We talk to the band about their formative months being the only indie band at Cambridge University
Cai Trefor
18:10 2nd August 2018

After breaking through with their debut EP Winter Nets in January, Harlsden-based indie sorts Sports Team have are keeping up momentum with some impressive new songs. Last month they put out the single ‘Kutcher’ – a cut that’s loosely based on the Punk’D TV show - and now have followed it up with ‘Margate’, which is streaming below.

It sees the six-piece keep their ramshackle indie sound they’ve become loved for but add a more classic rock feel – they even reference Steely Dan in the lyrics and parody Pete Townsend. It’s an energetic release that bodes nicely ahead of their headline gig at Scala in September. The video is as ambitious as their ambitious hi-res studio sound, helped by producer Burke Reid (Courtney Barnett).

Of the track’s lyrics, the band say: Margate’s a song about English summers. Hosepipe bans. Overgrown hedgerows. Frayed tempers. The season of Reeling in the Years and tailbacks on the A303. We went in to record it with Burke during the first group stage games, when things were looking up. Some of that optimism rubbed off.”

The fun, dynamic video is shot in Margate and sees outspoken frontman Alex Rice embracing his inner Jagger with some charmingly dorky dance moves as the band go mini golfing, arcade, and hang out by the beach. It’s refreshing to see a band not take themselves so seriously.

Earlier this year, Gigwise caught up with Sports Team. Given they live in a house with a grand piano in Harlsden they took Gigwise for “steak towers” to the nearby 'Sporting Clube de Londres' bar in Westbourne Park, London, a staple hangout of theirs that serves incredible food and shows Portuguese club football. Singer and Bitcoin loving anthropologist Rice, who was wearing a Sporting Lisbon scarf and charity shops suit, led us there with the rest of the band: Rob Naggs (guitar) Al Greenwood (drums) Henry Young (guitar), Oli Dewdney (bass) Ben Mac (percussion). 

We chat about University, how they manage to trick the a shadow cabinet member into being their hype man, the kick of being a up-and-coming band (Wolf Alice are fans, according to Rob), and what they make of the London guitar scene.

Gigwise: You formed at Cambridge University. How were you treated by the staff there?

Al: The music department were like 'we like choirs and classical music and don’t give a shit about anything else'. It was like you’re causing a disturbance.

Rob: They would really encourage the choir and give them loads of funding for tours and we’d be like, 'can we have a rehearsal space to do some songs? And they’d say, 'well, there’s this cupboard you can use'.

GW: What did the students think of the band?

Al: They were slightly bemused or pissed off.

Rob: We were the only guitar band at all in the whole university.

GW: Where did you start gigging?

Al: Before I joined they were playing in the college bar a lot and everyone was really pissed off because they would go down there for pre-drink, they’d play like two songs.

Rice: People would genuinely hate us.

Al: Yeah they were pissed off and I was one of them initially thinking who are these arrogant pricks? Then gradually it was actually I thought it looks like they’re having quite a good time. They didn’t want you to be there and you’d be there setting up and they didn’t do anything about it which was fun to see.

Rice: We used to play flat parties and put on our own gigs at the Sport and Social Club.

Al: And we played stupid balls where it was free drinks free food. We played May Ball with Loyal Carner, Shura.

GW: What are those parties like?

Rob: They throw a million pounds at them, they’re a weird institutional thing. Wolf Alice have played, Everything Everything, Bastille.

GW: Given you were invited, it seems you transformed from being a nuisance into something people like.

Al: Yeah we played daft events and were terrible. People respected that it was so funny.

GW: What do you think got people interested?

Rice: You really had to give people something to latch on to get them to come and see a guitar band so we’d do things like give out prizes. We gave out a trouser press at one of the gigs. We used to trick the local labour MP down to introduce us, he’s called Daniel Zeichner. He’s on the shadow cabinet. We’d be like, 'it’s another fundraiser Dan, do you want to come down?' He’d be like oh ffs…  Eventually it became a bit of a cult thing.

GW: Who writes the songs?

Al: Rob, Rice and Jerry [former band member] were all writing songs. They all took turns, Rob emerged to be the best so it's just him now.

Rice: Yeah I refuse to get involved in the songwriting process [laughs]

GW: You made headlines in the indie press with the song ‘Camel Crew’, which was labelled a diss track towards HMLTD, what’s the about?

Al: I don’t think it was slagging them off. I think it’s making fun of the fact nobody seems to be having a good time. And it becomes funnier when they don’t find it funny. So we kept doing it.

Henry: We used to play lots of the same venues as them... Every single band in that South London scene will be incurably nice about each other in interviews then behind everyone elses back they would be like, 'I fucking hate them'. There was a point last year where you couldn’t say you didn’t like HMLTD, if you said that to anyone who worked in music would be horrified.

Ollie: The industry people we'd meet at gigs would say how they’re going to take over the world and it was a communal joke among us to question that.

GW: What inspires you?

Rice: It’s the live show; that’s what we get a kick out of. Standing in front of more and more people. When we first started in London there were ten people which soon turned to 2 or 300. That’s the best feeling and that drives you on to do more. We’re playing Scala in September to a thousand people, it’s like, alright this is going somewhere. That’s where guitar music can build itself...

Sports Team are on tour:

Aug 3rd | Tom Thumb Theatre, Margate
Aug 4th | Visions Festival, London
Aug 24th | BBC Introducing @ Leeds Festival
Aug 26th | BBC Introducing @ Reading Festival
Sep 1st | Knee Deep Festival, Cornwall
Sep 19th | Scala, London Sep 29th | Rock City, Nottingham*
Oct 1st | O2 Academy, Bristol*
Oct 2nd | O2 Academy, Bournemouth*
Oct 3rd | O2 Academy, Liverpool*
Oct 4th | Keele University SU, Newcastle*
Oct 5th | O2 Academy, Oxtord*
Oct 6th | Neighbourhood Festival, Manchester

Issue Four of the Gigwise Print magazine is on pre-order now! Order here.

Photo: Press