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Bruising post-hardcore outfit Sparta came together after the breakup of At the Drive-In, and soon asserted an identity of their own with a sound that combines the righteous fury of hardcore and the cacophony of art-punk with the melodic accessibility of modern rock. Under leader Jim Ward, Sparta honed a style that was hard but precise, matching physicality with clever and carefully-constructed song structures, as heard on their 2002 debut, Wiretap Scars. Several hiatuses kept the band away from the studio as the members pursued other projects, but 2020's Trust the River and 2022's Sparta confirmed the group had lost little of their strength and none of their smarts. When artful post-hardcore group At the Drive-In disbanded in March 2001, co-founder Jim Ward (vocals/guitar) immediately started working with bandmates Paul Hinojos (guitar) and Tony Hajjar (drums) under the Sparta moniker. El Paso native and Belknap bassist Matt Miller joined the band several months later. Within a year, the four-piece had a deal with Dreamworks, and in March 2002, released the Austere EP. Five months later, Sparta issued their first full-length, the hard-hitting Wiretap Scars. The band returned two years later with the ambitious Porcelain, which added a full string section to the mix, and North American tours followed into 2005. In May of that year, the band announced the departure of founding member Paul Hinojos, and before year's end, ex-Engine Down/Denali guitarist Keeley Davis was added to the lineup. A deal with Hollywood followed in early 2006, resulting in the dark and complex full-length outing Threes that same year. Ward also recorded with El Paso poet Bobby Byrd for the 2006 collaboration How Will We Know When We're Dead. From 2008, Sparta took a three-year hiatus – Jim Ward would categorize it as a "nap," during which he focused on his alt country project Sleepercar. The Jim Ward, Keeley Davis, Matt Miller, and Tony Hajjar lineup of Sparta reunited in 2011, undertaking a short tour and releasing a new song, "Chemical Feel," as a free download. They began work on a fourth album, but sessions were put on hold when At the Drive-In reunited for a short tour in 2012 .The following year, Sparta went on hiatus again. ATDI toured in 2016, but this time Ward was unceremoniously replaced in the lineup by Davis. When Sparta reconvened in 2017, Davis and Hajjar did not return; they were replaced by the band's former touring guitarist Gabriel Gonzalez, and ex-Cursive/Beach Slang drummer Cully Symington, respectively. Over the next couple of years, the band worked on a new album, sporadically releasing songs like "Graveyard Luck" and "Cat Scream." In early 2020 they signed to Dine Alone for the release of their fourth album, Trust the River, which arrived later that April. In 2022, Sparta issued their fifth album, simply titled Sparta. For this project, Jim Ward and Matt Miller were the only official members of the group, and a handful of guest musicians were brought in for the recording sessions.They included guitarist Michael James Adams (who had worked on Ward's solo projects), keyboard player Kenny Hopper (of Crime in Choir), drummer Tucker Rule and singer Geoff Rickly (both from Thursday), and vocalists Angelica Garcia and Kayleigh Goldsworthy.
© MacKenzie Wilson & John D. Buchanan & Mark Deming /TiVo
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