... Ancient missives from our castle below the sea
MAY, 2020— Pigeons
MARCH, 2020— Ceilings
August, 2019— Cicadas and Flies
December, 2018— Slime Molds
September, 2018— Pimps, MicrobiomesJUNE, 2016— Rat laughter, singing spiders
July, 2018— Arctic Survival
February, 2018— Alien Lizard Replicants
January, 2018— Lizards, Lost Limbs
June, 2017— Ghost Riders and Gardening Tips
APRIL, 2017— The Frog Prince
MARCH, 2017— Shock of the Old
FEBRUARY, 2017— Ancient curses!
JUNE, 2015— Wampum, Cat whiskers!
APRIL, 2015—Strange Shrimp
JANUARY, 2015—Space Diamonds
SEPTEMBER, 2014—Famous Crimpers
JANUARY, 2014—True Detective and the Talking Cactus
NOVEMBER, 2013—The Secret Pain of Boiled Peas
OCTOBER, 2013—Tesla hears distant fire
JUNE, 2013—Worm charming
APRIL, 2013—17-year Cicadas
OCTOBER, 2012- Haunted Houses
JULY, 2012- Sad News, Cockroach love
NOVEMBER, 2007-17th-century dinner party
SEPTEMBER, 2006-wyrding witches
AUGUST, 2006-animals attack
SEPTEMBER, 2005-18th-century health tonics
JUNE, 2005-spirit bottles
APRIL, 2005-psychic attack
FEBRUARY, 2005-Mr. Nobody
SEPTEMBER, 2004-current delusions
AUGUST, 2004-mysterious shoes
APRIL, 2004-xerxes and octopus
AUGUST, 2003-thousand-year old eggs, pyramid power
MAY, 2003-planet X
AUGUST, 2002-automatic writing
JUNE, 2002-current fears
MARCH, 2002-ghost tapes
DECEMBER, 2001-tour diary
SEPTEMBER, 2001-mountain-man diet
MARCH, 2001-chicago vs. albuquerque
________________________PANDEMIC SOUVENIRS!We have 500 little notebooks (cover pictured below) meant for a tour that never happened. A notebook will be included FREE with every purchase on our website until they’re all gone. Journal your pandemic and support your favorite western gothic balladeers…
_________________________ODESSA and MILK & SCISSORS
We write you from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean where we hunt plastic-bags and ancient aliens. Herein find news of tours, albums, singles, and of course SPIDERS. Yes, faint heart, it’s the latest HANDSOME FAMILY NEWSLETTER…
HEY!EUROPEAN TOUR DATESAPRIL/MAY 2020….Most of these dates are withthe amazing Daniel Knox supporting.
WED 22 APRIL
THU 23 APRIL
FRI 24 APRIL
SAT 25 APRIL
MON 27 APRIL
TUE 28 APRIL
WED 29 APRIL
FRI 1 MAY
Thank you for keeping us keeping on...xo Rennie (& Brett)
Greetings from the hallowed halls of HANDSOME FAMILY castle. Tell no one of the contents of this missive. Imagine you are reading an email pretending to come from your bank. All your money has been transferred to a distant relative who happens to be stranded at the South Pole…. Be wary, but read on....
HOME ALONEWe’ve been home in Albuquerque for a bunch of lovely, quiet months in which we have descended into the depths of artistic hell trying to finish some goddamn songs.
It gets done when it gets done and then we’ll have a new record…
… as long as we’re not stranded at the South Pole or caught in a shoot-out at the Fair 'n Square…
Robert Scott's last diary entry was written in a windy tent near the South Pole. He was trekking back after a 2 year journey (having arrived at the pole 33 days after the Norwegian team planted their flag).
Scott's last entry read,“We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last…”If only he had used sled dogs instead of ponies. If only Oates hadn’t wandered off in a blizzard. If only they hadn’t tried to beat Norwegians at frozen land travel— that’s like trying to beat Americans at shopping.
MYSTERY MEATActually this has nothing to do with meat. It’s a list of the top 3 most wonderful items for purchase on our website. This list is geared completely toward your individual genetic code. Take the quiz in the next column to find out which item is right for you.
1. SNAKE SHIRT
4. There’s no quiz.
HEY HO FRIENDS, both digital and analog. Greetings from Albuquerque where we are in the midst of a wind storm. Tree branches scratch the windows and leaves are swirling in the street. In other words— all is well. We are home enjoying some important pajama time before a little more travel. Herein news of CANADA, YE HANDSOME FAMILY and SLIME MOLDS. It’s our latest NEWSLETTER…
We are looking forward to sampling your new recreational spinach and playing two shows.
February 23, 2019
BLOCK HEATER FEST
DAVID BOWIE knew of our existence!
A FEW NEW ITEMS
at ye olde merch shoppe…
Rennie's short story collection, ‘Evil’ available in French!
‘THRU THE TREES’
20th anniversary special edition LP. Available now!
‘Wilderness’ deluxe BOX SET
NEW! BEAR T-SHIRT
Rennie's portrait of Brett as a bear.
