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February 2021

Spring King: "This band is all about screaming and letting go"

From the minute Spring King found themselves as the first band played on ‘a certain online radio thingy’, they’ve been heading for the big time. Now, with their debut album out, they’re aiming even higher.
Published: 9:25 am, June 24, 2016
Spring King: "This band is all about screaming and letting go"
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Some people just have a way with words. Since the release of single ‘Mumma’ at the start of 2014, Spring King have been publicly toying with their diction, quickly becoming a voice of sanity, comfort and excitement. There’s a reason why when Apple Music’s online radio station Beats 1 launched, they used the band’s ‘City’ as an introduction. There’s a reason why their new home of Island Records didn’t change a single thing about their debut album before releasing it. And there’s a reason why they’re on the cover of the very first Dork. Spring King know their voice, so listen up.

“We just want to smash it, basically,” starts Tarek Musa on a rare day off from tour. It’s the start of a long summer of festivals and the band are just finishing off a headline run that’s been “a real eye-opener. We played Guildford last night and it was just non-stop circle pits and people going wild. I just wasn’t expecting it. None of us were.”

Visiting cities they’ve never been, let alone played a show in, Pete Darlington, Andy Morton, James Green and Tarek are finding it all a bit crazy. “It’s just nonstop at the moment,” grins Tarek, with Pete adding: “It’s slowly dawning on us that people are hearing our music, which is great.” With the release of album ‘Tell Me If You Like To’, it’s an idea Spring King are going to have to get used to. And fast.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width="stretch_row
[vc_column][vc_single_image image="2387" img_size="full" alignment="center
[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Full of character and sure of itself, the debut full-length from Springers is an exercise in conviction. Taking the scrappy energy and hunger from their two EPs (2014’s ‘Demons’ and 2015’s ‘They’re Coming After You’) onto a bigger stage and cutting it with an assertive direction, the record captures a band who know what they want.

As with all the best stories though, it wasn’t always that way. Starting off as a solo project that wasn’t going to leave the studio, Tarek “never wanted to get a band together.” However, once he was a few tracks deep, Pete heard them and thought otherwise. “I forced him to. They were that good.” What followed was a revolving line up until they poached their childhood friend Andy from another band and found James through a Facebook request for a bass player. “He didn’t even play bass but he responded, he came to our first rehearsal and was really into it. Now we’re solid as hell.”

"pull" text="We just want to smash it." ]

The group has always had a belief in Spring King. “When I heard those first demos, straight away I thought that this was going to be a good band,” explains Pete. “I hate watching videos of us playing, but I was watching old videos of us and even two and a half years ago, we were really taking it quite seriously.” There was a sense that “this can go places”, and the band put everything into making it work. Plus a little extra. Supporting Courtney Barnett on tour at the start of last year, Tarek came down with a chest infection but refused to quit.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width="stretch_row
[vc_column][vc_video link="
" align="center[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“We still had to play because it was such a great opportunity,” he explains. “We were all getting really sick because we were in my mum’s car. We borrowed her car, we could barely fit any of the equipment in and we’d just hope that the other bands there would lend us their drums. There was a genuine fear.”

Upgrading to a hired van a few months later for a more expansive run supporting Slaves and Spector, because it was the only way to make it work, the band swapped health concerns for money ones. “We took the financial hit. We had to if we were going to carry on and keep going. It’s better to keep going and get in debt than it is to just stop and turn down a really amazing opportunity, because you can cover it somehow. In the past we’ve all had jobs or I had a credit card that we would slam a lot of costs onto. We found our way. Deal with the struggle, the backlash and the financial burden later.”

That gruelling trial quickly forged Spring King’s conviction into something permanent and tangible. Ignoring the growing sea of eyes watching them, the band went into the record with one goal in mind. “I try and ignore the pressure because I think it would be debilitating for me. I would freeze like a rabbit in headlights. I know there is an expectation but I think, as long as we’re happy with it, that’s all that matters.” It’s why their eclectic debut album manages to be so cohesive.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width="stretch_row[vc_column][vc_single_image image="2389" img_size="full" alignment="center[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“When we started making the record it’s the first time that, for me, I really knew what this band was,” admits Pete. “It was the first time I really knew what we were trying to do, because in the past there’s been quite a lot of experimentation.” The band may have started with songs like ‘Avocado City’, full of strange drum grooves, and the left-field ‘Sticks’, but they’ve slowly “turned into this slightly different thing. With the record we’ve finally captured what we wanted to do. It just took us a little while to get there.”

Not only did ‘Tell Me If You Like To’ see the band lock down their intentions, it also saw them leaving their home studio (a converted bathroom in Tarek’s home) for something a little more professional. Spring King had three weeks to record their debut album because that’s all they could afford.

