One of the most exciting new British bands around, Sports Team have been building a cult following across the country, largely thanks to their blistering blend of indie-rock. Already famed for their high-octane, gripping live shows, we sat down with Alex Rice (vocals) and Al Greenwood (drums) at Tramlines Festival to talk about a summer of shows, their debut album, Juul pods, cricket and James Martin.
Good afternoon guys! Alex, you’re looking rather dapper today - what’s inspired this wardrobe choice?
Alex Rice: The thing is, when we’re not on tour, you can usually dress well. I like to wear sort of silly clothes on stage but as soon as you’ve done two dates in a row you’ve got nothing clean left so you end up wearing jeans and a t-shirt, but when it’s a sort of one off event like this you can make more of an effort with it.
This summer you’ve gone from playing smaller tents to being projected fifty-feet high on the main stage projector for Belgium giant Rock Werchter, how do you approach the shifting dynamic?
AR: The last few months have really kicked off. Doing all the festivals as well has been brilliant. One of the weirdest things is that we’re getting big in Holland and Belgium. It’s weird really, I sort of know that things like that are going to be a bit of a one off but you still have to work out your sound for it and we turned out with little amps that sound really gritty.
Al Greenwood: There was a drum tech for the first time ever and we were watching them teching my kit and they were all pissing themselves laughing because you had Muse behind you with three fucking bass drums and a gong, and there was my little baby kit.
AR: You realise as well that loads of the moves you do, you realise just how far away you become from the mic. You have to sprint back to make sure you get your cue.
AG: I also made quite the error where it was seconds before a show, because we’d been playing loads in the heatwave, we did a show in Amsterdam where it was like thirty degrees and obviously it was quite difficult to play the drums in that so I asked if there was any chance they had a fan and they set it up for me. But I didn’t check it until we went on stage and so for the whole show there was just my hair blowing all over my face and obviously there had to be these fuck off screens beside the stage capturing it all.
They were all pissing themselves laughing because you had Muse behind you with three fucking bass drums and a gong, and there was my little baby kit.
What do you learn from festival shows?
AG: A lot of life lessons I guess, a lot of mistakes have been made! To some extent, the bigger stages you start to consider how it translates to audiences because our early shows were all in friends’ flats so it’s easy to generate an energy around in the crowd. I guess it’s seeing how it does translate and if it’s possible to translate that energy.
AR: We don’t really want to lose the little gimmicks that happen on stage as we’ve done those since day one. We’d feel like we would be cheating.
You released your new single Here It Comes Again not so long ago, how did that come about?
AR: We started working a lot more with a guy we worked on Kutcher with, a guy called Burke Reid and I think that one feels like an energy single really. Like the vibe all the way through is quite close to what we do live and we’re trying to communicate that more and more through the recorded stuff we put out, so from start to finish its more energetic and lively.
AG: We’re thinking more and more about the album and what direction we want to take it and how we want to record it. We’re starting to record that now and it’s quite difficult really because you’ve got this whole range of styles, we’ve done so much over the last year, but I think all of us are pretty happy with that single in terms of the direction we’re going to go down and the energy that we want everyone to have.
How are you trying to transport the dynamism of your live shows onto the record?
AR: I think we try and work out how to pack as much energy as we possibly can. We don’t want to go down the route where we’re giving off faux energy, the sort of post-punk, we’ve got to keep melodies in there and make sure you have songs and choruses that people want to sing back at you.
AG: It’s definitely a learning curve for us. The first EP we put out Winter Nets was produced by Dave McCracken who is absolutely brilliant and he just set up a studio in his timber yard and the whole thing was recorded live, there was no click track and it was the whole band in. We tried to take that and then refine it but not lose any of the visceral energy that we try and bring to live shows. Burke Reid, our producer, does a lot of Courtney Barnett’s stuff and we’re pretty confident that he’ll capture the live quality of our sound in a recorded format.
AR: It’s a weird thing, a lot of current producers with bands have to ask us if we can work on a track for six days and still make it sound scrappy, visceral and live at the end of it. It’s a hard thing to do with high production values
What is the album going to sound like?
AG: To some extent it can’t just be total high energy for ten tracks but it’s kind of difficult to be able to maintain what we want to be as a band and try and get those dynamics involved. But we’re working on it, it’s an interesting process.
AR: I think we genuinely felt that we have got proper songs, with choruses that people will recognise so I don’t think we want to lose any of that. You don’t just want dirge, you want high energy stuff.
AG: It is risky, there’s the temptation to become very indulgent in the studio and put a clever effect on that might sound good in a studio but in reality on headphones it doesn’t sound captivating at all. We want to think about how it will sound for kids in their headphones on a school bus.