Our MUSICAL COLLABORATORS—
have recorded some great music. Take a listen:
Thank you for keeping us keeping on...
xo Rennie (& Brett)
SLIME MOLDS… are not mold. They’re single-celled creatures. They can reproduce by splitting in two or they can fuse with genetically compatible mates, When fused they become one larger cell with one nucleus and two sets of chromosomes. They can keep fusing with other slime molds until they grow large enough to be seen by human eyes. When they are this large they reproduce by forming stalks from their highest point that shoot out spores into the wind. Oh,to see such flight!
MAYBE the rat-tat-tat we hear at night is just giant slime molds shooting out babies and not another armed robbery or a game of beer pong turned deadly?
SLIME MOLDS placed in a maze can spread out and quickly find the shortest exit to food. When scientists took a piece of slime mold that had solved a maze and let it fuse with a mold newly-exposed to the maze, the second mold found the maze exit far more quickly. Slime molds do not have brains or any kind of neural pathways. We know they speak to each other, but we’re not sure how.
SLIME MOLDS have been on Earth for approximately a billion years. Will we make it this long? One problem we have is big egos. While we can empathize with each other, we can not act in complete concert and trust like a swarm of starlings nor can we easily make decisions based on the good of the whole (like a hive of bees) over the good of the individual. Some of us are better at this than others.
WHO IS SMARTER: humans or the slime mold? What about a school of sardines? A plastic bag? A wind full of spores? A beer pong champion? A maze?
QUESTION: Why do starlings roost in the little trees planted in parking lot medians? ANSWER: There are no other trees.
How now MICROBIOMES? I greet you as one universe of bacteria and DNA to another. We organisms that sing songs are again packing our suitcases. FAIR WARNING: I have bought a very small hat to wear on stage. It’s going to make you all question your hat choices, life paths and the smell of pumpkin spice lattes (there are no pumpkins in it!). In other words: the difference in size between my actual skull and this hat is substantial. Where can you dare to see this super-tiny hat? READ ONWARD…
EUROPEAN TOUR DATES
—NEW! We are proud to offer music for sale by our amazing touring musicians:
Alex McMahon & Jason Toth
—“Through the Trees”
20th Anniversary Special Edition LP
—Wilderness Book & LP
Full-Color Box Set
—Parlez vous Français? Mon Livre de histoires!
I'm reading Iceberg Slim’s autobiography, “Pimp” and also “Goethe the Alchemist" by Ronald Douglas Gray. Can you guess which quote is from which book?
1. “Sympathy between man and nature, the part and the whole, this is the basis for all magic.”
2. “He took the bait like a rapist in a nudist colony for the blind. He poked his chest out, his eyes flashing like a pin-ball machine gone haywire. He hiked the pants of his green checked suit to the calves to show off his blood red socks.”
3. “My name is Party Time. I am the best flat-footed hustler in town. You see that fine silk broad? I got a double saw to lay her. It happens all the time!"
4. “Heaven and Earth, acid and alkali, the fixed and the fluid, salt and sulphur— opposed tendencies are to be brought into harmony. The final aim is an incorruptible permanence which embraces within itself all opposites. “
Do all humans agree that MINT tastes ‘fresh’? When did we decide this as a species? Usually things that sting and numb our mouths signal toxicity. Mint, you evil genius! You have made fools of us all.
TODAY I am reminded: Loosing a limb or losing at bingo— loss allows us to see the full extent of ourselves. It’s not always a pleasant sight. Which is realer: your phantom limb or mine? Do you remember when you were one cell? Do you remember when you were two? Three? Scientists agree that Walt Whitman was right: we do contain multitudes— unfortunately it’s mostly bacteria.
xo Rennie (& Brett)
Howdy compadres… Greetings from a world of suitcases, rolled up cords and zippered bags as we prepare to leave the house again. Herein find news of our THROUGH THE TREES 20th ANNIVERSARY LP and an amazing array of TOUR DATES in the USA and ABROAD. Please come out and see us. We disappear without you… Also some interesting facts about Arctic living.
FOR THE SUMMER HEAT … cooling words from Peter Freuchen’s, “Adventures in the Arctic” that recounts living a traditional Inuit life in Greenland…
“Frozen eider-duck eggs are among the finest of God’s gifts. We warmed them a moment in our hands to remove the shell then ate them like an apple.” Chunks of walrus meat boiled into a thick soup can taste like chocolate. Pickled auks are best eaten frozen. Narwal skin, preserved for years in the snow produces a delicious grass-green dish.
USA – JULY 2018
EUROPE, FALL, 2018
“Arnarak’s hair was the envy of other girls. She wore it in a proud upsweep… from below her bed she took an enormous pail filled with urine. Carefully she let her black hair down into the pail and gave it a good shampoo.” Urine also drives ghosts from igloos, but for face-washing walrus blubber does a better job. Black ice cannot be trusted. Keep your coat frozen outside while you sleep, but tuck your boots under your sleeping bag.
“During the darkest days of winter old Semigaq collected bags and filled them with darkness. ‘I collect shadows,’ she said, ‘so that the world will get light again.’
