Coined as one of VEVO’s artists to watch out for in 2020, Sports Team are set to take the industry by storm. Their debut album ‘Deep Down Happy’ is out on the 19th of June and with an upcoming record store tour on the cards too- they’re not a band to miss. I caught up with lead singer Alex Rice, to discuss all things ‘Deep Down Happy’, the challenging of the mundane and one of Glasgow’s finest pubs- The Laurieston.
What’s the reason behind the name ‘Deep Down Happy’?
I think it’s sort of a weighing up. I think when you hear the tracks on the album, it sort of basically tracks this journey and the process of recording it. We all lived in a house in Harlesden together for quite a while. Then we moved out of that house because I think we did something like 150 tour dates so it was like every other night so you can’t really rent a house because there’s not much point in doing it because you’re never there. So we did that then we also slept on rehearsal room floors and stuff like that for a year. Now we’re back in London, we’re back in Camberwell so I think it’s sort of charting that journey. For me at least, I always think in the UK there’s always a sort of divide between towns and cities, you know? A lot of us grew up in sort of like regional towns where it was sort of like going to Spoons on the weekend and stuff like that so it’s like a simpler place. But, you always have in the back of your head it’s like you want to get to London kinda thing. You come to London and life is good I suppose, and you have access to all this stuff. I think it’s just the deep down happy bit is like a challenging and a sort of weighing up of like are we actually happy? Do we like this or are we actually living some sort of young professional hell in a house in Camberwell? We haven’t actually quite worked it out yet I don’t think, like are we all still mates? Or, is this the best thing in the world?
Can you sum up the album in three words?
Live, lyrical and amateurish.
Do you have a favourite track on the album?
I really like the last one, ‘Stations Of the Cross’. Releasing an album in general and a lot of the stuff you do is like radio and press and it’s quite abstract in a way. The bit that makes it very tangible is when you actually play it in front of people. We first got to do that last Friday at the Radio 6 Music Festival where we played all the new tracks. We obviously love all the songs but I don’t think it was really like oh like this one is the one we love. Then you play ‘Stations Of the Cross’ and it does get that very visceral reaction from the crowd and I love it, that’s the one I enjoy playing live the most.
‘Here’s the Thing’ was released as a single recently from ‘Deep Down Happy’, how has the reception been from the single?
I think it’s been really good, it’s hard to tell because we’re not playing live and as I said that’s when you know. We’ll know when we’re doing the big tour and people are singing back to you and the crowds are moshing to it. I could quote streaming figures at you and tell you it’s probably going quite well but the bit that means something is the live stuff. We love it and the song came out of a quite pressing time because we were going round the US when all the Brexit election coverage was happening. You notice that to almost have a sort of legitimate view now you have to make it a sort of absolutist statement, so it’s a bit about that.
What made you choose to do your shows as a record store tour?
Basically to sell the album I think. We’re really ambitious for it, so ambitious that we hope it charts like really high because that would give us a profile. That would give us such a profile if you wake up and we’ve gone into the charts at number 1 mid-week or something. That’s why you do it, you do it to sell the album. I would rather play pubs up and down the country I think but these record stores, they do attract the people who sort of really love it as well. People like buying records and they like having the physical thing around it and they meet us and we do signings, which is always nice. We’re sort of very conscious that guitar music isn’t really that cool at the moment. If you want to be cool and make money, you’re not into guitar music. So anyone who does go, it means something to them and it’s important to them and you’ve always got that sense of a sort of kindred love with it and anyone you meet there which is always nice.
Are there any dates that you’re particularly excited about?
Always Glasgow. I just want to go back to The Laurieston. The Laurieston is the best pub in the world. We’ve got a lot of mates who live up there as well, like everyone from Lucia so we’ll probably just sit at The Laurieston with them all night, that’ll be good. I hope we get a Manchester one in at some point because there’s always weird sort of tour routing stuff where I don’t know, if it’s a sort of festival booking then they want exclusivity but we’re gonna try and get something sorted for Manchester. Leeds is always good like it’s Al’s hometown so we can always stay at her house which is quite nice. I think it’ll all be great, I’m just excited to go and play live again.
