A Conversation with Sparklesaurus 

“Electric honey,” Felicity DeCarle said, quoting the term drummer Brad Lapensee coined.

“I feel like that really encompasses us. It’s sweet with a little bit of fuzz,” Shamisa Shroeder said.

“It’s kind of dreamy,” DeCarle added. 

Earlier this month, I caught up with Sparklesaurus’ Felicity DeCarle and Shamisa Schroeder (sometimes called Misa by her bandmates) ahead of their 90s-themed spring concert next week in Ottawa. We talked about everything from day jobs to their zany youth. Read on to get to know Sparklesaurus and where they fit into the Ottawa music scene.

On their quirky adolescences

“We were weird kids,” Shamisa Shroeder said. “We made weird videos and stuff,” she said looking over at Felicity DeCarle before they both burst into laughter. 

“We would basically dress up all crazy goth and make all these music videos,” DeCarle said.

“There was one called ‘Psycho Demon Clown,” Shroeder recalled.

“All kids of crazy shenanigans.”

Shroeder recalls herself and DeCarle skipping lunch in the cafeteria to take naps behind the theatre stage, hiding out around campus, or going to Shroeder’s house during spare periods and to watch TV (namely Bob Ross) or, again, take naps. “We slept a lot, now that I think about it,” Shroeder laughed. “We were always sleeping.”

“High school takes a lot out of you,” Felicity said.

“In high school we were in a band together, which was fun, Shroeder said. DeCarle’s uncle taught her how to play the piano. In Sparklesaurus, Shamisa plays the keyboard and synth. “We’ve kind of always been playing music together.”

“Yeah, friends jamming since we were youngings,” DeCarle chimed in.

Shroeder and DeCarle are both from Barry’s Bay a small community in Ontario’s Madawaska Valley, about two hours west of Ottawa. Shroeder estimates their school had around 400 students with a graduating class of around 90. What brought them out to Ottawa?

“School,” they said, almost in unison.

Shroeder studied animation at Algonquin College and graduated. Felicity took conflict studies at the University of Ottawa. “So we’re just working now,” Shroeder said. Shamisa does works on kids’ cartoons animating TV show characters. “Ottawa has a really good animation industry, surprisingly,” she said. “There’s a lot of studios, there’s a lot of work in that field.”

“Yeah, I never knew about that before I met you,” DeCarle said about Ottawa’s animation industry before talking about her own day job. “I actually just quit my government job,” DeCarle said. “I started as a student there when I was in university there at Ottawa U. So, I was there for about six years, and then in February. I finally left to make the move to pursue a career in the arts, full-time. Now, I’m doing music.”

“You’re guitar teaching,” Shroeder said.

“Yeah, I just got a job teaching guitar. I’m happy ‘cause now I’m really in the field that I want to be in and every day (I’m) working towards the goals that I’ve set for myself,” Felicity said. Her government job was “safe” and had “good pay”, Felicity said, but it wasn’t enough. “It was really taking away and holding me back from the things I really wanted to do with my time.”

“Life’s too short,” Shamisa said. “If you’re not going to make the jump now, when are you going to do it?”

On starting a band

“I’ve always been really inspired by Regina Spektor. She’s been one of the biggest inspirations in my life since I was really young for songwriting and singing,” DeCarle said. “Misa and I used to perform some covers of hers when we were in our band in high school.” Shroeder’s said she grew up to traditional “four-piece” bands like Pink Floyd and The Beatles. 

In high school, Shroeder and DeCarle had two bands, one of which they formed with during a high school music class they had together. The class was called Small Ensembles.

 “Our music teacher was just super chill and you just get to get a bunch of people together and make a band. You get to pick whatever you wanted to learn, and we pretty much spent every day in the music room, just teaching ourselves different songs,” DeCarle recalled. They also used that time to work on their other band, Fliss, that used DeCarle’s original material. The band consisted of DeCarle, Shroeder and two other girls. “We even came to Ottawa a couple times,” DeCarle said, at the Rainbow Bistro, the Cajun Attic (now closed), and the Atomic Rooster. Fliss has also played shows Toronto and at Ottawa’s 2017 Bluesfest.

On existing in Ottawa’s music space

DeCarle and Shroeder both say that they like the local, intimate music scene. Bands you play with recommend you to other bands, Shroeder said. “It’s just a nice network of people helping each other out, giving people opportunities to play shows.”

