From the very beginning, Sports Team have confounded expectations. Putting on gigs that seemed foolishly out of their reach when they had just the one EP to their name (before going on to sell those shows out against all the odds), their journey thus far has been a gloriously messy trip of seemingly stupid decisions, underdog heroism and pure passion, filling a gap in the lives of many bored and disenfranchised indie fans. On Sports Team’s debut album ‘Deep Down Happy’, this phase appears to be over — this is the sound of a band who are done being the underdogs.
These 12 tracks are a furious, funny flag in the ground from a band who make absolutely no bones about who they are. “I wanna be a lawyer, or someone who hunts foxes,” they wink on opener ‘Lander’, reeling off a list of the kind of unfashionable middle-class British towns they hail from. On recent single ‘Here’s The Thing’ they take the form of a conservative character laying out his flawed manifesto, before labelling it all “lies, lies, lies”.
“Everyone thinks you need to act like a downtrodden band,” frontman Alex Rice told NME last year as he addressed the criticism the band have received for wearing their middle-class upbringing and privilege on their sleeves. Across ‘Deep Down Happy’ Sports Team accept and acknowledge these undeniable facts, while also biting back at those they grew up amongst and were told they looked and sounded like, cathartically turning them into caricatures and figures of ridicule.
Sports Team’s raucous and chaotic live show is vital to their makeup as a band, and the tracks on ‘Deep Down Happy’ feel custom-made to jump around to in a mosh pit after three pints. Singles ‘Fishing’ and ‘Here It Comes Again’ are the anthemic, unchained sound of a band aiming for the very top.
You can find Rice and his sidekick Rob Knaggs either charmingly or irritatingly gobby, and the joy lies in the tribalism that’s inherent to Sports Team’s approach. After a listen of ‘Deep Down Happy’, you’re left in absolutely no doubt as to what the six-piece stand against — what they stand for and actually do enjoy could be given a bit more airtime on album two, though — and this unabashed straightforwardness and refusal to bend makes them a unique prospect.
As the band have said repeatedly in interviews, they want liking Sports Team to be a statement of intent. They’ll get as much hate as they will adoration: you’re either with them or you’re not. Whichever side you come down on, having the singer of an indie band in 2020 sincerely saying he wants to play Knebworth feels like a refreshing shot in the arm for a genre whose mission statement has been “we make music for ourselves – if anyone else likes it, that’s a bonus” for over a decade. Across ‘Deep Down Happy’, Sports Team show they’ve got the tunes to begin that journey in earnest.
- Release date: June 5
- Record label: Island Records