How would you describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard you before?
I think a lot of the acts we listen to are sort of guitar sounds. It’s quite American, you know? It’s sort of like very visceral and driving. We listen to a lot of Parquet Courts, Iggy Pop and Pavement and it sounds aggressive and chugging and it drives you all the way through it and it feels very sort of live and important. But then we’ve also listened to bands with strong English lyricism like Pulp and people like that. Hopefully that’s the sort of unique blend I think, I don’t think we’ve ever been very conscious of trying to sound like someone, it’s just how it comes out.
Your gigs are known to be pretty wild with a sort of all rules gone out the window vibe, does that make it more entertaining and less repetitive to do shows?
Yeah, for sure. It’s never repetitive anyway because honestly we feel like different stages of being drunk every night, we forget most of the parts and none of us can like really play our instruments that well. If you’ve had a big night the night before, I can’t hit any of the notes kind of thing. So, everything’s necessarily quite unpredictable because you live quite an unpredictable balanced life. We’re not these kind of robots who come out with all the songs. Our crowds are amazing and I’m glad they’re so young as well. I think you see a lot of people in the crowd and we were reminiscing the other day about all the people who we’d go and see when we were like 14/15 like Egyptian Hip Hop and bands like that. That was all our sort of formative experience and you’d come out really drunk and really proud of yourself that you’d been injured in a mosh, kinda thing. You’d be like “oi oi guess what, I broke my ankle!” I sort of look at it and people are like oh it’s a bit irresponsible how you work up the crowds and stuff like that, it’s like not really like you see the sort of glint in their eye and it’s exactly what we were doing as kids. So, I think that’s how we feel about it, that’s what makes us happy.
I think it’s quite refreshing as well to see a band sort of encourage younger fans. I think a lot of the time everyone sort of overlooks them and finds them a sort of “annoying” part of the fanbase but I think you all really take it in your stride with the younger fans.
Yeah, it’s great and I think you’re right, I think so much of press has that sort of angle on stuff. They see a young fanbase and instead of being like oh they’re a credible band making serious music, they’re like “cheeky funsters” or whatever it is and it’s like really? Do you really think that? Do you have to play to kind of 50 year old, 6 music dads to be a credible band and make dirty post punk? It’s bizarre. But, they all come to the gigs as well and it’s more intergenerational but like I do think we have quite a noticeably young fanbase.
How does it feel to be playing TRNSMT festival in Glasgow this summer?
It’s great. Honestly, anytime you go to Glasgow is so exciting. I really mean it, The Laurieston is the best place in the world. We genuinely do have mates there as well which is just so so nice. We’re really excited.
What’s your favourite memory of being on tour in Scotland?
How many times can I say The Laurieston? It’s hanging out with the Lucia lot, they’re brilliant. They’re always so accommodating as well like when we don’t want to go home they find us something to do. I think they stop serving drinks at 10 or something so you have to sort of find a house party or something and I’ve always quite liked that, that element of the night where you can’t get drinks anymore. What’s it called, it’s not Sneaky Pete’s…
Sneaky Pete’s is in Edinburgh, there’s King Tut’s?
No it’s not them but we did King Tut’s last time which was great and we’re on the stairs in King Tut’s now!
How does it feel to have your name on the King Tut’s steps? That’s quite the honour up here.
Yeah, it’s amazing. People know the history of King Tut’s. For me, it’s always like where Alan McGee met Oasis and stuff like that. You hear about all the iconic gigs too, there’s a band we love who did a gig there called Family Cat who no one has ever heard of but we think they’re brilliant. The thing I really loved last time we were in King Tut’s was, well I mean I think everyone has sort of heard we do rile the crowd up a bit and it might get a bit dangerous. King Tut’s gave us this massive sort of unnatural crowd manipulation form to sign which was brilliant, it was like the least rock ‘n’ roll thing in the world. It was like “If this light goes on, you are to read this message” sort of thing and it was like “Good evening citizens, you are required to calm down. We’ll take a ten minute break.” It was like really, are we gonna read this? So that was well funny and that just kind of spurred everyone on to do even more.