“I would say Peterborough has a comparable scene size-wise (as Ottawa) ,” DeCarle said. “Definitely a vibrant music scene, but on the smaller side of things. I feel like compared to the Toronto scene we have some advantages in that it is more tight-knit so everyone kind of knows each other.” Toronto is a lot bigger and has far more bands, “I feel like small bands will go to Toronto to try to make it,” DeCarle said.

“It’s hard to stand out,” Shroeder said. There’s so much out there, DeCarle added.

They’ve consider moving to a bigger city to “tap into” the opportunities there, but “it’s kind of trade-off” moving to a bigger city, DeCarle said. Both big and small cities have their advantages.

Upcoming Sparklesaurus Shows

“May is pretty busy for us,” Shroeder said. Sparklesaurus organized and will be hosting their 90’s Spring Fling at Knox Presbyterian Church on May 4, featuring The Monotymes and Mark ii. Then they will be doing a small long weekend tour visiting Toronto, Peterborough, London, and Saint Catherine’s, Ontario. Then, on May 31, Sparklesaurus will be playing in Wakefield, Quebec at the Black Sheep. 

On the creative process

“Typically, I’ll come to the band with a song that’s pretty much fully written,” DeCarle said. She’ll usually have the lyrics, the guitar, and the melody. “We put the arrangement together, as a band.”

“Felicity is an amazing lyricist and songwriter,” Shroeder said, complimenting DeCarle creativity. When she comes to the band with a song, they like to “add the icing on top.”

Bassist and background vocalist Colleen Jones wrote the song “Haircut” on Sparklesaurus debut, self-titled LP. “That was really cool that we did that song together,” DeCarle said. Jones sings the lead vocals on the track, too. “It’s a good song. It’s a little bit different, but everyone’s always like ‘Whoa, that song at the end, what was that?’”

“We haven’t played that in a while, but we need to play it again,” DeCarle said.

“We should bring it back,” Shroeder said.

When asked what their favourite song was to perform, Shroeder named their unreleased song called “Angel Bread” which they haven’t recorded yet. DeCarle said she likes playing “Sprinkle on a Cake.” “It’s the one that gets everyone dancing.” Usually, she added she and Jones will perform their choreographed dance moves to that song together and go out and play with the crowd. “Breaking that barrier” between the stage and the crowd is something Sparklesaurus likes to experiment with. 

Performing used to be difficult for DeCarle, she said. “I’m naturally a pretty introverted person,” she revealed. “I would get crazy stage fright.” The more that she’s performed, she said, she gets more and more confident and comfortable being up on stage. “Sometimes I’m even more comfortable on stage than I am afterwards, socializing with everyone.”

On fond group memories

Reflecting on fun moments the group’s experienced together, DeCarle and Shroeder recalled a time on their East Coast tour: “Brad and I were cooking dinner for everyone in the motel parking lot. We had a little barbecue in a tin foil, coals and tin foil. We made sausages in the parking lot,” Shroeder said between laughter.

“It was on our way back, we had been on tour for a week or so out east and we were like, ‘Let’s treat ourselves! You know what, we’ve been sleeping in the van, we’ve been sleeping on the floor. Let’s get a motel for the night!’” DeCarle added.

 "A very low-end motel," Shroeder said. 

“The cheapest motel, but it’s going to be luxurious to us,” DeCarle enthused. They remembered sharing two beds in that motel in a Quebec town.

The barbecue was from the 90’s, they said, “He got it from his parents’ garage. We weren’t even sure it was going to work.”

“We have lots of bonding moments on that trip for sure,” DeCarle said.

On the future

Sparklesaurus says they’re particularly excited about their upcoming show in Ottawa. “It’s a 90’s spring formal,” DeCarle described. They’ll be performing some 90’s covers and some of their original music alongside Ottawa group The Monotymes and electro pop artist Mark ii. DeCarle gushed, saying that they’re both “really awesome Ottawa bands which we’re super excited to play with.”

Sparklesaurus is hosting the event so they’ve chosen to decorate the church as a high school gymnasium dance. Flowers, balloons, and a mint trim are all going to be the event’s key design elements, to go with their spring theme.

“You’re a business when you’re a musician and you’re trying to do it full-time,” DeCarle said. Right now the band is learning how to make the ‘business’ profitable and “figuring out the best way to do that.” Planning shows, navigating the streaming music industry and making sure their pay covers travel and accommodation are all things the band has to learn to keep their music afloat.

Be sure to check out Sparklesaurus at their show next Saturday, May 4 at Knox Presbyterian Church at 8 p.m.!