New Music / Record of the Week

Sports Team take us inside their charmingly energetic album ‘Deep Down Happy’

We take you inside our favourite new albums with the artists who made them. This week's feature record is Sports Team's charmingly energetic 'Deep Down Happy'.

Electrically frenetic live shows and a penchant for provocative interviews have become the signature recipe for London six-piece Sports Team. But what they throw out in attitude and unapologetic ambition, they back up with anthemic, hard-hitting indie-rock.

Sports Team have never been a band to do things by halves. Flying out of the blocks with only a handful of singles, they were playing (and selling out) shows they probably had no right to even attempt. And that was only the beginning.

The band’s raucous live show has become vital to Sports Team’s reputation, and here, on their debut album Deep Down Happy, they have found a way to capture it perfectly. Which is pretty lucky for fans on this side of the world who haven’t yet had a chance to get the full Sports Team experience.

Memorable anthems-in-waiting feature throughout the album’s almost-40-minute run, and whether they are calling out music industry sell-outs, dissecting middle-class living, or fearing mediocrity, there is a heartwarming euphoria and tongue-in-cheek humour that permeates everything Sports Team do. This is the sort of album that makes you want to pick up a guitar, get your mates together, and start your own band.

They inspire adoration and devotion, and there isn’t any sitting on the fence – you’re either with Sports Team or you’re not. On Deep Down Happy they are letting the music speak for itself.

Whether you think they’re completely charming or truly irritating, it’s hard to deny that Sports Team is the breath of fresh air Britain – and we suppose the world’s – indie-rock scene needs right now. Take note, because they aren’t going anywhere.

We sat down with Sports Team’s vocalist Alex Rice earlier in the year to get to know the band a little better and take a deeper look into Deep Down Happy.

The Story

From the beginning

Alex Rice (Sports Team): “We came to it [making music] quite late. We’d sit around each other’s rooms before nights out and listen to a lot of music. I remember us playing TRAAMS, Black Tambourines, the whole Falmouth scene, Magic Potion, Pavement when everyone else had a house mix on. I think that bonds you. Then as soon as you realise you’ve all got a My First Fender-style guitar sitting around too it comes together pretty quick. The first time we played, ‘Stanton‘ came out. It was Christmas so we called ourselves Herod’s Men and the One That Got Away and turned up at a party to play three songs. Very bad.

“We quit our jobs to do it full time a couple of years ago, when we got offered a two-month tour with Hinds. How could you not? Even if you think you’ve got a really slim chance of making being in a band your career, you take it. It’s the best thing in the world. The first show I really felt it though, was when we played Moth Club early on, you knew something was happening.”

What you’ll hear

AR: “It’s not been a conscious process but I think our music combines that energy you get in the American guitar sound, visceral, driving like Parquet Courts and Iggy Pop, with this more lyrical English tradition, Pulp, Betjeman, looking at the world around you with a lot of uncertainty, humour, trying to weigh it up, working out whether you’re happy.

“We’re probably more conscious of writing with playing live, rather than a recording as the end result too. The performance bit of it is the interesting part for me. You can always hear the dynamic between people on a stage.”

Inside the creative process

AR: “Last year we played something like 120 shows, so we ended up recording in between dates. We’d get a ferry back from Holland at 4am, and be in the studio by 10am, record for four days late into the night and then get back in the van and head out to the next show. I think that schedules actually helped the album though, it feels like the last two years of our lives condensed. Living together, writing together, bickering.

“We were lucky to work with a producer who understood what we wanted to achieve and was very willing to push us way beyond any normal, decent place. Burke is the first one in the studio and the last out, he survives on nuts, has done a week in the studio after cracking open a molar, so when he’s asking you to do the 1000th guitar take, you do it. He didn’t let us get lazy or fall back on studio tricks. Everything you hear is as it was played.

“The creation process has stayed pretty constant. We’ve got faster and more ambitious, but everything still starts with fishing about on a guitar until something bites.”

Tell us the story

AR: “Growing up. Moving to London. Realising there’s no snakes and ladders game-plan to follow. Disillusionment alongside the day-to-day joys of being young and in a band. It’s mixed, I think we’re still looking for that big theme. It’s the floundering that’s important.”

Down memory lane

AR: “There are a lot of great memories from creating the album. Wasting hours in Wood Green. Meeting Martin “you are gold” Kemp. Spending 11 hours with your friends every day. Ultimately getting it done. Finishing a record is admin. You get the writing done, do the first takes, and then it’s tweaks. You watch Bohemian Rhapsody and you see those montage studio scenes and they make it seem like a blast. Most of the time it’s not.”

Kicking goals

AR: “The best bit of the whole thing is meeting fans who have had the same really formative experience seeing us that we did seeing acts like Wu Lyf, Egyptian Hip Hop, having our first drink. So it’s the big live shows. Forum [London] at the end of last year, Electric Ballroom before that. Going to the Laurieston in Glasgow is always a career highlight too.”

Overcoming struggle town

AR: “We were friends long before this band started, but adjusting to spending your whole lives together in a van and on the road, is hard. We’ve lived six to a room for a few years now, and you get to know a lot about people. It’s become a family thing. Everyone knows each other’s pressure points. You can only deal with it by being open with each other and realising there’s no escape. Family is for life.”

For the love of music

AR: “What do we love about making music? Everything, it’s the best job in the world.”

Audience takeaway 

AR: “I hope you come out [of listening to Deep Down Happy]  feeling like you’ve lived with us. To know somewhere we’ve found a bit of happiness. Laugh a bit. Like you could start a band.”

Say it in a sentence

AR: “Deep Down Happy is about…Moving to London, growing up, are we happy?”

Essential Listening

Sports Team – Here’s The Thing

AR: “We snuck the Match of the Day riff into it. Let’s see what they do about it.”

Sports Team – Camel Crew

AR: “We first recorded a version of this with a producer called Dave McCracken at his old Timberyard in Hammersmith. He used to let us go down after work and sit around for hours. Wouldn’t be here without him. I think he’s on tour with Ian Brown now. It’s about the self-congratulatory nature of this London scene of guitar music we first started playing in. Think plenty were offended but I’m sure they’ll be fine. All the love in the world to anyone that forms a band.”

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