Yeah, I was at that gig and I’m guessing that you sort of ignored the form because I think I have a photo of the gig and you’re lying on top of the crowd.
Exactly! All the things that were listed in it as well like it was bizarre stuff. Fair enough like moshing, wall of death, I’ve heard of them but human pyramid I can just about imagine. It was just all these things like they’d gone really imaginative about what you could do and it was like oh alright is this what people are doing?
I can imagine, almost like they’d put every sort of legal term possible in the form.
Yeah! They give you a bottle of whisky if you sell it out as well which is great, we actually had that at the house the other night, the King Tut’s whisky. It’s really good.
You did a DJ set in priory after your King Tut’s gig at the end of last year. Priory is a much loved venue in Glasgow, what did you think of it?
It was Walt Disco who took us there and we run a little label as well which is sort of part of the band and we put out bands we like on it and we put them out on it. The first time we properly met them was in The Priory and it had that sort of nice sense of nostalgia to it, it was the first time we’d properly hung out with those guys. I’m not sure I actually made it to the DJ set part of it to be honest. Usually, Oli prefers to do them on his own.
I remember seeing Oli and Al behind the decks so that makes sense.
It’s sort of Oli’s obsession like he’s got decks in his room and before the band he was in this ambient electronic duo. The one I always kind of remember was doing Truck Festival, we had a DJ set and he tried to do this sort of really serious, quite dour techno set kinda thing. Obviously, all anyone wanted to do was sing along to bangers and it was like oh come on Ol, get off the decks and you grab a mic and just put Robbie on and everyone’s cheering and it was like awww.
That’s the thing I like about Sports Team is I think you take a sort of comical sense to things, you’re very light-hearted and don’t take things too seriously. You don’t come on stage with an attitude which is very pretentious, you’re just sort of whatever we do goes and that’s what we’ll run with.
Yeah, I think that’s true. The thing that always gets me is, I mean you’ll meet all the bands and I won’t name names but all the sort of super serious post punk bands with black and white videos and chain smoking on stage in a brown suit kind of thing. Then you meet them after and they’re lovely and they behave exactly like we do and you have a laugh, big hugs and stuff and everyone’s sinking pints in like jeans and t-shirts. Then I just don’t know where that bit comes from, they sort of get on stage and it’s suddenly cigarettes in black and white. So, I think everyone is sort of like us, I don’t know maybe it’s just having the self confidence to not pretend but you never know. I think as well with the six of us, we’d all just call each other out so quickly if any of us started doing that.
Sports Team have a real sort of community feel. I think the band seem really close and you seem really encouraging and proud of your fan base (even the meme accounts) and I know you describe it more as a sort of gang. How does it feel to have such a strong following?
It’s really nice, the way it’s happened sort of quite organically as well and all the sort of groups we’ve got like the meme page and stuff. I think a few people at least, look at it from the outside and are like oh you’re obviously kind of steering this or you’ve set up a few of them yourselves. But it’s actually something really nice like to the fans it feels like it’s their sort of thing. It’s got nothing to do with us and pretty much all they do is roast us anyway. Even if it’s like oh no please don’t post that, they’ll be like “waheyyyyyy” and I think that’s what’s great about it. We don’t have to entertain it or push it, it’s just their thing completely.
I think it’s good that you all go along with stuff like that as well because it gives you a chance to interact with the fans and obviously they’ll love that. I think that’s good compared to some other bands who you know are really serious but I think you guys just encourage the interaction.
Yeah, I think for us it was always a bit like well why not? You’re playing gigs to sort of 300 people like of course you’re gonna hang around and chat to them and have a drink with everyone after. It’s like, you’re not doing Wembley, it’s literally a little pub like you can meet everyone there. To us, it’s always just seemed bizarre not to do that and I mean, it probably will get a little bit harder with the bigger venues and stuff but especially with little venues that’s why it’s so great because you actually get to meet people.
Sports Team are known for being very avant-garde, and I think your shows aren’t even just gigs, they’re more of an experience. Is creating that experience for your fans important?
