I recently had the pleasure of going up to London’s famous South Bank to spend time with and interview Alex and Rob from the rapidly evolving indie sextet that is Sports Team. This exciting band expertly combines modern indie-rock pieces with lead singer Alex Rice’s melodramatic vocals to create something truly groundbreaking and original. They will undoubtedly be selling out huge venues in the coming years but for now if you would like to catch them live; they are soon to announce an upcoming tour so keep your eyes and ears open! The band, whose members hail from various parts of the UK, are now based in Harlesden, West London and this interview offers an exclusive insight into their humorous and eccentric personalities as well as their recent success and future plans.
I want to start this interview by going way back to where it began; when did you guys get the idea to start the band and how did it come together?
Well the bands been coming together for a long time,it was when we were all in our final year at university, we were all at Cambridge together all at the same college. And so we’d knock about in studios together, we’d have some guitars in there, lots of shakers and tambourines, stuff like that. We all used to just get quite drunk, we all liked the same kind of music basically and one night we put this song together, the very first one which was Stanton. We would march down to any of the local bars and just think “Right, we can play it in here”. People kind of got into it, it was a lot of fun but we weren’t very good, we couldn’t really play our instruments. I remember after that i suppose we started putting on gigs There was a venue called the Sports and Social Club that we used to book out in Cambridge. We got our mates down and put on a weird night. We even managed to trick the local MP down. Because none of us could ever play we just had to make it a show. Whatever it was, telling jokes, dancing, giving out prizes, having a drinks deal, simple stuff like that. We just try to make it exciting because our mates didn’t just want to come and see guitar music, they’d always be down in the local clubs, Fusion in Tunbridge Wells was a classic; we actually played a gig there once!
Do you have any favourite bands that you regularly listen to?
We all generally just really loved the same kind of music, we love bands such as Family Cat and Pavement, to be fair i was never really very clued up, Rob and Henry were always showing me new bands, telling me to listen to them and they were always good. We like a lot of Cornwall bands such as Holiday Ghosts and Black Tambourines which Henry always showed us as he is from Cornwall.
Another thing that interested me when i started listening to your music was the name, Sports Team, whose idea was that and why did you decide upon it?
Alex: I hated it! It’s a terrible name. I don’t really know how we came up with it, you (Rob) could probably answer that one better than me.
Rob: I think it’s one of those things where you have to come up with a name quite early. At the start no-one is really listening to you or knows who you are so you just come up with a name and it sticks.
Alex: I never really thought much about it, i think a name is just something you get to create that gang vibe. You know, we’re in a band, we’re not solo artists, we’re not trying to be individuals, we’re a gang of mates who enjoy playing music together. That’s what it comes down to and the name ‘Sports Team’ gets to that to some extent.
You’re a very charismatic person, in a very charismatic band, do you think this charisma has helped you gain popularity/notoriety as a band?
I mean it’s been absolutely invaluable, the crux on which this band was formed.I’ve shown you my double jointed ankles which is very much my party trick at concerts. I think my parents knew straight away the burden that comes with having something like that. When you’re born to dance like that you’ve got to show it off. But genuinely, as i was saying before we’ve always been quite crap at playing instruments and i’m really not exaggerating we used to just pretend to do guitar solos. If we just stand there and play it’s so boring, you’ve got to put energy and fun into it. You’ve got to dance, tell a joke, look at the audience, do something a bit weird, just put on a show. We always try to meet everyone afterwards and we’re all really nice actually, we always want to meet people at our gigs, especially if we’re doing a smaller show, it’s easier to get to know everyone. The performance side of it is obviously important. We started off just playing live shows, it’s only recently that we’ve actually started recording videos.
For such a new band you must be very pleased with the success that you’ve already had, with over 7,500 monthly listeners on Spotify and over 72,000 streams of Stanton as well as over 10,000 views of Beverly Rose on Youtube (all as of April 2018). What do you put this success down to?