“We were at an altitude of six thousand feet. The sun’s rays were glittering, but it was so cold our faces froze. My nose was raw and bleeding. Our craving for fat became an obsession. We boiled clear blubber into soup. It was nothing but fat, but we drank it like sweet milk.”
—“Through the Trees Special Edition LP.”
—The Handsome Family SNAKE SHIRT
—Wilderness Book & LP, Full-Color Box Set
—Parlez vous Français?
Mon Livre de histoires est publié en Septembre.
“I fell asleep in a hole dug beneath my sled. I woke and found I could not move. An enormous snow drift had piled on me while I slept. I tried digging with bare hands, but my fingers quickly lost feeling. The snow was only a few inches above my face. I managed to grab hold of my bear-skin pillow. It had one sharply torn edge that I put in my mouth and chewed until it was saturated with spit. Out of my mouth the edge quickly froze stiff. I could do a little digging with that until it got soft. Over and over I put it in my mouth, let the spit freeze and dug on. My lips and tongue burned. but the hole I had dug was still too small. I managed to get my head out, but the storm beat my face without mercy. My eyes and nose filled with snow. I had no way of reaching to wipe my face. I withdrew back into my hole and lay for hours beneath the snow before making another move. Repulsive as it was I decided to move my bowels. From the excrement I fashioned a chisel-like instrument and waited for it to freeze. This tool freed me from the ice and I was able to crawl out. It was dark. The whole day and most of a second night had passed. I was too weak to stand.”
“I flopped down on the ice and became a seal: I waved my arms, kicked my leg and peaked the watching bear’s curiosity. The bear slipped into the water and swam toward me, practically without sound.” When out hunting wear a string of foxtails around your knees where your boots meet your trousers in order to keep out wind and snow. Sled runners can be made of rolled-up walrus skin or frozen mud.
xo Rennie & Brett
Final days: Lizardcaster Auction!
United Kingdom: TOUR DATES!
Alien Replicants: Destroy the World...
Dear Shape-Shifting Lizard Replicants from Outer-Space...
We appreciate how well your long-term invasion of Earth has been unfolding of late. Kudos!
A few questions...
MOON-BASED MIND-CONTROL RAY— Are we experiencing 'break-through' unfettered thoughts and ‘realities? For example: your thousand-fold fleet of inter-dimensional time-jumping ships filling our skies are as invisible to us as ever except when we stare briefly at cellular transmission towers disguised as pine trees.
ILLUMINATI MEETINGS— Why must monthly secret meetings of the global illuminati always be held in caves? Older, male attendees in hooded robes offer no complaints, but younger female illuminati in traditional torn lamb-skin bikinis often find these gatherings drafty. Also, candle blow-out can awaken sleeping deep-vein cave kraken. Further: must I drink blood when in attendance or may I bring a beverage of my own choice in a discreet container?
HOLLOW-EARTH DINOSAURS— When are the ‘old ones' coming out of hiding? Should I move large vehicles out of the way now?
ZOMBIES— Will you be turning us into them?
EASTER ISLAND— Why did you place Moai statues with eyes facing inward away from the sea? Does the skunk living under my porch know the answer? What about the cat next door who stares derisively at all my attempts at yard work?
TOTAL OBLITERATION OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION— how would you rate the progress of Earth invasion? On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being “It’s Shredding!” and 1 being, “Disappointed in human-abductee feedback and wish to return to home planet if only it had not exploded.” Where do you think the project is right now? Also, do you feel safe at home?
xo Rennie & Brett
* * *
Behold, The Lizardcaster!
DEAR SAILORS of the great inner sea, brave divers of the wordless deep… Herein, find news of the LIZARDCASTER and a whole mess of UK & EUROPEAN TOUR DATES in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of our record Through the Trees. Let 2018 be the year we all see LIZARDS dancing in the fire...
UK & EUROPE 2018— We’re heading to UK and Europe in celebration of Loose Music's new blue vinyl, 20th anniversary edition of “Through the Trees” (including “Invisible Trees”— a bonus CD of out-takes, live performances and bickering). LP available for sale at upcoming european dates and worldwide.
EUROPEAN TOUR DATES, 2018
More shows in Europe are in the works for next year as well as attempts to find a way down to Australia and New Zealand. In the meantime we’re working on new songs. May the song gods grace us.
We thank you truly for your support,
Rennie & Brett
THE LIZARDCASTER ...
Guaranteed to attract and bind invisible forces with each strum. Also a great guitar to play…
ENDS Feb. 15, 2018
* * *
LOST LIMBS— The ability to regenerate a lost limb has given the lizard a mysterious reputation, but such regeneration is actually a fairly simple form of time travel in which a lizard runs backwards in time-space to the place where it last saw its tail. This natural process is also why lizards are often spotted in fireplaces basking in flames— time-travel is chilly business.
* * *
LIZARDS UNDER THE SKIN— was once a common form of psychic attack that could only be countered by the discovery of the tree where the actual lizards were buried. Such cruel magic has largely fallen out of favor, replaced by the equally controversial, “Lobster in the Sock Drawer.” Lizards found in your shoes are always a sign of good luck.
