Sgt. Splendor, the new project from renowned singer-songwriter Kate Vargas and guitarist Eric McFadden (George Clinton & the P-Funk All Stars, Eric Burdon & The Animals, etc.), releases “Whoopee Chateau,” a track from their upcoming album, Occasions for Self-Congratulations.
Vargas explains, “This record draws heavily from what we experienced during lockdown. It’s an abstract expression of that strange time.”
McFadden adds, “Yeah, you can definitely hear it in ‘Whoopee Chateau.’ The whole thing has this Jim Morrison sentiment—like, I’m gonna get my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames.’”
Prior to teaming up as Sgt. Splendor, both Vargas and McFadden were already formidable solo artists, with Vargas receiving praise from super-elite outlets and McFadden playing guitar with George Clinton, Fishbone’s Angelo Moore, and Eric Burdon & The Animals, along with beaucoup solo albums and session work with a multitude of big-name artists, such as Jackson Browne and The Clash’s Joe Strummer.
Recorded in Brisbane, California, the album features the talents of drummer Paulo Baldi of CAKE and The Claypool Lennon Delirium and bassist Dave Schools of Widespread Panic.
McFadden says. “It was an insane stroke of luck that Paulo and Dave were both available for the studio time we’d booked. They’re old friends of mine—Paulo and I have played together for years, and I was in the band Stockholm Syndrome with Dave. We didn’t even need to rehearse—we just went in and had fun with the songs. Total spontaneity.”
McFadden and Vargas met at a songwriting retreat hosted by Pat McDonald, forging an interpersonal connection. To spend more time with Vargas, McFadden asked Vargas to play shows with him. When COVID hit, the two holed up and began writing songs together, as well as performing a weekly live stream called Live from the Red Couch, which resulted in the birth of Sgt. Splendor.
When the album, Occasions for Self-Congratulations, drops this summer, Sgt. Splendor will take off on tour with the Flynn Creek Circus.
McFadden explains, “Flynn Creek is a circus-cabaret thing, which makes a lot of sense for us, musically. Tom Waits’ music has always been a point of connection for me and 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 misterioso desert thing—but also a carnivalesque Waits-ian vibe. Our styles have always been complementary, and Occasions represents a great meeting of the two.”
“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.