On the Road, for the Record: Sports Team
Sports Team is the Indie British six-piece reviving band culture. Comprised of Alex Rice, Al Greenwood, Robert Knaggs, Oli Dewdney, Ben Mack, and Henry Young, the pack of Cambridge University friends is always looking for a party. We met them in Williamsburg, a few hours before their gig at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right; in a large circle, we discussed their previous un-updated riders from France (which included local fine wines and cheese), their current riders (which include postcards and scratch cards,) and how times have changed since their first tour. The group is unapologetically British; with their dry humor and thick accents, they spoke about why they love and hate eachother, as well as the importance of true alone time (even if that just means sticking in some headphones in a seven-seater Chevy.)
On stage, their energy levels are unmatched; Rice, the frontman, is either in the crowd or on a speaker spinning a mic stand; the spectacle that they create is inherently genuine. At the end of the day, it feels like you’re watching your friends on stage; the audience feels connected to what’s going on. With a few more US dates on the bill as they remain “afloat, but not sailing,” Sports Team is slated to close out the year with a UK tour ending at the iconic O2 Forum.
If you were in their van, this is what you’d hear:
What’s the biggest misconception about being on tour?
Alex Rice: People think it’s quite exciting, all the time. It’s great, it’s more exciting than being in an office, but actually, a lot of it’s very mundane, you know? It’s traveling in a van for six hours a day, waiting around at sound checks, and things like that. Then you have sort of a big night out.
How do you maintain the level of energy that you guys have for weeks on end?
AR: We don’t. You just focus it on stage.. You do get that sort of adrenaline rush when you go to how many people you’re playing in front of.
Al Greenwood: I think it’s kind of easy as well, isn’t it? No matter how knackered or hungover you are, when you get up, you sort of immediately [snaps.] You don’t really have to force it. We all love doing it, so it comes pretty natural I guess.
AR: We drink a lot as well.
So who’s with you on tour? Your manager and?
AR: Ryan, our tour manager, I think the American label will come down for quite a lot of these, and our manager, I think will join us in San Francisco. It’s usually just the tour manager, he does our sound and drives us around.
Robert Knaggs: We’ve got a big, what is it? A seven-seater car?
AG: Black Stretch Chevy? Yeah, it’s pretty good.
RK: In the UK, it’s sort of like a prom car. Like a stretch hummer or something, but out here it seems pretty standard; we’re all a bit amazed by it .
AG: Turns out, it’s actually less spacious than our van in the UK, but it still feels more glamorous somehow.
RK: It’s nice, we still stop for nice road meals and Dunkin Donuts, burgers and things.
What are your favorite highway/side of the road snacks?
RK: I really enjoyed Sonic.
Ah, I remember always seeing the wildest Sonic commercials when I was growing up in LA, but they didn’t have any locations near me so I always viewed it as this sort of myth.
Oli Dewdney: Alex fucked up the ordering system so we had to go get someone to take the order personally.
AR: Yeah, I guess it was just a normal dining experience for me.
RK: We like beef jerky quite a lot. We eat big bags of that and sit in the car and feel really bad. We like Trader Joes.
AR: It’s very hard to eat well in the US, or healthfully I guess.
AG: You eat delicious things, but all of it tastes like it’s going to kill you.
AR: We’re quite ingratiated in the English culture of having a little supermarket and everything where you can get something called a “Meal Deal.” Three quid, salmon, get a salad sort of thing, drink, snack on the side. It’s what we’re used to.
What states have you been to so far?
AG: We did Texas at South X [Southwest.] Last time we just did New York, San Francisco, LA. This is like our first proper experience of different states, and our first kind of proper tour. It’s really fun.
Have you noticed any differences from when you first went on tour to now?
RK: I think we like each other less. I think we laugh less.
AR: We really roughed it when we used to tour. Mate’s floors every single time.
AG: In Oli’s mom’s Volvo, that tiny car.
RK: Now we get hotels, which is quite nice. And places like this, which is nice. And in the UK, its sort of getting better. We used to all sleep in one room.
AG: To be fair, we all sleep at my mum’s if we’re playing anywhere North; which is great, though. Ultimately, you still gotta save cash where you can. But I think now, you can kind of guarantee (well, in the UK at least,) you know, it’s going to be a good show, and you know that you’ll at least have a bit of a crowd. In the early days, we’d just hit and hope. When you’re just starting out, you don’t know what to expect; which, in a way, is quite stressful, but it’s also kind of fun and exciting. You end up meeting new people, new fans for the first time, which is really cool. I guess its really comparable to this tour now for us because we just released our American EP on Friday. So it’s all super new and fresh and exciting and we’ve already played two shows, but we met so many cool people. They’re coming down to more of the gigs on the rest of the tour, and you kind of build these really fun relationships; you feel like you get to kind of know a city in that way. They give you recommendations, you hang out with them, and it’s a really fun experience of touring.
Do you have a favorite fan?
AR: Keane Shaw. He’s coming tonight. He’s going out with someone in Hinds, and I think he just took to us really early.
Henry Young: He’s got a tattoo, I think.
OD: He’s got a baseball tattoo on his chest.