* * *
PET LIZARDS— can be trained to clamp onto earlobes for a night out on the town. These amphibious ‘ear rings’ can be worn for up to twelve hours (14% of users experience earlobe disfiguration and loss of low-end hearing as well as delusions of fire). Lizard earrings pair well with live snake belts and/or hibernating porcupine hats. You know what the Handsome Family will be wearing on stage in 2018.
* * *
SLEEP well tonight, dear reader. May we all find something good in our shoes come the morning. See you at a show. Wear your hibernating porcupine hat for admission discount (hibernating bear cubs are not acceptable substitutions).
xo Rennie & Brett
Dear SPIRITS, wild DREAMERS, shadow SINGERS…. Tonight the weeds grow tall in your yard and the wind creeps in. Hear the GHOST HUNTER’S HORN and read on...
We still have a few of the limited edition “Wilderness Box Sets” available. Once they’re gone they’re gone so TAKE A LOOK!
More shows in Europe are in the works for next year as well as attempts to find a way down to Australia and New Zealand. In the meantime we’re working on new songs. May the song gods grace us.
We thank you truly for your support,
Rennie & Brett
GARDENING TIPS FROM THE HANDSOME FAMILY
OR— reasons not to weed...
THE WILD HUNT ghost riders, the thundering roar of invisible horsemen tearing through the trees— have you heard it? If not your yard may be too orderly. Not feeling a rising panic as you head to the far edges of your property? You have work to do! Invite the god Pan back into your world. Let your grass grow tall. Let the thorny vines choke out all reason in your hedges and await the sound of the magic flute. One note heard and all reason flies away. You are off thundering through the branches, toppling trees like a great tornado, leaving only chaos in your path! Wear appropriate footwear.
THE DEVIL'S PATCH Any experienced gardener can tell you: you may grow no orderly row of squash blossoms, no slowly-ripening staked tomatoes, unless you leave a patch of chaos inside your fences. Leave a corner of your garden untouched where the fairies may gather. Beneath the dewy leaves this tangled and unchecked world you will witness the late-night marriages of crickets to frogs. You will see lizards dancing with crows, find strange symbols drawn in the dark earth. Yes, all the crawling, screeching, biting things that have no place in your clean world will return once you give them a space to linger. Watch the shadows loom! Soon your tomatoes will be fire red, the squash heavy on the vine. Warning: stay indoors under full moons and follow no wee birdies that whisper your secret name.
THE LONELY TREE caged in its square of dirt the city tree is an orphan, a child raised by wolves. It can not speak its own language. Don’t deprive your greenery of the basic knowledge of how and why it has come to sprout. Stop pruning! Stop weeding. Stop raking. Let your plants spread out. Let their dead limbs tangle with their living ones.Yes, Even the stinky sumac, the Russian thistle—none are as invasive as your own mad species. Watch the wild weeds tangle and feel great power vibrate through your once dead square of dirt. Warning: Russian thistle may induce hypnogogic states if stared at too long.
FRIENDS— Can you learn to love the slimy FROG prince perched upon your pillow? Can you see the beauty in the dark, swamp where THE HANDSOME FAMILY slither? Read on and ponder....
NEW TOUR DATES!
AT THE SHOWS…
Check out Rennie's art for sale at the merch table. There’s always a FROG in the bunch. As well as foxes, horses, birds, dogs, spiders, snakes… Take a look at my ever-changing bestiary.
ON THE WEB…
LIMITED EDITION items are going fast. Get your copy before they’re gone!
“Wilderness” BOX SET
“Singing Bones” LP
We are still singing because of you. Thank you, truly, for keeping us in business,
Rennie and Brett
FROGS call out to each other through the humid air above a stagnant pond. They sing to let potential mates know their location and to let other males know they are ready to defend their territory. With each call there is a responding chorus of competing males. Most females are listeners. When they hear a pleasing voice among the din of croaks they seek out the male behind the melody. FROGS really do fall in love by listening to love songs!
There’s great competition to be heard among the men of these FROG choruses. Only the most gifted singers will find a space in which to solo among the hundreds of voices striving to be heard. FROGS develop a rhythm of call and response in this musical battle. Males that find themselves drowned out will change the frequency and tone of their call in order to be heard above their brothers.
The FROG Prince’s voice was repellent to the princess he sang to. She had dropped her golden ball into the FROG Prince’s muddy pool and needed his help to retrieve it. Sticking your arm into muddy water is not an option for a princess.
The slimy prince offers to retrieve the girl’s ball if she will promise to let him sleep by her side. She is utterly revolted by the little creature but agrees to his demands. Once her shining orb is back in her arms, though, the princess forgets her promise and runs away.
Late that night the FROG Prince comes hopping and dripping into the castle. He splatters his way up to her silken pillow. For three nights the princess endures the awful creature’s presence at her side, but finally she grabs the slimy FROG and throws its foul body at the wall. In that great ‘splat’ the FROG Prince transforms into a human prince of great beauty— or so the fairy tale insists. The princess falls in love.