Going into the Chapel Studios at the tail end of last year with a bunch of songs ready to go, the band quickly found inspiration from their new-found surroundings and started writing other songs. “Those took precedent over the songs we thought we were going to put on the album. It was a bit unexpected,” which has led to “a few unexpected numbers on the album.” Together with a year’s worth of demos, committed to an iPhone and left to simmer, the band set about systematically compiling ‘Tell Me If You Like To’.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width="stretch_row[vc_column][vc_single_image image="2390" img_size="full" alignment="center[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“It’s a quick process, we try and not spend too much time perfecting each part.” Working bit-by-bit from the ground up as the band juggled day jobs, Spring King recorded everything in two or three takes and in a deliberate order. “Financially, recording in a studio was a big thing. We got a grant for a couple of grand from the PRS for Music Foundations and we knew this was our only shot with money. We had to make the most of the time.”

"pull" text="I wanted to write something that basically says it’s alright. You can be whatever you want to be." ]

While some bands have the funds to take their time and experiment, Spring King simply didn’t. Coming off one tour, playing a show with Mac DeMarco and then heading into the studio, the band had these few weeks to get it done, before giving themselves a single day off and then heading back out for two months of solid touring. “Oh god, that was insane,” says Pete, looking back. “We’re idiots.”

“Whenever I hear that album or I look at pictures we took from the sessions, I’ll always remember it for what it was and that’s great. The next album will probably be different. And the one after that will be different as well. For me, I always want to keep it as cheap as possible but as good as it can be,” says Tarek, relishing a challenge. “When you’ve got limitations, you always do weird things to try and get that sound you want. I’m used to that. Of course you have to try out different things, but you’ve got to commit. You have to say ‘Yeah, we’re going this way.’”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width="stretch_row
[vc_column][vc_video link="
" align="center[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]True to their word, the band controlled the sessions and even turned one of the upstairs rooms of the residential studio into a place to record. Why? Because it’s where they felt comfortable. “But you’ve got £50,000 worth of mics downstairs?” came the confused cry of the studio’s owner. It was met with little more than a shrug from the band. Spring King do what they want, and they do it well. “That sense of conviction is important, especially in bands,” grins James. “The best bands have always just given so much and that sense of conviction, they almost force you to believe in what they’re doing and proper grab you by the haunches. I like that. I like that about the record. Really aggressive vocal takes and cut up guitar sounds.”

“I like to think it’ll inspire them to want to do music themselves,” suggests Andy of the album’s impact, while Tarek expands: “I want people to read the lyrics and, if they go away thinking ‘I’m not the only one who thinks like that’, then that’s brilliant. A lot of the record is about exploring the self. There’s a lot of coming of age, figuring out what you want to be and what you want to do with your life. When I was 16, I was so uncertain of myself and I wanted to write something that basically says it’s alright. You can be whatever you want to be. I want people to go away and think I’m not alone in having these kind of anxieties. But also, I want them to thrash about to it in their bedroom. Put it up to ten.”

That realisation of finding your voice is something the band know well. Tarek was brought up on a diet of Bruce Springsteen and Van Morrison, Pete was exposed to jazz from an early age and subsequently rebelled, finding solace in Nirvana and a cassette Tarek gave him on the first day of secondary school with NOFX on one side and At The Drive-In on the other - “I remember going home, putting it on and my mind was literally blown. Ever since then, music’s been pretty much everything,” he says.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width="stretch_row[vc_column][vc_single_image image="2388" img_size="full" alignment="center[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]James, on the other hand, started learning piano at the age of six and fell asleep every night with his dad blaring old punk records downstairs before (begrudgingly, at first) finding the likes of Pavement, American Football and The Avalanches through friends at school. And for Andy, the blame falls entirely on Pete and Tarek. “I wouldn’t have played any tunes if it wasn’t for those two. One day Pete asked me to join the first band they were in, just play some rhythm guitar for a laugh and I said yes. A week later he booked a gig. I went in at the deep end, but I managed to do that. And the clarinet solo as well,” he adds with a smirk. “I can’t play clarinet either.”

“It was this experimental noise thing,” explains Tarek, trying to offer some clarity to the situation. “We were 16. I don’t know what people thought it was like though.”

“I thought it was incredible at the time,” smiles Pete.

“We’ve all got these weird tastes and this band is all about screaming and letting go,” reasons Tarek, with Pete adding: “The one thing that ties it all together is the love of good melodies and good songs. Different sounds but always a good melody, always a hook.” And from the start, despite the experimentation and the discovery, that’s always been the goal.

“I’m a big fan of the Beach Boys and that’s one of the main reasons I started Spring King,” says Tarek. “I heard their music and thought it was insane because it’s got all these poppy backing tracks, It’s really up-tempo and you can dance to it but what you don’t realise is that Brian Wilson is singing about depression and a lot of challenging subjects, especially later on with ‘Pet Sounds’. I wanted to have an element of that, where you can dance to it but it’s also lyrically moving and accessible.

