The foundation of Cambridge-formed six-piece Sports Team is built around their live show. A consistent highlight of last year’s festival season, the band then put on a night of uninhibited fun at London’s Scala, bringing balloons, papier mache sharks (!), Robbie Williams classic ‘Let Me Entertain You’ as walk-on music and plenty, plenty more to put their stamp down as one of the country’s best new live prospects. They’re set to go one better at the capital’s Electric Ballroom later this month - on 22nd March, specifically - and as vocalist Alex Rice explains, they’ve already got a fair few ideas up their sleeves.
“A hall of mirrors is one of the ideas that we’re floating at the moment,” he says. “We’re not quite sure how many mirrors we can get hold of yet. I have a vision of it being like that Bond film where he walks out of the sun and has all these beams of light from mirrors and things. Maybe we’ll manage to create a genuinely dangerous beam of light. We just need to go to every charity shop and get as many mirrors as we can.”
Travelling to SXSW for their first shows in the US, all the effort and passion that’s been poured into their live show makes it already pretty much nailed-on that they’ll emerge from the festival as an undeniable highlight.
Though the band’s music is quintessentially British - their new single concerns a road trip on the M5 motorway, jelly bean air fresheners and driving gloves, before an untimely crash just outside the perfectly unglamorous town of Aldershot - there are more than enough touchpoints for an overseas crowd, and a spirit and vigour that breaches cultural boundaries, as Alex explains.
“I think there’s a spirit to the live show, and I’m glad we’re playing [in the States] live,” he says, “because [our live show] feels visceral and erratic and appealing, and we grew up loving American bands like Modern Lovers and Pavement, who’d come out of that school of slightly slacker, disparate music that always feels like it’s slightly falling apart.
“Obviously [SXSW] won’t feel like a ‘homecoming’,” he expands, “but people will think ‘Oh ok, we get that, we understand that.’ I think the live show will translate really obviously. If you set your stall out not to be something niche, and to be something inherently appealing, and to make live [shows] an event again. ‘What are we doing this afternoon? Oh, we’re going to see Sports Team - let’s have a few drinks and make a day of it.’ I think that’ll translate anywhere, and especially Austin.”
“A hall of mirrors is one of the ideas that we’re floating at the moment… I have a vision of it being like that Bond film where he walks out of the sun and has all these beams of light from mirrors and things.”
Alex Rice, Sports Team
Heading out to the States in a year when a specific type of dark, inherently disgruntled guitar music is becoming the most talked about, to the point where it’s near-synonymous with the overarching genre, Sports Team set out to provide something different, a significantly breezier, more uplifting breath of fresh air.
“It feels like the zeitgeist for this year is gonna be IDLES, Shame, Fontaines DC, that sort of post-punk, slightly aggressive, pseudo-political sound,” Alex states. “But I think there are a whole group of people that don’t really feel an affinity with it. It’s just sort of a gut feeling, and it’s what’s being pushed. If you hear the term ‘guitar music’ now, that’s sort of what people mean. And I think we’ll often encounter people trying to push us into that bracket.
“I think there’s this massive space - and it needs a name to be honest, like the New Romantics had - for music that feels more uplifting and romanticised. I can see a crop of bands coming through, doing that, who I think we’re leading. I see two schools of guitar music at the moment, and I think we’re at the forefront of one of them, that’s gonna be the inevitable backlash to what’s very prominent at the moment.”
Whether any backlash arrives or not, look out for Sports Team.
Sports Team play the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 on 11th March, Lucille on 13th March and Swan Dive on 14th March.
This interview is taken from our New Colossus and SXSW preview newspaper, Go Big Or Go Home. Check it out below.