I wonder though—could it be that it is the princess who changes as she throws the FROG at her velvet wallpaper? If the princess pulled her eyes away from her gorgeous prince and glanced into the mirror would she see a handsome couple reflected or two slimy FROGS?
There they go, the FROG lovers— hopping through the wet dirt back to the slimy waters of their kingdom.
Each night this magic spell is cast as virgin princesses hear their princes cry out across the swamp. In the darkness of the pond all is filthy, moist and full of love.
Tonight, royal friends, leave the windows of your castle open, the great doors ajar. Let the wind and rain come rushing past in torrents. Wet leaves will litter your bed and every creeping, crawling, slithering thing will come to claim you in the name of the prince of mud.
Lie down in this empire of muck. Let the dark water be the mirror of your throne.
—Excerpt from “Wilderness,” essays by Rennie Sparks written as a companion to the album “Wilderness.”
Dear FRIENDS, both far and near, herein find facts OLD and NEW,
rising up like smoke rings from the forbidden fortress of THE HANDSOME FAMILY…
Wilderness Box SetFOR SALE!Sadly our good old friend Carrot Top Records has closed up shop, but happily we now have new old stock for sale on our website. New treasures found in crevices at the old warehouse are...
Limited Edition 7”
Singing Bones LP
To celebrate our new old stock we also have some..NEW
on our website when you buy:ALL CDs
ANY 2 BOOKS
BOOK & CD
Spend $100 and get FREE WORLDWIDE SHIPPING!
How about coming to see
NEW TOUR DATES!
Hey, have you seen our NEW video for the song,
“THE RED DOOR”?
A rivulet of water 2.6 billion years old has been newly discovered in a mine shaft 2 miles below the surface of the earth. This drop of rain fell from the sky before there were creatures here alive beyond single cells— a puddle from a time when life was lived alone, adrift, silent. It was a good time for rain drops I think.
The oldest single tree is probably a bristle-cone pine in the mountains of northern California. There are trees up there that are 5 thousand years old. The scientist who bored into the trunk of the oldest tree has kept its exact location a secret. If you knew where the world’s oldest tree lived would you sit in its shadow? Would you like to taste 2 billion year old water? Do you know where your cells will be in 2 billion years?
The clam Arctica Islandica holds the record for the longest-lived animal known to science. Its age is measured by counting the bands in its shell. This is how a specimen was identified (now known as “Ming”) in Iceland that had lived for 507 years. I once found a clam at the beach and took it home. I kept it in a jar of sea water by my bed. I named him, “Sucker”. He didn’t live very long, but he surely saw and heard more than most clams ever do. I had a lot of posters of The Who on my bedroom walls. Also a unicorn leaping up over a rainbow. What other clam has ever seen a girl with so much black eyeliner?
Although the workers in a termite colony only live a few years, a termite queen can live half a century down in her fortress of dirt. She spends her time in that dark nest dreaming of the few moments she spent in the air as a princess awaiting a winged prince. No worker termite dares look the queen in her eyes. They know without knowing that if they should see even a flicker of her sky memories they would burst into flames.
FRIENDS— As American whirlwinds whirl we are filling old sheets with dark winds and riding them up through clouds, eastward, to old lands. Herein find curses and prayers whispered to ancient gods hidden in rocks and trees and air. Herein find TOUR DATES, and SUNDRY OTHER HANDSOME FAMILY EPHEMERA ….
FROM THE ANCIENT STORY OF GILGAMESH….
Enkidu was happy running with herds of wild antelope and eating grass until he was lured into the human world by a temple prostitute Shamhat. Poor Enkidu! Soon after becoming human he is marked for death.
SEE THE HANDSOME FAMILY
SINGING —> USA and Europe, February through May...
"I curse you!” Enkidu says to Shamhat, “I curse you with the ultimate curse. May it seize you instantly as it leaves my mouth…. May your man beat you like a housewife beats a rug! May you never acquire shining silver or delightful alabaster! May your roof keep leaking! May wild dogs camp in your bedroom! May owls nest in your attic! May drunkards vomit all over you! May a tavern wall be your place of business! May you be dressed in torn robes and filthy underwear! May thorns and briars make your feet bloody! ...May all this be your reward for seducing me in the forest!”
VISIT OUR MERCH TABLE
AT SHOWS TO SEE:
Artwork made by Rennie as well as both Brett and Rennie standing around with golden sharpies begging to sign things.
The sun-god Shamash reminds Enkidu that becoming human wasn’t all bad… “Wasn’t it Shamhat who gave you beer fit for a king and splendid Gilgamesh as your friend? Gilgamesh will lay you down on a bed of honor when you are dead and he will roam the wilderness with matted hair in a lion’s skin.”
HEY NOW—> —>
CAPPELENS FORSLAGS CONVERSATIONAL
LEXICON vol. II!
Looking for the most puzzling and entertaining book you’ve seen in a good long while? Looking for Rennie Sparks’ definitions for ‘soap bubbles’, ‘ghosts’, and ‘salamanders’?