To be fair, i’m not actually very impressed with the streaming figures, i think they’re pretty crap! They’ll get a lot better over the next couple of months. We’re quite ambitious about it, the first EP was all recorded live. Our producer Dave McCracken *who has also worked with the likes of Florence + The Machine and Ian Brown has got an abandoned timber yard in Hammersmith which he has renovated and converted into a studio. He used to record with Ian Brown (the Stone Roses frontman) and he worked with Depeche Mode. He kind of took us under his wing and we recorded all of that first EP live within a week. It felt good to finally get something out there to the public as we had these songs for ages. Stanton was the first one to be put out and it was actually just intended to be a soft release but it got put on New Music Friday on Spotify which was a shock and it ended up doing really well. We’re not dissapointed, we’re just ambitious about it, I think that Stanton feels very much like a launch pad for us. For us the streaming figures are not as important. We don’t worry about those, but we worry about how many people turn up at our gigs, that’s the most important thing. We did a tour with Moth Club and we actually had to turn people away, about 400 kids turned up and it was only a 300 cap venue. People were going wild, hanging from the rafters. That’s what feels good, not getting 10,000 streams on Spotify. For a band at least, live is what’s really important. For a certain kind of act streams may be really important but not for a band.
You’ve got an intriguing style, combining older fashioned melodramatic vocals with modern indie-rock instruments. Who inspired you to follow this style or has it sprouted from an original thought?
I admire showmanship, i think that’s really important, i think you should come out and give a sense of theatre to what you do. I mean if people want to turn up, they want the gig to be an event, take the day off work for it and sit at the pub for hours and hours with your mates. It’s so hard now to put on a show like bands of the past could do so to live up to that i think you need to be original. We were also at the point where we weren’t good enough to copy someone we like because that is so hard. We don’t have that level of skill as musicians to do that, we have to just do our own thing. You do what you’re good at as a band and over time that has developed into what we do today. I don’t think we copy anyone as through necessity we have a unique sound.
You just finished a recent tour with Pip Blom, how do you feel this went, do you have a favourite moment and what do you hope for in any future tours?
Well there’s tours that we can’t talk about coming up, hopefully they’ll be about soon. They’re going to be big gigs. Pip Blom were great, they are genuinely unbelievably nice people, they’re musicians, they’re proper musicians! They are well adjusted, healthy, happy, clean cut, very nice people. The highlight was definitely Moth Club, we alternated the headline stuff and that was our night, where we really got a fanbase. We had kids hanging from the rafters, a few got turned away, it was so good. That just kicked off and we didn’t even really know where these kids had come from, the show was just packed! People just went nuts for it, really just turned wild and that’s exactly what we want That’s what feels real, when you’ve got great people in front of you just losing their shit. That was the highlight for me. Rob: We had them (Pip Blom) round our house in Harlesden afterwards as a nice post tour thing and they’re just really nice people.
After the success of your debut EP ‘Winter Nets’ are you currently working on any new material, if so can you give me a little insight into what’s to come?
Yeah loads, tomorrow we’ve actually got a school booked out to film an underwater video for Kutcher. That’s coming out late April and that’ll hopefully kick start loads of other material. We’ve got loads coming out this summer and early next year. Rob: We’ve definitely got another EP coming soon, probably two more this year.
You’re producing them very fast then?
Yeah, i genuinely think that’s very important. You see a lot of bands with a very protractive release schedule as if everyone is waiting on every move. Whereas we’re in the studio, we all live together, all knockaround together so we can just keep putting stuff out. We’re not a very indulgent band.
What are your hopes for the future and where do you see yourself in 5 years
We’re not a pub band, we’re a stadium band and i genuinely think in five years we’ll be playing huge, huge venues. There’s enough there with guitar music growing as it is, we’re in a really exciting place. And we think a band like Shade, who we feel vaguely inspired by what they’ve done. It’s not about streams or album sales, it’s an experience to go and see them and now they’re at 3 or 4,000 capacity venues. I really think we’ll be doing that in five years.
So there you have it, Sports Team truly are one of the most exciting and promising bands of 2018. Their unique sound has drawn national attention and their humorous, charismatic and witty responses show they really are a band for music fans globally. What i really liked about them was that despite the success of their first EP Winter Nets they never let it get to their heads and they still understand and appreciate what music is truly about: us the fans. Sports Team are an unmissable band in this years Festival season and you can expect to see them playing across the country, from Brighton to Leeds. They are definitely one to look out for in the near future with their hilarious satiristic personalities and ability to deliver a truly unforgettable concert experience
-Words by Kit O’Callaghan, edited by Lucy McCourt for original publication on Into the grooves.