At 21, Ben Sparaco is living the life of a rock star.
But the day-to-day isn’t an “Almost Famous”-esque fantasy scape. There’s no Stillwater, no Kate Hudson as Penny Lane, no underage journalists following him around.
Sparaco’s not living the life of a rock star in the ’60s. He’s living the life of an up-and-coming indie rocker from Nashville, Tennessee, which means a lot of time on the road with few breaks.
The musician and his band, Ben Sparaco and the New Effect, the act for Sunday’s Concerts on the Commons, played about 25 shows this spring, including a run that took them up the entire East Coast in May. The result?
“Every single day I want to fall asleep 100% of the time,” Sparaco said with a laugh. “It’s the most tiring s--- ever but, like, I like it.”
That’s easy to understand for a kid who, by the end of high school, had sat in a few times with a member of his favorite band, Butch Trucks, of The Allman Brothers Band. After his first year in college at Belmont University in Nashville, Sparaco booked a nationwide tour with Butch Trucks and the Freight Train Band. In the fall he chose not to go back to school, even though he was studying music. The road was calling.
“It was kind of like, ‘Am I going to go to school and sit and learn how to do this? Or am I going to go get paid to do it and, like, actually do it in real life?’” Sparaco said.
Now, three years later, Sparaco is still living in Nashville. He released his first solo album, “Wooden,” in 2017, bagging a guest appearance from North Mississippi Allstars’ Luther Dickinson. He has a manager as well as a publicist, and formed Ben Sparaco and the New Effect as a three-part band with Anthony Quirk (drums) and Adam Discipio (bass), both graduates of the Berklee College of Music.
Together, they’ve put out an E.P., “Greetings, from Ben Sparaco and the New Effect.” Sparaco said the New Effect released that album, in part, to contrast with the acoustic singer-songwriter sound he put forward on “Wooden.” He wanted to make sure that venues and fans had something to point to that accurately reflected his sound with the electric rock trio.
“If you came to one of our shows and ‘Wooden’ was the only thing we had out, people would be like, ‘Oh, I want to buy the record,’ and I’d have to be like, ‘I’m warning you, it’s not at all what you just heard,’” Sparaco said.
What you do hear is a collection of summery, indie-pop tracks that feel good to listen to. The songs are light and bouncy and seem to take all the best elements of the jam scene — Allman Brothers-style guitar riffs included — and condense them into more tightly packed songs. It’s a pretty cohesive release that paints a picture of Ben Sparaco and the New Effect as a band able to get people dancing, though in an alternative sort of way.
And, as Sparaco said, “Greetings” was intended to be exactly that: a greeting.
Though he, Quirk and Discipio have been on the road relentlessly, they’re also in the process of recording the New Effect’s debut album. From the sounds of it, it’s probably going to take a different direction than “Greetings.” Maybe.
Sparaco’s been in the studio playing around with synths, pedals and other effects and listening to a lot of The War on Drugs, a band that sounds like it debuted in the ’80s, though it was founded in 2008 by Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile before the latter started his solo career. Spark and his bandmates have been playing songs from the new album on this tour, including the first single, “Living on My Own,” which is set to be released Friday.
Otherwise, what’s coming remains to be seen. Sparaco did say, though, that one thing’s for sure: He’s been in the studio “cooking up some weirdness.”
To see Sparaco’s weirdness firsthand, drop into Concerts on the Commons on Sunday. The free concert starts at 5 p.m. The Brock Gleeson Band will open. ￼