Have a look at this strange and wonderful LTD. EDITION BOOK. Purchase them while they last!
Enkidu apologizes to Shamhat and now wishes good things for her... "Two miles away from you may your lover tremble with excitement. One mile away may he bite his lip in anticipation...May Ishtar bring you generous lovers whose treasure chests brim with jewels and gold! May the mother of seven children be abandoned for your sake!"
SUBSCRIBE to our YOUTUBE CHANNEL and be the first to see our next homemade videos
After Enkidu's death Gilgamesh cried through the long night for his lost friend. "Oh, Enkidu, may the paths that led you through the cedar forest mourn you constantly day and night. May the hills mourn you and the mountains we climbed. May the pastures mourn you as their own son. May the forest we slashed in our fury mourn you. May the bear mourn you, the panther, the hyena, the jackal, the lion, the gazelle. May the rivers mourn you. May temple priests mourn you by loosening their hair... I will mourn as long as I breath. I will sob for him like a woman who has lost her only child. Oh, Enkidu you were the axe at my side, the knife in my sheath, the wide belt around my loins. You were my glorious robe! Beloved friend, swift stallion, wild deer, leopard ranging in the wilderness, together we slaughtered the bull of heaven. Oh Enkidu what is this sleep that has silenced you?
HAVE YOU HEARD our latest record, “Unseen”?
MOJO called it “our masterpiece”! How about buying a copy from us (CD or LP) and getting that old fashioned thrill of supporting the arts?
Gilgamesh touched Enkidu's heart but it did not beat. He veiled Enkidu's face like a brides and circled him like an eagle. He paced back and forth like a lioness whose cubs are trapped in a pit. He tore out clumps of his hair and tore off his magnificent robe as if it were cursed. After the funeral Gilgamesh went out into the wilderness with matted hair in a lion skin. Bitterly he wept through the wilderness. How can I bear this sorrow?
From Stephen Mitchell’s 2004 translation of the "Epic of Gilgamesh”—an ancient Mesopotamian poem written on stone tablets. It is one of the oldest pieces of surviving literature (c. 1800 BC)
We are still singing because of you. Thank you. Thank you, truly, Rennie and Brett
GOOD PEOPLE… At last the day is here. Starting today, July 15, you can pre-order our new record, “UNSEEN” in both CD and limited edition transparent green vinyl LP. It officially releases on September, 16, 2016. On that day you will be among the first to hear our new songs...
“UNSEEN” continues our search into the shadowy edges of life. The album was recorded in our home studio at night with only the hawk moths listening. It features a few of our faithful desert friends: David Gutierrez (mandolin, dobro), Alex McMahon (guitar, baritone guitar, pedal steel), and Jason Toth (drums). Mostly it was written and wrought in our pajamas with prickly pear needles and large bugs crawling the cracked floor beneath our slippered feet. We truly hope you enjoy our new songs. We hope they expand your universe. We hope you will consider purchasing them in any form that pleases: a CD, an LP, a download and/or consider coming to one of our shows. All these contributions to our cause mean the world to us. TRULY.
Read on, friends and know all… xo Rennie and Brett
SALE! SALE! SALE!
We have several BIG DISCOUNTS offered for a limited time...
🐞 All orders come with a FREE set of 6 Handsome Family
POSTCARDS (even postcard orders)!
🐞 Buy any two BOOKS for $15 (+ shipping)
🐞 Buy ‘Wilderness’ CD & BOOKS together— only $20 (+ shipping)
🐞 Buy ‘Smothered & Covered’ and ‘Scattered’ CDs together—
only $12 (+ shipping)
🐞 We are happy to sign anything you order. Just email us and ask.
I finally learned how to use iMovie! In the coming weeks we’ll be premiering 5 NEW VIDEOS for 5 NEW SONGS all made by me and Brett! Subscribe to our channel and be among the first to see them.
🍊MY FIRST ART SHOW!
Underwater Vines / Rennie Sparks / paintings & collections presented by Aron Packer Projects, 2416 W. North Ave (at Western), CHICAGO, IL 60647 —TUES, 9/20/16. 6 - 9 PM. Brett and I will play a few songs to start the night. On view will be a bunch of my paintings, also handmade guitars, dogwood can collection and found cat whiskers!
🐞🐞🐞 TOUR DATES! 🐞🐞🐞
THE TAROT CARD FOR THE CURRENT STATE OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY….
Far-flung FRIENDS, hear our happy cry— It’s our 28th wedding anniversary and also the arrival of new HANDSOME FAMILY TOUR DATES and A NEW RECORD! Also herein find important thoughts on SINGING SPIDERS, RAT JOKERS and a man who heard PEANUTS WHISPER….
At long last our 10th Handsome Family record will be released September, 16, 2016. PRE-ORDERS BEGIN JULY 15, 2016. We will let you know the second the gates are open if you subscribe to our newsletter list.
FROM LEAF TO LEAF THEIR LOVE SINGS….
