by Sarah A. Peterson-Camacho
Persistence pays off—no one knows this better than Fresno band Sparklejet. The trio (vocalist-guitarist Victor Sotelo, drummer Wade Krause, and bassist Chris Estep) have been making and performing music as Sparklejet for over two decades, with five albums and a sixth on the way. Kings River Life caught up with Sotelo to get the definitive story on a Central Valley music mainstay.
KRL: How long have you been making music as Sparklejet?
Victor Sotelo: Our first gig was on April 17, 1997, in The Pit at Fresno State University.
KRL: What particular genre of music do you play?
Victor: Dainty Aggression.
KRL: What was the inspiration behind the name Sparklejet?
Victor: We wanted a name without “The” in it, and then something having to do with a box of dish washing machine soap.
KRL: Who are your biggest musical influences?
Victor: The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, The Who, The Pixies, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Guided By Voices, to name a few.
KRL: Whose music did you listen to while growing up?
Victor: As a kid, I listened to my mom’s and dad’s albums, which were essentially popular music from their time: Elvis, Helen Reddy, Johnny Mathis, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass.
KRL: Did you always want to be a musician?
Victor: I think the three of us were drawn to playing music at an early age. I know I wanted to be something like that when I was in middle school; it’s the one true passion I’ve had in my life, as far as personal interests go.
KRL: What’s your songwriting process?
Victor: Usually, I’ll bring in an idea for a riff or some chord changes for Wade and Chris to chew on, and then we start making something interesting out of it together. I’ll take that arrangement we’ve worked out and write melodies and lyrics. The way I see it, the songs are written by all of us, as a band.
KRL: Where have you played locally?
Victor: A lot of places that are no longer around! These days it’s Fulton 55, though.
KRL: What is the best part of making and performing music?
Victor: I really enjoy working with my bandmates. I love hearing what they are going to come up with—they are awesome!
KRL: I understand you have a CD coming out–can you tell us about that?
Victor: We’re working on songs for a new album (our sixth!), but last summer, we did release a single to commemorate the band’s twentieth anniversary. The song is called “UR a Dope,” and it is available as a free download on Bandcamp and CDBaby.
KRL: Can you tell us about the time you performed “Tommy” live at what is now Strummers? I hear it was amazing.
Victor: We don’t normally do cover stuff, but Wade and I were working together in 2001, and he was really into listening to The Who’s Live at Leeds album. We were both just blown away by it all—particularly the “Tommy” portion—and figured that it would be fun to learn the songs and play them live. It was a lot of work, but we learned the material. Onstage we had some pinball machines, a gong, and then we had some choreographed dancers come out for the finale. It was kind of a spectacle!
For more information on Sparklejet and their upcoming performances, please visit their Facebook page.
Check out more local band & musician profiles in KRL’s music section.