Before joining forces, the duo behind Sgt. Splendor were already formidable solo artists,
Kate Vargas chalking up acclaim at outlets like NPR, HuffPost and Vice (including praise
from the “Dean of American Rock Critics” Robert Christgau); and Eric McFadden
amassing an impressive resume including stints on guitar with George Clinton & the P-
Funk All Stars, Fishbone’s Angelo Moore, and Eric Burdon & The Animals, plus a slew of
solo albums, and session work with everyone from Jackson Browne to The Clash’s Joe
Sgt. Splendor’s intoxicating chemistry on the new album has its roots not just in enduring
friendships, but also in the love and connection of its creative partners, Vargas and
McFadden. After circling each other’s orbits for a time, they finally met at a songwriting
retreat hosted by Pat McDonald (of Timbuk 3 / “Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades”
fame) and have been together for three and a half years now.
Music has always been a point of connection for me & Kate. While our musical
approaches differ, they’re also kindred and share a lot of common elements. Our
Southwestern upbringing comes through—that sort of mysterioso desert thing—but also
a carnivalesque Waits-ian vibe. Our styles have always been complementary.
“Buckle up Buttercups, the carnivalesque LP “Occasions for Self-Congratulations” from
mighty duo Sgt. Splendor (Kate Vargas and Eric McFadden) is a journey into the far-out
and sprawling cornucopia of psych, blues, funk, twisted pop, and respectful odes to
experimental classic rock. And it’s as wild of a ride as you’re gonna get this side of
Fantastic Negrito, Soft Machine, or perhaps hallowed Roky Erickson.
Heavy on the strange, if you will. As there’s not a corner that feels like a conventional
rock n roll train of thought throughout this 11-track set. Like a modern reincarnation of
Zappa, Captain Beefheart, and Joplin all twisted together into a new wandering sonic
‘“Whoopee Chateau” opens on a funky rhythm topped by Vargas’ delicious voice. When
McFadden’s deep tenor enters, the tune takes on drawling flavors, reminiscent of Red
Hot Chili Peppers. The antiphonal interplay between the two voices gives the lyrics
ornate textures rife with electrifying energy.
With “Whoopee Chateau,” Sgt. Splendor delivers an alluring alt-funk song, brimming with
zesty leitmotifs and evocative vocals.’