Scientists have recorded a purring sound from the male wolf spider. He smells the presence of a female and sings a seductive song by dragging a special comb-like organ across whatever surface he’s on. Leaves seem to work best and amplify the vibration enough that an air-born sound is carried to the listening lady spider. Hark! She also stands on leaves when looking for love— all the better to hear her suitor’s call. The lovelorn spider maid hears her man’s call by feeling sound vibrations run up all her many limbs. How pitiful two ears are in comparison to such full-body hearing.
OH, PITIFUL EARS…
Rats laugh, but we can’t hear their snickering because it is too high in frequency for our dull ears. Rats don’t seem concerned that we don’t hear their jokes. Human scientists feel differently. With special ultrasonic microphones we now can hear joyful rats make chirping noises that are quite distinct from other rat vocalizing. The gleeful sound most-commonly occurs when two young rats play together. Scientists discovered they could induce chirping in rats by gently tickling them. The tickling causes chirping especially in young rats and in females. Over time the tickled rats bonded with the hands that tickled them and sought those hands out when offered a choice of human hands to approach. Ah, to think of the pure love a young rat feels for a scientist's tickling fingers! What whispering rat sonnets do our deaf ears still miss? Can the wolf spider hear the rats laughing? Does the rat know how humans feel about spiders? Have you ever felt like the entire world was laughing at you at an ultrasonic level?
TODAY’S HANDSOME HERO—
GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER...
Born into slavery in Missouri in the 1860’s, he later became a botanist and an inventor.
“All flowers talk to me,” Carver said. “As do hundreds of little living things in the woods. I learn what I know by loving and watching everything.”
“Be too brave to lie,” Carver advised. “Be too generous to cheat.”
While Carver did not ‘invent’ peanut butter (it was already known to indigenous people of the Americas) he concocted many new peanut recipes including: peanut mayonnaise, peanut cheese and peanut coffee. He also came up with peanut substitutes for asparagus, cocoa, goose, chicken, oyster, pig and veal. The peanut flowers themselves, Carver said, whispered to him all the ways they could be used as well as how the plants could enrich soil. Oh, to hear a single whisper from the weeds! Oh, to hear the spiders sing! The Handsome Family song, “Gravity,” from the album “Twilight” was inspired by George Washington Carver (with a splash of Johnny Appleseed).
SSSSSSHHH, FRIENDS and LISTEN!
Hear our rental van approach. Meet us at a show near you and whisper secrets in our ears.
Fondly we call from the far reaches of Handsome Family Forest. There are whispers in the branches. There are voices in the roots. Read on, Brave Reader, know the truth...
NEW RECORD! TOUR DATES! ANCIENT TREE STUMPS!
WHEN A TREE FALLS IN THE FOREST… For reasons unknown, ancient stumps are kept alive for centuries by their companions, fed by a sugar solution through their roots. What strange longing leads a tree to feed the stump of the fallen? What does a century feel like to a stump? These are the questions that stop me as I’m walking across dimly lit parking garages.
AT LAST... We are nearing completion of a recording of ten new songs entitled, “Unseen.” The release date worldwide is September, 2016. More details as we find them— though nothing is easily found inside this over-turned canoe we call home. Pre-ordering will begin as soon as we find our paddles. You will be notified!
GIANTS OF THE FOREST...
There are more than roots connecting trees. Forest dirt is also home to a network of fungal trails that run between hundreds of trees, even those of different species. In summer birch trees use the fungal web to feed excess carbon to shaded firs. In winter the firs return the favor when leaves above them drop and their needles find the sun. The black walnut spreads poison through the fungal network in order to keep other plants from growing nearby. The strangest truth of this secret dirt network is that there are giants beneath us: fungal webs can be immense. An enormous fungus living in the soil of Oregon’s Blue Mountains is said to be the largest organism alive today. It is four square miles in girth and estimated to be thousands of years old. Is this where the feeling of being watched comes from as you walk through a forest? There are invisible giants beneath your feet and they have taught the trees to talk. Teach me, oh great fungus, to speak the language of the branches!
WHISPERINGS… I am slowly amassing a series of very softly spoken podcasts called whispercasts. Each one is a softly spoken talk about a single Handsome Family song, beginning with the songs from our 1998 record “Through the Trees”. I have posted three so far. Have a listen on headphones and you’ll feel like I’m whispering in your ear as we huddle beneath an overturned canoe.
Adieu friends, may the branches hear your call…
Hi Ho, friends and neighbors. Have I ever told you how much I enjoy turning a random squiggle into a snake? Have I mentioned that THE HANDSOME FAMILY is going to be in Europe soon? Read on, dear heart…
Sometimes when the very walls seem to be breathing hard and the blood threatens to boil over in my head I draw a squiggle. I turn the squiggle into a snake. By the time I’m finished with my snake I feel a lot better. I feel calmer, smoothed out, sorted. There is peace in finding that even the most random lines can become a living creature. I do a lot of snake drawings when we’re on tour. I spread my markers out on hotel bedspreads and follow my squiggles into the land of dreams. Ambien helps.