AG: I thought it was on his face?
RK: He seems to know everyone. Oli’s aunt also comes to a lot, she’s called Suzi Poeton.
AG: If you don’t know Suzi, I don’t know where you’ve been…
AR: She’s a character.
AG: She’s our favorite fan.
RK: She came to New York last time, and sort of made us do fun things. We normally after shows, drink a few beers and then get kind of sad, but she made us all do shots and slapped us and made us talk to people.
What do you think is the most difficult track to perform?
OD: Probably, there’s this new one called “The Races.”
AG: Oli gets blisters every night.
OD: Well, yeah, the first time, when we wrote it, my fingers were like bleeding for most of the week we were recording it.
HY: I’m gonna say one called “Get Along” in which I did my part on an out of tune guitar when we were in the studio, and so since, I’ve always tried to play it, and it’s always sounded wrong. And, for that reason, it’s always sounded bad.
RK: We were trying to figure out why Henry’s guitar part didn’t sound good, and then we listened to the recording, and it turns out he didn’t have a guitar part. It turned out he was just making it up in rehearsal…that is tricky.
AG: Our producer had just taken it out.
Ben Mack: They’re all easy for me.
AR: They’re all hard. It doesn’t really matter though. People don’t really care if you play it well or not; you just do your dance, and shout, and jump up and down and they seem to like it.
RK: “Casper” is hard, “Casper” is really hard. It’s just tricky, generally, for no reason at all.
AG: I find that one really easy… Me, it would have to be “Here it Comes Again,” just for the simple fact that I have to set the pace, and I’ve got no sense of timing, which is quite problematic as a drummer, but often I’ll start that song, and look up and everybody’s looking at me with these panic eyes like “what that fuck have you done?” Well, we’re here now, so we’ve got to crack on!
Do you have any green room must-haves?
RK: We like lager.
AG: Well, we recently updated our rider and asked for loads of stuff like scratch cards and postcards from the city, and we’re yet to actually receive that full rider…
AR: The first time we ever got asked, we were doing our first gig abroad in France, and they asked what we wanted on our rider. So we sent for some local cheeses, local wine, nice things you’d want in France. But no one updated it for about a month, so we were playing like Glasgow asking for local wines.
HY: And the guy was so apologetic, he was like “I’m so sorry, I’ve not been able to find you any local cheeses.”
So before you go on tour, how do you prepare?
AG: By going on tour beforehand.
It’s weird, now if you get a day off, you just kind of feel a bit lost. It was festival season, and then we were recording in the weeks (Monday-Thursday in between festivals, where we had to stay in Air B&b or hotels, so it kind of feels like you’re on the road anyway.) It’s been since summer basically. So I don’t know what we’ll do, to prepare when we have the opportunity. Probably spend time apart, that’ll be nice. We all live together in England as well. It’s quite intense. It’s more like a cult.
AR: It’s like a cult, but you know. You just wanna get out, but you’ve sold your home and possessions to be in the cult, and achieved a good position within the cult, but you CAN’T leave…keep spouting the lies.
Do you still live in London?
AG: Yeah, more or less. So we all sort of lived there and worked full-time, up until the last summer. We quit our jobs, felt really jubilant, quickly realized that we couldn’t all in our lovely separate flats. Now we all live kind of in the countryside in a big house. But I guess we haven’t been there for three months, maybe.
OD: We’ll have played 100 shows by the end of the year, most of them have been since summer.
Okay, if there was one thing that helps you keep like mental sanity, what would it be?
HY: I think putting on headphones in the van.
AG: For me, it’s a sad one, but I really, really like going for my little morning jogs and that’s my routine. When I get that in, I’m slightly less of a bitch for the rest of the day. I don’t know if the boys would agree, I went for one this morning.
AR: I think it is tough because it’s such a high being on stage and everything else is SO mundane; a lot of it is the complete opposite of actually being on stage. You’ve just got to drink a lot, really. Drink a lot of lager. We can’t game anymore, we don’t have the chargers for the controllers…
OD: The chargers kept me sane…
AG: Ollie likes folding.
OD: Yeah, I mean it sounds really dull and awful but I’ve got lots of tidy little routines. I have this tiny little suitcase, so I’ve got to pack it right.
AG: Me and Ollie will often share a room in hotels, and sometimes you wake up, and you’re quite hungover. I’m personally not that tidy, I shove all my stuff in my bag, go down for breakfast, and you come back up, and the whole floor is like these incredible color schemes like blue, to light blue, to then like a shade of green all across the floor.
OD: So to answer your question, I haven’t kept my sanity.
Anyone else? Any sanity moments?
RK: Alex and I go on quite long walks when we get to cities, so that’s quite nice; kinda gets you out of the van. It makes you do something that isn’t just sitting around and drinking a lot.
Okay, last question, what advice would you have for people that are going on tour for the first time?
AG: Enjoy it.
AR: It is good, honestly, it’s a lot better than what we were doing before. At the end of the day, it’s really good.
RK: Enjoy it. Treasure it.
AG: Enjoy it, but be perpetually disappointed.
Stay tuned to Milk for more on the road.