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14th October 2019

In Conversation with Sports Team

Head music editor Bella sits down with Sports Team frontman Alex Rice before their set at Manchester’s Neighbourhood Festival 2019 to chat about running their label and what it takes to make it as a band
In Conversation with Sports Team
Photo: Authorised Press Shot

‘I can’t sing’, Alex Rice, Sports Team front man, admits amusingly over the phone.

But, almost paradoxically, this is one of the main reasons why Sports Team have done so well: they’ve “always tried to sound like other bands but [they] just can’t do it.” And that’s what makes them stand out.

The band have just arrived in “rainy” Cardiff for their first night opening for Two Door Cinema Club. Alex gushes about the “sit down catering service” provided on this tour, which included salmon for dinner and coconut water in the fridge. This sort of luxury on tour seems almost amusing to him, far from what they’re used to.

Having played at Jimmy’s in the past, the band seem eager to head back to Manchester. Their set at Neighbourhood Festival is an exclusive show and the band won’t be stopping here on their tour.

However, beyond their set, Alex seems most excited about being able to see his friends who are in other bands. He reflects on how post-festival season means it becomes harder to see each other, noting he is especially excited to see the boys from The Magic Gang.

The conversation moves on to the origins of Sports Club. The six-piece met whilst studying in Cambridge, confessing that “uni was an odd one, all our mates didn’t really want to hear guitar music and would rather go clubbing.”

Alex went on to explain how in the early days Sports Team geared their music around the University’s annual May Balls, a highlight of the academic year. With ticket prices exceeding £100, the band “couldn’t afford it, so would play gigs to get a ticket.” One year, the band were fortunate enough to share the stage at a May Ball with Nero, Pendulum, and Loyle Carner.

However, despite the university culture perhaps not embracing guitar music in the same way as the members of Sports Team have, Alex still believes that there is “enough musical heritage to the city,” and that despite the overshadowing from nearby London, the fact that bands such as Pink Floyd formed there will always be enough to keep the music scene vibrant.

In fact, Sports Team believe so much in the local Cambridge bands that they’ve signed UGLY, a four-piece from Cambridge, to their record label, Holms Front. “You’d be amazed how quick and easy it is,” Alex reveals, stating that running the label only really involved “arranging to press a vinyl and building relationships with distributors.”

Surprisingly, Alex also admits that running the label helps to get the band “out of the South London bubble of music.” The last record released on Holms Front was by Amsterdam-based collective Personal Trainer. “We were staying with our mate Pip Blom and it was Pip’s boyfriend who told us about the project,” Alex tells me, explaining how they found Personal Trainer’s wacky music “unbelievable”.

He also somewhat sheepishly admits how putting out music on a label run by the band results in more exposure for Sports Team. “The best thing about having a label is you rip off someone else’s talent” Alex boldly admits. He also explains that the band gets more press because of it, noting that the press describes these records as “Sports Team released”.

When asked about what advice he would give to a band just starting out, his answer was somewhat of a surprise: “don’t forget that you have to be entertaining.”

“Don’t try and be cool.” He goes on to explain, “remember that most people aren’t interested in seeing four blokes on stage playing guitars.”

Sports Team will play Neighbourhood Festival with a set at Gorilla at 8 pm. Although perhaps don’t expect too much of the band; they’re playing “at the O2 the night before, so [will] probably not be in a good way.”

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