With the temperature sitting somewhere in the mid-30s, a vehicle carrying the hopes and dreams of a new generation snakes through a ravaged wasteland. Also on board, a group of survivors cling to each other as the oppressive heat begins to take hold, bringing with it a sense of madness and desperation. Ice packs are passed around; grateful faces plunged deep into them.
This could be a scene taken from a Mad Max sequel. Instead, Dork is being whisked to the seaside for a day out with your new favourites Sports Team to celebrate the release of ‘Margate’, their latest banger of the highest order, as well as the chance to be right in the thick of a tiny show from one of the most exciting bands around.
“Everyone says guitar music’s not cool nowadays, so we’ve put on a bus trip to Margate to prove them wrong,” announces frontman Alex Rice with an admirably straight face. A bus trip to the seaside is as quintessentially English as the band themselves, an idea as gloriously silly as it is genius.
Sitting amongst a group of ecstatic fans who volunteered to come along for the ride, sharing beers and swapping stories, it is a relaxed and happy vibe despite everyone sitting in the hottest temperature this side of Venus.
“It’s just good fun isn’t it?” smiles main songwriter Robb Knaggs, “That’s what music is meant to be, right?”
The radio doesn’t work, the air-conditioning doesn’t work, we’re stuck in dense motorway traffic, so we can’t play I-Spy, but Robb’s spot on. This IS fun.
After an impromptu ice cream stop, the driver blasts ‘Margate’ out of his phone speakers. Only he’s found the Chas n’ Dave version.
“Yeah, that’s probably better than our song though,” laughs Alex.
The video for their ‘Margate’ (definitely not a cover) contains some of the most electrifying, hip-dislocating moves this side of an octopus on a dancefloor. Both the song and the video are an affectionate look at an England that now seems almost mythical to many, a land that is eternally sunny and upbeat. No surprise perhaps, as it was written at the beginning of a near-miraculous run in the World Cup and during one of the hottest summers on record.
“You can either say things are crap and talk them down, or you can make it glorious, romanticise and glamourise things,” explains Alex, “For us, we want to send up the Britain in Bloom roundabouts, rather than slagging it all off.”
These are exciting times for Sports Team, who have all jacked their jobs in over the days leading up to the Margate trip. With high-profile tours coming up with The Magic Gang and Hinds, as well as a slot on the BBC Introducing stage at Reading & Leeds.
The latter is a massive deal in particular for Alex and bassist Oli Dewdney, who have been attending together as punters since they were fifteen. It’s all part of the long-game for Alex, who promises an album at some point in 2019 (“It will come when it’s ready,” is how he describes it.)
At the moment, there is plenty of time just to enjoy the run of serious bangers that the Harlesden-based band have been producing. “It takes us a while to generate some of the tracks; it is a bit cleverer and more thoughtful than some of the new music about right now,” Rice states. “We can’t just get together and thrash out a beat.”
Talking with Alex is like trying to keep up with Road Runner. When asked about his dancing on the ‘Margate’ video, he moves onto his favourite subjects – theatricality and putting on a performance.
“You see kids at a bus stop; they’re all flossing now. And that new dance, I can’t even remember what it’s called. But when you put on a show, it’s got to be an event. Do a dance. DO SOMETHING! Music used to be an event, but now guitar music has gotten really lazy.”
Warming to his subject, he states: “Something like Liam Gallagher playing at Finsbury Park, that kind of music is dead. Lazy and pale. It’s like the haemophiliac end-of-the-royal line.”
The million-miles-an-hour pace of conversation, thought becoming word before it’s fully formed, shares a lot of similarities with one Matty Healy. Coming on the day after Healy’s “no big bands are doing anything as interesting as us” 1975 interview, Rice is delighted with the concept.
“That kind of thing is great fun. Music SHOULD be polarising. It should be interesting; people should read about it, argue about it, be excited about it.”
As he places the band at an imaginary point where the literary genius of John Betjeman or Cyril Connolly meets the simple good times of AC/DC, there’s no disputing that Sports Team are one of the most interesting and exciting bands out there right now.
At this point, the rest of the band gatecrash our chat and instantly puncture the mood.
“Has he started talking about how performance is the highest form of art yet?” teases Robb. When asked about his dancing, they point out that it is “more something you can’t stop looking at, rather than strictly rhythmic.”
Claiming that it is only because of his double-jointed ankles (one of which is immediately thrust in Dork’s face), the chat unravels further when a friend of the band drops in.
“I’ve just had a really weird experience in the toilets,” he says breathlessly, before being warned by Robb that: “This is being recorded. None of your weird shit now, yeah?”
Later, at the suitably tiny Tom Thumb Theatre, the show lives up to Alex’s promises of theatricality and putting on a performance. With the venue smaller than some front rooms, he is deep in the throng of the crowd for much of it. Robb, Oli and Henry bounce and collide into each other in a playing space the size of a small rug, while mute keyboardist Ben strolling silently backwards and forth, Sports Team are one of those thrilling bands that you don’t know who to watch the most. Even drummer Al gets into the action, leaving her drum kit mid-set for a quick crowd surf around the room. But it’s Alex of course who leads the crowd.
“Does anyone famous come from Margate?” he asks at one point, the response leading him to announce: “This is a song we wrote about Tracy Emin, it’s called ‘Kutcher’.”
The set feels like it only lasts the briefest of moments, but it packs more excitement into thirty minutes than many festival headliners and leaves the crowd elated and buzzing as they wait for the bus driver to return from his impromptu bingo trip. Their ability to turn the banal and ordinary into something glamorous and exciting is more than enough to get us boarding the Sports Team bus again. Maybe on a slightly cooler day though next time yeah?
Taken from the October issue of Dork. Sports Team’s single ‘Margate’ is out now.
Words: Jamie MacMillan