AR: We’re going to do a lot of the album in Greece. I think people lose the story of an album now like they record it, it’s an album, it’s just something to sell. It used to be something that was a huge narrative like the Stones’ Exile on Main Street. We want to keep doing big shows and selling them out.
Was it surreal graduating from Cambridge University and then settling into life as a band?
AR: We didn’t go straight from there believe me, we all worked office jobs for a year and it was absolute hell! We all lived in a house together in Halsdon and we would all come back each day after working 9-6 and we were miserable so would rehearse until about two in the morning and it got to the stage last year after the summer-
AG: -It was actually just before we were offered to support Hinds and we had used up all our holiday, all our sick days, doctors appointments going off to soundchecks. It was quite a big thing for all of us to just leave all that and go for it. Looking back now it’s nice to see the journey.
You’ve announced another day trip to Margate which will include performances from special guests, how are you feeling about that?
AG: It’s genuinely becoming like Mecca for us because our manager lives there so he’s pushing for that!
"We want to think about how it will sound for kids in their headphones on a school bus."
Are we to expect a tour soon?
AG: We have some big news coming for the end of the year.
AR: We’re staggered still that kids just want to come to the shows. We’ve always punched a bit above our weight live. It’s just making shows more like events I guess, every single one of our shows. Manchester, Bristol and London become big events.
AG: You feel like you’re part of a big event rather than a small thing.
In tribute of your single Get Along, how do you all get along on the road?
AR: To be fair, we’re usually better when we’re on tour. On these tours you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing in a band. You’re playing shows, having a few drinks with your mates and that’s good as well as everyone will bring different mates to different shows so you can see a slightly different group of people. It’s when we’re trapped in the studio for a week trying to rehearse that things are different.
AG: We all live together as well and we obviously were a group of mates before the band. We do get along nominally but it can get pretty intense.
AR: It’s pretty great though because we all brought Juuls and I got in a fight because I lost mine. Me, Ben and Rob are in the back, we’ll put a war film on, we’ve got torrents of smoke though the windscreens, the van’s nice and we don’t have to drive!
AG: It kind of does become a bit of a cult as well. I used to get annoyed by it so much especially
being the only girl, but then you get to a point where you go and see your other mates and you’ll be wondering what the boys are up to. In reality, you know what they’re doing, they’re at the pub, chilling out and there’s nothing happening but you kind of get that little itch where you want to be in the gang.
How do you view Britain at the moment?
AR: There are so many things that are just indicative of where culture is at. I always think that if you look at Saturday morning cooking shows that’s how you can read Britain. James Martin on Channel 4, that is the country. He shouldn’t have left Saturday Morning Kitchen.
Do you cook a lot then?
AR: We all live together so it’s quite nice, we cook quite big lunches. It’s a luxury to have a bit of time to do that.
AG: The speciality is definitely the pea soup. We cook a good pea soup. That comes out at least twice a week. I think we all enjoy cooking and it’s really nice that we’ll rehearse in the morning and then all come in and eat. Every so often we’ll try something new, its sociable.
Have you ever been starstruck at all?
AG: Glastonbury was quite fun! There was a point in which we were at a bar backstage and dancing and we realised we were being gradually pushed away so we turned around to see what was going on and in massive bucket hats where Posh & Becks! That was good.
AR: We launched the England Cricket World Cup kit so we shared the dressing room with all of them and I was really starstruck with Joe Root and Eoin Morgan and nobody had a clue who they were!
How did you celebrate the World Cup win?
AR: I was at Citadel Festival, it was incredible. Just trying to find a screen to watch it in the final over. I was literally crying and there were New Zealanders around us who vaguely knew our band and it was incredible. It was quite nice to be engaged right from the start when we launched the kit and then having them win the tournament.
"I always think that if you look at Saturday morning cooking shows that’s how you can read Britain. James Martin on Channel 4, that is the country."
What makes up the Sports Team rider?
AR: Gin, we sometimes get gin! In Europe we actually get given cigarettes occasionally. Juul pods! We eat pretty well and try to keep healthy. We drink a lot.
What would be the ideal rider if you could choose anything?
AR: Quick cricket set to play outside, that would be good.
AG: Actually last year, when we played our first show in France, we asked for a selection of local wines and cheeses and the delicacy of the region. So we submitted that and it was only when we turned up to Hull on a rainy Tuesday night that we realised that we’d asked for that as the rider for the whole tour.
How do you view being a band in the present day?
AR: Guitar music isn’t very popular at the moment, it’s not very cool. It’ll come back because it’s amazing, but it’s not very cool. It has to be generally fun and enjoyable. We know what makes a good show so keep the audience in mind.
Thanks for your time. Good luck for the rest of the summer.
Both: Cheers Ben, great to meet you again.
Tramlines photography courtesy of Tramlines Festival - Fanatic - Giles Smith.