Maybe drawing snakes is about pondering infinity in a finite way. I’ve always found a strange peacefulness in between thinking of very large things and very small. There is space in there for all things to find their order. Some people say eating a banana before sleep helps encourage good dreams. I recommend drawing a snake before bed. I don’t recommend actually trying to draw on a living snake. They are not receptive to this sort of treatment. It’s hard, also, to find snakes hiding in hotel rooms. They’re there, of course, coiled into the darkest recesses of these anonymous spaces. We once stayed at a hotel room that had a live goldfish in it to keep us company. I was nervous the whole night about whether the goldfish was happy or unhappy, restless or euphorically gliding round and round the infinity of its tiny glass world. It’s hard to tell with goldfish.
All the snakes I draw on tour are for sale at our shows. If I didn’t sell my snake drawings I would have a serious stockpile. Make room in my unconscious for new squiggle shapes by taking one home. Please look through my book of snakes before you leave our next show even if you’re not an art-buyer. I hope my snake images help you find the secret pathway to your best dreams. I hope our songs and live show do the same. See you soon friends in Europe.
GREETINGS TO ALL—
in neighboring tribes, far-flung countries, underground lairs, hiding in our hall closet. Herein find inspiring history on a CLAMSHELL-BASED ECONOMY as well as the latest doings of THE HANDSOME FAMILY...
TOUR DATES: NEW MEXICO
Wampum are tube-shaped beads that native Americans carve from the shells of channeled welk and quahog clam— shells found along the beaches of the Long Island Sound and north along Cape Cod. The beads were once strung into jewelry or sewn into clothing and traded between people and tribes. Wampum beads have been found as far west as Oklahoma and there are beads found that may be a thousand years old. It's hard for those of us born into a money-based world of shopping to understand how a wampum-based society functioned. Giving wampum was not meant as ‘payment’. It was given to calm arguments, to add meaning to exchanges and to mark a moment as important. More aggressive tribes received tributes of wampum from their neighbors to prevent war. Wampum was used to ransom prisoners and make reparations for crimes. It was awarded to winners and offered with marriage proposals. It was also exchanged in remembrance of the dead and used as a pictorial language. Long wampum belts with thousands of beads were woven to memorialize important events. Darker beads (purples and blacks) were associated with war and grief. White beads were associated with life and light. For hundreds of years the wampum system was used by natives all along the northeastern coast of North America.
TOUR DATES: NORWAY & SWEDEN:
In the 17th-century Europeans arrived on the shores of what became New England. These colonists had no context to understand wampum, but they were happy to pay natives a handful of carved shells in exchange for fur pelts which they then sold at great profit across the ocean. The colonists began to make their own wampum using metal tools instead of the native’s stone drills. The colonists built wampum factories that turned out enormous quantities of wampum at far greater speed and with greater delicacy than the natives could have ever imagined. The glut of wampum now available caused it to rapidly lose meaning and value.
TOUR DATES: EUROPE
We’re still trying to organize some shows for Europe in late September/early October. Details to come.
Desperate native wampum-makers now had to spend all their time making enough wampum to appease aggressive neighbors. Children were kidnapped and ransomed for huge amounts of wampum. Ancestral burial sites were robbed of memorial wampum. Still wampum continued to lose value until it was worth nothing. Hunting tribes no longer accepted wampum for pelts. Instead they wanted food, clothing and tools from the colonists, but the colonists did not pay well (there was, at the same time, a decline in European demand for fur). Desperate tribes hunted the fur-bearing animals of New England almost to extinction in attempts to trade for food and clothing. There were so few deer that some natives were forced to beg duffel cloth from the colonists. Eventually these hunting tribes were forced to pay for cloth, food and tools with parcels of land. Aggressive tribes began to steal territory from less-aggressive neighbors. War began between the tribes and with the colonists.
In America we sometimes refer to dollars as ‘clams’. This is a forgotten reference to the days of wampum.
You can now buy 20 Quahog purple wampum beads for $11.59 (plus shipping) on Amazon.com. You can also buy a water bottle that says, “Got Wampum?” There was musical entertainment in Wampum, PA on March 26th at Ferrante Upholstering from 7-8pm.
I know that we can’t easily return to an age of shell-trading. Can we move forward to something else— a kind of commerce where the goal is a peaceful balance not the accumulation of riches? Can we only find abundance at the expense of another’s poverty? I continue to collect fallen cat whiskers in the vain hope of garnering a new kind of wealth. The black whiskers are worth far more than the white at my trading post. My white cat drops too many.
USA, West Coast, April 2015
(All dates with Wildewood as support except Stagecoach Fest)
April 24 Indio, CA at Stagecoach Festival TICKETS
April 25 San Francisco, CA at The Chapel TICKETS
April 28 Arcata, CA at The Playhouse TICKETS
April 29 Cottage Grove, OR at Axe & Fiddle
April 30 Portland, OR at Doug Fir Lounge TICKETS
May 1 Seattle, WA at The Triple Door TICKETS
May 2 Bellingham, WA at Green Frog Acoustic Tavern TICKETS