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Time Off Revived Sparta

Of the Oakland Press

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Tony Hajjar says things haven’t been this good in Sparta since the group formed fi ve years ago, after the breakup of the celebrated At the Drive-In.

“It feels like a band that is happy,” says Hajjar, 32, explaining that a new record company and a new guitarist (Keeley Davis) injected a new energy into Sparta for its just-released third album, “Threes.”

“It feels like a band that really, for the fi rst time, threw out all the rules and said, ‘You know what? Let’s have a good time. We’ve made it this far. We got through everything that was thrown at us. Let’s go write the record we want to do at this point and see what happens.’

“We threw away all the rules, and it felt so good. The biggest weight came off our shoulders.”

Hajjar acknowledges that after the disappointing showing of 2004’s “Porcelain,” he and bandmates Jim Ward and Matt Miller had become disillusioned with the music business, which, in turn, affected their feelings about the band.

“I think we were just really depressed and felt like we may have been cheating our fans,” he says, “which is the last thing we ever wanted to do.”

But the funk lifted after the group took some time off, which Hajjar and his mates had never done, and which, he says, helped revive their spirits.

“You hear stories about bands taking a break and writing at their pace,” Hajjar says. “We’d never done that; we just jump in and out of things all the time. So we took some time off (in spring 2005), and it was amazing not to think about the band or anything to do with it.

“About June, it felt like the right time to get together. Jim came up to L.A. and we wrote in my house, just me and Jim and Matt. It felt like a garage band, kind of starting over at that point, which was great fun.”

Sparta, As Tall as Lions and Sound Team perform Friday (October 27th) at St. Andrews Hall, 431 E. Congress, Detroit. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15. Call (313) 961-6358 or visit

Web Site: www.livenation.com

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