I think so. Again, I think it’s just sort of happened quite organically because I think when we first started playing, the same as any band, all you ever wanted to do was get your mates down and you had to get your mates down to have anyone in the crowd. I don’t know if it’s the same for you as it was for us but it was like our mates didn’t really like guitar music. We were sort of the weird kids listening to Pavement in our rooms and things like that. Whereas, everyone else was like oh there’s a club down the road so why am I going to go to your crap gig in a social club. So it’s always had to be like what’s the sort of thing people actually want? So we were always like I guess we’ll do drinks before and we’ll do an afterparty and we’ll make sure it’s quite cheap when we’re there and we’ll put on like a weird act and actually make sure we tell a few jokes on stage and stuff. So, it’s all just stuff like that, like oh please come, it will actually be alright, it won’t be like six dour lads playing guitars on stage. I think we’ve always sort of been very conscious of this position and that there’s nothing sort of inherently appealing about just getting up on stage and playing guitars like course it has to be more.
The band challenge the mundane a lot and I remember when I saw you at King Tut’s you joked about bands with craft beer stalls etc set up at the back of gigs, do you think it’s important for bands to go against the ordinary and the traditional?
I think you just do whatever is true to yourself. I think in terms of the mundane point though, I think in Britain at least, there’s a lot of music that comes out very sort of like extreme experiences and that’s great. But, I think the stuff that always gets sort of underwritten is that a lot of great music comes out of just actually being very bored. That’s when you start doing something creative like if you have a lot of time and you don’t really know what to do with it. I don’t know, like a long car journey or something for 12 hours, you’ll start tapping a beat or tapping a tune or you’ll make up a game or something. Like what we were saying about the town thing before, there’s not that much going on and forming a band feels like the most exciting thing in the world so you do sort of take your surroundings and try and twist them and turn it into something interesting and uplifting.
I can’t do the interview without asking you about your recent gig at the Nags Head in Camberwell as it looks like it was one for the history books. I saw the videos of Al playing through her concussion. How was the gig?
Yeah, everyone went to help her and it looked so much worse as well. She was kind of like streaming blood down her head and spitting it through her teeth kinda thing and I don’t think she really knew what had happened to her. I was like please get a picture of that but everyone just put their cameras down and ran over to help her but she’s fine now, she’s recovered. I think a lot of the stuff people don’t see, like if you’re looking at that from the outside you’re probably like oh they’ve thought about how they can make it cool and underground and pack out a pub. But, usually all the motivation for doing everything is completely internal. Like with that gig, me and Rob were sitting in the pub and we got quite drunk and we thought it would be the funniest thing to do that night because we thought it would really annoy Oli who wanted to make the house nice and clean and stuff. So we thought, let’s just get our Instagrams and announce the gig for in the front room because we knew he’d come back and be like “YOU BASTARDS! Why would you do this?”. So a lot of the stuff we do is born out of that kind of thing but it was amazing. It’s incredible when you can announce something like 12 hours before and have five hundred people turn up, it’s amazing.
Yeah, it looked crazy like the reaction to it looked mad. Would you ever consider doing a show like that in Scotland? Imagine the concept of that show but in The Laurieston, for example.
I mean yeah, that’s exactly what we’d really like to do. We would LOVE to do that. Maybe we’ll get it sorted for around TRNSMT or something.
Finally, who are your favourite up and coming artists just now?
There’s a band called Sorry who I think are incredible, I heard their new album the other day and they’re so much cooler than us, they’re great. Working men’s club are really good, I like a band called Do Nothing, I think they’re great. Obviously, Walt Disco and Lucia from Glasgow who I think are brilliant. There’s a Dutch band who we’re going to put out on the label called Personal Trainer who we found when we went to a party in Amsterdam that they were playing at. We thought they were amazing, they kind of sound like Pavement but with Dutch accents so it sounds so wrong, it’s completely different and there’s like ten of them on stage and the live shows are amazing. It’s still quite indie at the moment, they’ve got a song called the laser which is really good but the new ones are more Pop but really really good.
You can find out more on Sports Team and pre-order their debut album here.