“There’s not a lot of challenging lyrics but if you dig through it, it’s talking about things like anxieties and depression because I know a lot of people who, growing up, had a really tough time and I wanted to channel all these experiences into the album. I’m totally cool with letting it be out there because it shouldn’t be a taboo.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width="stretch_row[vc_column][vc_video link="
" align="center[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]And after nine tracks asking questions about where they fit in, Spring King’s debut album ends with the stark realisation of ‘Heaven’. “After going through quite a journey of different identity questions, that song had to be the end. We felt the lyric ‘heaven is when you know yourself’ was the right way to finish the record.”

“Pete didn’t want to put that song on the record, he was quite unsure of it,” starts Tarek, before Pete takes the lead. “It’s a very old song, I wrote that song five years ago, I was living in New York, I was absolutely battered and I got home at four in the morning,” he pauses as the group’s laughter swells. “At the time I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor and I remember just lying down, spinning out, and that came into my head. I felt like, at that point, I was content with who I was. I used to keep a journal every single night, I wrote that and that was the beginning of the song.”

“It’s this struggle the whole way through and then at the end, there’s a sense of relief. It’s the perfect ending for the album,” ventures Tarek who, on the flip side was unsure if his Beach Boys-meets-Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In The Dark’ ode to summer (‘The Summer’) was right for the record until Pete convinced him otherwise. From the very beginning, Spring King have pushed each other to trust in themselves. Their debut sees that self-belief come to life.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width="stretch_row[vc_column][vc_single_image image="2383" img_size="full" alignment="center[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“The album’s got songs on it that are better than anything that’s been out before,” starts Pete. “We’ll always have a song like ‘City’ which was a breakthrough track and that’s great. ‘Who Are You?’ did a similar thing. We were unsure about ‘Rectifier’ being the first single off the album but the response has been crazy. The album’s really strong and ‘City’ is an important song for us, but there are other songs on there that I think people will connect with equally as well.”

Following the relentless recording of the album, Spring King agrees. “We can do this. We can do a good job of it and we’re inspired for what the future holds,” reasons Pete. “There was some really interesting, creative moments in the studio which would be great to build on.” Sharing feelings of open doors, Spring King don’t know what the future holds exactly, but they’re looking towards it.

"pull" text="Always a good melody, always a hook." ]

“I don’t know what successful is anymore,” starts Pete as the band, sat in their van driving around East London, discuss sales, venue sizes and online reactions. “All I know is when you’ve got more people coming to the shows, that’s the real signifier of how well it’s going.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width="stretch_row
[vc_column][vc_video link="
" align="center[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“We don’t want to let anyone down, so we take it seriously when we’re on stage,” admits Tarek. “People are paying to come and watch us four fuck ups make music. We’re not a serious band onstage but we have a huge respect for people coming out of their way. We gave it all we had last night. And the night before. And the night before that. That’s part of our role, I wouldn’t call it a job or work, it’s just part of what we do. We have to give back the respect that fans are giving to us. If someone’s going to part ways with money for a vinyl, or a t-shirt, if they’re paying for a ticket.

“When I was a kid that’s all I did. You go to shows and you’d be so excited to see the bands. I loved it when the band gave it the best you had because I’ve never forgotten it. I can’t forget the original Sum 41 shows I went to. Or Papa Roach. Or Alien Ant Farm. Or the Mars Volta. Dead Kennedys. All that stuff. I used to leave so buzzing for weeks, it’s inspirational,” he reflects, before Pete asks him about an RX Bandits show they went to and off they go down memory lane. “You’d go home and you’d just want to play music. You’d want to be in that band. We’re not the most rock’n’roll band, but we just like playing hard and hanging out with people.”

“It really is the greatest joy being on stage. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true,” adds Andy. Spring King “don’t want to own a mansion”, in fact they’re moving at such a pace it’s easier for them to add things to their bucket list after they’ve happened. Playing New York’s CMJ, tick. Playing Germany, tick. (Both of which were meant to come with tattoos to celebrate the achievement.) Playing Jools Holland, tick.

“As long as we played a rocking show, I’m happy,” grins Tarek. “It’s a weird one because our aspirations are just to play better, play better shows and just see more and more people smiling. I’m content. I’m content just playing shows. Things like Jools Holland are the cherry on the cake, but there’s going to be a million more cherries.” He pauses. “Hopefully there’ll be so many I’m not going to be able to eat any more cherries.” 
"stopper" ]

Spring King’s debut album ‘Tell Me If You Like To’ is out now. Taken from the July issue of Dork - order a copy now.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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