First Listen: Sweet Spirit

Gripping demo from members of A Giant Dog & Bobby Jealousy

Sabrina Ellis leading Sweet Spirit Saturday at Empire Control Room
Sabrina Ellis leading Sweet Spirit Saturday at Empire Control Room (by Kevin Curtin)

Finally, on Saturday, I cleaned up. My garage office had become a ludicrous site, filthy with music ephemera. The CDs were particularly bad, coating the desk, dresser, and tops of the stereo, speakers, and guitar amplifiers. I swear to God I listen to it all, but most of it ultimately resides in limbo between my personal collection and the trashcan.

As I gathered up the discs into a double, Quarter Pounder with Cheese-sized stack, one shiny circle gave me pause. The burned CD had been scrawled with a marker: “Sweet Spirit master 03/07/2014 at Superpop [Studios].” Oh right.

Given the last month of music, I’d forgotten that Sabrina Ellis, known for her dearly departed heavy pop eccentrics Bobby Jealousy and still-fierce Austin punk quintet A Giant Dog, had dropped off the demo for her latest band, Sweet Spirit. I’d neglected to give it a spin.

I first encountered Sweet Spirit, also starring Ellis’ A Giant Dog writing partner Andrew Cashen, during Free Week, when the newly-formed act played its first shows. I’d been impressed, too. That didn’t prepare me for the moment I slid the demo into my car stereo and spun the volume wheel to boost.

Listening to the first track, a bouncy, garage rock single with mobile minor key guitar riffing and a chorus posing the question, “If I ask real nice, will you let me be on top?,” the cigarette fell from my mouth and into my lap – my jaw literally dropping. The remainder, featuring fast rock & roll with dominant doo-wop, tropical, and country influences, left me equally stunned. Had they really gotten this good in just a couple months of being a band?

It fucked up my Sunday.

Instead of staying home and working on my column for this week, I headed downtown to Empire Control Room, which I fully expect to win Best Music Club to Trip LSD On in the Chronicle’s next Best of Austin issue thanks to the venue’s relentless use of projections on every wall. I watched Sweet Spirit open for another local band that debuted during Free Week, Otis the Destroyer, a promising hard rock quartet featuring ex members of the Couch, which went belly up late last year.

Sweet Spirit still has that new band smell, laughing between songs and trying to remember chord changes made recently in practice, but they still sound tremendous. Saturday’s set sparked with encouraging vitality and sounded as fresh and unique as any band I’ve heard all year. I left convinced that the young sextet’s onto something special.

Get hip to Sweet Spirit with this brand new track:

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Sweet Spirit, Sabrina Ellis, A Giant Dog, Bobby Jealousy, Andrew Cashen, the Couch, Otis the Detroyer, Empire Control Room, Superpop Stuidos

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