.Will Sprott Connects With ‘Natural Internet’

San Jose-born musician Will Sprott captures an ecosystem in his songwriting—bugs and all. 

Released at the beginning of July, Natural Internet is the third solo album from Sprott, known for his work in garage-pop quartet Shannon & the Clams as well as his San Jose band  the Mumlers. After moving from Los Angeles to NorCal town Grass Valley in 2018, the San Jose-born Sprott began to develop a new relationship with nature.

“I’ve lived in big cities my whole life, so it was a big change,” the songwriter says. “Cities are so dense with things to see….there are signs, t-shirts, cars, garbage floating down the street with words on them. You can literally read cities. Nature is also incredibly dense, but you have to learn a different language to read it.”

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The organic language of Natural Internet reads clearly through its visuals, which Sprott also created himself with the desire for album artwork with a human touch. The front cover features paper shapes (a skull, a flower vase, a banana slug on a yellow television) and lettering cut from construction paper.

“I just had this colored construction paper for so long, carrying it around with me as I moved from place to place,” he says with a laugh. 

The back cover, a watercolor of a yellowjacket on an aluminum can, comes from an alphabet book Sprott made for his then-infant son in 2020. “I just suddenly had a lot of time,” he says, calling the book a “COVID project.”

When pandemic lockdowns swept the nation, Sprott’s growing perspective on nature’s language bumped up against the meta-realms of his loved ones’ lives online. 

“I had this double thing going on,” he says. “When I wanted to check in with the wider world, it would be that way [online], but my immediate world was more plants and rattlesnakes and foxes. It was interesting to see those windows of reality—the wider world in turmoil, and then my peaceful private world.”

Natural Internet deals with these dualities: public and private, technology and nature, death and birth. The latter have made their presence especially known in Sprott’s life over recent years—grieving the deaths of longtime friends while bringing a baby into the world.

“Before Natural Internet, I was thinking of [the title] Natural Alphabet,” Sprott explains, referencing the aforementioned picture book. Opening and closing instrumentals “Touch Milk” and “Airplane With Lights On,” both titled after phrases his then-infant son had uttered, frame the album in the liminal wonder of a child just learning to describe their surroundings.

The lyrical dichotomies and sonic biome of Natural Internet both feel distinctly Californian, with dreamy layers of harmonica, synth and pedal steel giving way to the darker observations of Sprott’s inner and outer worlds. Tracks like “Tear Gas” look at state violence while others like “Strange Lines” yearn toward one clear, personal subject––some moments, such as the song “Illegal Alien,” appear to be both.

Like his cover art, Sprott uses the video for the album’s single “Strange Lines” to tell a story with its source material. He explains the video’s footage all comes from an old friend, Andrew Pejack, who passed in 2018 with a vast archive of films he’d made starting from childhood in the 80s.

“I didn’t even know he made most of these films. I knew he made some. He had a zillion different YouTube accounts over the years…he was incredibly prolific,” Sprott says. With permission from surviving family members (thanked in the album notes), Sprott reworked some of the footage into a narrative fitting the album. In many, action figures and other objects play out scenes in rudimentary stop-motion, while one clip shows a boy stepping into a mysterious, void-like box that materializes in his room.

“Recycling images [Pejack] had created [was] a way for me to connect with my friend after he wasn’t around anymore,” he says. 

Listening to “Strange Lines” after Sprott described the experience, the track’s simple refrain of “I’m there with you” rings particularly poignant. Always tender, Natural Internet soothes even in the face of anxiety and tragedy––a lens on the world that seeks to comfort the listener and speaker at the same time.

Natural Internet

Will Sprott

Out Now

Needletothegroove.net

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