With a new year, comes the weight of expectation on a new batch of artists, thrust into the spotlight and expected to set the agenda for the twelve months ahead. That's what The Hype List is about - a series of interviews, profiles and more highlighting who we think will be making a noise in 2019.
When they play a big gig, some bands splash out on a fancy backdrop, maybe some flowers, perhaps a few more items on the rider. Sports Team built a papier-mâché shark to celebrate selling out Scala. If that doesn’t justify their spot on our Hype List of 2019, then what does?
Despite having released just a handful of songs beforehand, it constituted a proper ‘moment’ for the West London band - but it is one that seems likely to be a mere stepping stone on their path to greater heights. If 2018 was the year that Sports Team confidently announced themselves to the wider world, then 2019 is the year that should see the promise fulfilled.
Meeting the band in Greenwich for an impromptu photoshoot before settling down in a local pub for a chat, frontman Alex Rice gets down to business straight away. “Are we the most hyped band of 2019? Or are there others?”
Throwing out names of who else should be on the list (Ugly, Squid, Sunken, Black Midi, Sorry and Pip Blom are their tips - though they do point out that some band called The 1975 have a big year coming). Talk then turns to fantasy bands - “Who’s the good-looking one in Shame? Not Steed, the funny one,” says Alex, while the other five put their collective heads in hands. “Plus someone from Greta Van Fleet, they look like great fun. Maybe one of BTS, that one who is on the Hot List with me?”
There may be other bands on the list, but few are like this. While much of the current music scene finds itself grinding its teeth at the state of the world, Sports Team are determined to look on the bright side of life. “If you’re gonna make art and music, and play gigs, you want it to be uplifting,” is how Alex sees it. “It needs a feel-good factor.
Since taking a busload of fans down to Margate for a day by the seaside this summer, it has been non-stop for the band. A headline slot on the BBC Introducing stage at Reading & Leeds followed, before support slots with The Magic Gang and Hinds granted them even higher profile. In between, of course, was Scala. So how was it all?
“Reading felt amazing, we were really proud,” is Alex’ verdict, while for drummer Al (a Leeds native), it was like “a teenage revival”. The singer was lucky to see the set, after (bravely, he says) suffering through the torrential final day downpour at Reading.
“If you’re gonna get wet, then just be soaked,” he proclaims.
“He was shivering, and begging Ben to get his brother to fetch him a coat,” Al interjects, while bassist Oli reminds him that he turned blue. The grins on the band members’ faces suggest that they don’t ever really mind seeing Alex suffer too much.
And then, Scala.
“It was incredible, I now know how the Queen must feel,” says Alex, “It was like a coronation. For us, after seeing bands like Shame and HMLTD move up, this was the end of a period of playing pubs.”
Dominating the social media airwaves with tales of the shark, the band coming on to Robbie’s ‘Let Me Entertain You’, it solidified their reputation as an act of the highest potential.
“The whole day and night was fucking magic, so much fun,” laughs Al. Genuinely nervous at one point about whether they could sell out the venue, by showtime, it was a different story.
“I was arguing with the box office five minutes before stage time, we couldn’t get everyone in!” says guitarist Rob Knaggs, still stunned at the show’s success.
Afterwards, the party kicked on. “I think I was out for three days straight afterwards,” laughs Alex, the band setting up camp on Brick Lane for the duration.
Looking ahead at 2019, the excitement continues with a UK headline tour in the first half of the year, as well as seeing the band make their debut at SXSW. “It’s definitely the right time for us to be there,” says Rob, before a busy summer of festivals kicks off.
“Playing live anchors what we do, we love it,” smiles Alex. “Though I’d love us to go full Strokes one day and travel on separate tour buses.”
“We’d love you to have a separate one,” replies Al instantly.
There’s even talk of putting on their own festival, a two-day event in central London.
Just as excitingly, 2019 will bring new music and that debut record. Firstly, a double-A side vinyl of ‘Casper’ and ‘We Get Along’, only sold at live shows on their own Holm Front label, will present a different side to the band. The latter apparently sounds like Supergrass, while the former shows off a more melodic quality.
Having spent a week with super-producer Burke Reid they are working towards a summer release for their album, Rob admitting that they are at the finishing touches stage. It is shaping up to be a very exciting year, and even beyond that, there is no sign of their ambitions being satisfied.
“We’ve had a serious discussion about booking Wembley for three years’ time,” says Alex. “We want to be like Robbie doing Knebworth.”
Perhaps instead of a backing tape this time round, they’ll end up with the man himself in a support slot. Nothing would surprise you with this Sports Team.
Taken from the December 2018 / January 2019 issue of Dork. Order a copy below.
Featuring The 1975, Billie Eilish, Idles, The Japanese House, Circa Waves, Drenge and more.