those Hendrix kids are nuts in all the right ways. As you might know, the release party is also a tour sendoff party. We’re going out to the east coast, up to New York, across to Chicago and back down to Fayetteville over the course of two and a half weeks.

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