Sports Team on the Hyundai Mercury Prize: “If we win £25k, it’s going behind the bar”

Watch the London band talk haters, class, fans, the Pete Doherty breakfast challenge, the #MercuryPrize and why album two is closer than you might think.

“I think we’ll just stick it behind the bar,” Sports Team frontman Alex Rice tells NME of their plans for a potential celebration if they were to win this week’s Hyundai Mercury Prize £25,000 cash reward. “I always remember Wolf Alice when they won, they went to the Hawley Arms and celebrated there. Their award might even still be there. But we’ll just put it on a bar tab.”

While wild celebrations might be planned, Sports Team won’t be able to celebrate for too long if victory comes their way – with Rice revealing that they’re heading into the studio to record their second album next month.

“I think you’ve gotta get them out quick, young kids are fickle you know?,” he said. “So you’ve gotta just keep releasing stuff or you’re not interesting anymore. And I think it is just a chance to flesh out a lot of the ideas that are there and be quite explicit about what you’re talking about.”


The London band are nominated for the coveted award with their acclaimed album ‘Deep Down Happy‘, but face stiff competition from the likes of Michael Kiwanuka, Porridge Radio, Stormzy and Dua Lipa. NME caught up with Rice to find out what the nomination means and what their future holds. Watch our video interview above, and read it below.

Sports Team
Sports Team (Picture: Lauren Maccabee / Press)

‘Deep Down Happy’ is up for the Mercury Prize. To do that it with your debut is quite something isn’t it?”

“Yeah I think so, I think we’re quite giddy about the whole thing. I think we knew that it had had that commercial success with the chart position [narrowly being beaten to Number One by Lady Gaga] and then it just made a huge difference because it feels like sort of acceptance from your peers I think, having a Mercury nomination. It’s nice getting the debut up there as well because I think a debut is something that’s quite a different appeal, it’s supposed to be scrappy and flawed and a bit unfinished but just energetic like right from the start.”

Why do you think that fans have latched on to ‘Deep Down Happy’ in the way that they have?

“I think all our fans are kind of young and a lot of it gets at that kind of angst that a lot of people have, especially when they move to a city to fulfil their dreams or do what they think they’re supposed to be doing. Our fans are pretty unique in the sense that they’re not really like fans in a way too, they’re just people that have wound up in the band. We’ve always been quite keen to show that we’re not kind of like these rockstars or heroes or anything like that. They all know us as these kind of deeply flawed characters.”

It seems weird that the winner will be announced on The One Show too….

“It will definitely lessen it. Having those kind of live shows on the night where groups of artists from different genres can meet would have been the whole appeal of it. I would have loved to have met Stormzy, there are so many great acts on there like Dua Lipa. It would have been incredible.”

There have been critics of ‘Deep Down Happy’ too, who have criticised your background and volleyed accusations of class privilege at you. Does this nomination feel like the perfect response to that?


“To be honest it’s only been one guy who seems to really hate us but I think they can write whatever they want about us. The funny thing when we talk about background is that there are obviously six of us in the band and everyone is genuinely from very very mixed backgrounds and from completely different parts of the country. I think you’d maybe get a different impression if you were to sort of really dig into it of what kind of backgrounds we’re all from.”

So it doesn’t bother you?

“It doesn’t really bother us, I think all our fans kind of know us as flawed characters and I think we’re always on the right side of that sort of class debate at least. If you listen to the lyrics of the songs, it is kind of coming from this condemning place.”

Sports Team – Credit: Getty

What can you tell us about the follow-up to ‘Deep Down Happy’ then?

“We’ve finished it, we’re recording it in October. Hopefully it won’t be indulgent, because I know a lot of bands do that on the second album. When you find yourself in this place where you’re living out all your dreams, you’re still comparing yourself to other people that have done it as well, so you get more of a sense of your place the wider context of music. I think it’s a bit darker and it’s a bit more reflective.”

Are there any bands that perhaps didn’t get the nod that you reckon could have been up for the Mercury?

“I thought Sorry were gonna be on it, I think that album’s unbelievable like they will
always be kind of our favourite band I think. Who else can I think of, Working Mens Club I
don’t know if they put theirs out within the window, I think that’s a great album. The Sorry
one was the big one I think they missed, I think it’s a great shortlist though, it’s really

Due to coronavirus restrictions, the winner of the coveted prize will be announced on The One Show on BBC One on September 24, after a week of programming that will also include a special of Later… With Jools Holland featuring performances from all nominees.

Check back at NME for more interviews with the nominated artists.