Ireland’s music scene is thriving right now.
The 2019 breakthrough of the now-Grammy nominated Fontaines D.C galvanised the nation’s talent hotbed and shone a deserved spotlight on what Dublin and beyond has to offer.
Silverbacks, Pillow Queens, The Murder Capital, Just Mustard, Sinead O’Brien, TV People, Bullet Girl and The Wha are just a few Irish acts justifiably making waves across Europe – and the charge shows no sign of stopping.
Meet Sprints – the fast rising Dublin-based post-punk four-piece who are ready to grab 2021 by the scruff of the neck.
Led by Karla Chubb, they’re a no holds barred proposition; boasting scuzzy, cathartic riffs with hard-hitting lyricism that tackles social issues and personal journeys head-on.
Sprints’ unrelenting, gritty energy is encapsulated in singles The Cheek, Manifesto and Drones – of which the latter two appear on their forthcoming EP Manfesto, released next year.
It’s been produced by Daniel Fox of Girl Band, another act that helped lay the foundations for the new wave of Irish acts to knock on the mainstream’s door.
On his influence, Karla told Daily Star Online: “He brought a great sense of making us look at our sound in more than instrumentation and lyrics.
“He made us look at bringing textures and layers into it, using the size of the room and atmosphere to add more of that anxiety feeling.”
Legendary DJ Steve Lamacq has already praised Sprints on his BBC 6 Music show while BBC Radio 1’s Jack Saunders included them in his Next Wave feature.
And with a string of headline shows across the UK scheduled for April and May next year, it won’t be long until we’re all following Sprints’ own “manifesto”.
Daily Star Online’s Rory McKeown caught up with Karla to talk about Sprints’ career so far, their 2020, the Irish music scene, working with Daniel Fox and their influences.
Hi Karla, how has 2020 been for you? How have you been able to navigate it as a band?
“We’re very fortunate that it’s been very positive. We’ve had a lot of great things happen.
“We’re obviously disappointed that we haven’t been able to play as many gigs as we wanted and that plans have been delayed. Things are moving much slower than we wanted.
“We thought 2020 was going to be the year of playing our first festivals, our EP was going to be out, we’d have five or six songs of our songs on Spotify. We were building a great momentum. But when lockdown hit, it put a halt to all those plans.
“But there have been really amazing things happening behind the scenes that are super important milestones for a band. Joining Nice Swan Records, getting the EP to vinyl press, which is super exciting.
“There are all these little milestones happening over email or Zoom calls, so it’s a bit surreal but I think when you work your whole life towards something but then it’s sign on a PDF. It’s like the climatic moment of it, you expected bottles of champagne and your friends around celebrating. It’s weird but there has been a lot of good stuff happening.”
Have you been forced to adapt to changes being in a band in lockdown?
“First and foremost we’re really good friends and spend a lot of time together. The one thing we noticed over lockdown was we didn’t realise how close we became as friends. We were seeing each other two or three times a week just to rehearse and we were playing gigs. We saw each other more times than we didn’t. We spent our lives together.
“Through that, our experiences of life are very similar. It meant writing was very cohesive and simple. We would go to rehearse and write on the spot. We would jam and see what happens.
“Now not being able to see each other, that whole writing has stopped. Our process had to adapt and change. I’ve never been super into production and Garage Band but myself and Sam, the bassist, have been teaching ourselves. We’ve been writing demos back and forth. Then Jack, the drummer, would have a listen and play over them. Colm, the guitarist, would try and add his bits in as well.
“We’ve been trying to keep creating but we’ve had to adapt the style completely of how we play. I think we’ve played twice this entire year, which is insane.”
For a band like yourselves, the main part of it is being together and playing live together.
“Every single song we write, we write it with the vision of playing it live. That’s the most important thing to us – that solid live performance. Not even about being tight but how we can bring the song to life. It’s about emotion and energy.
“We have this bucket of new tunes out as well with no feedback from the crowd to gauge the direction. That’s so important as well, we really feed off the energy of people. When we play new stuff, people really respond to that. They don’t know the words but they liked it. We can tell. Let’s write make more stuff like that. But now you’re kind of guessing.”
You’ve released your debut EP Manifesto. What was its writing and recording process like?
“We’ve been writing that from December last year up until January. We recorded it and it was finished and locked it away by February and March. We were meant to go into the studio in March to do the first round of mixes and that’s the day Ireland went into its first very strict lockdown. We thought we’d be back in a couple of weeks.
“It’s weird listening back to it now because it was a real snapshot of our life just before Covid. Things are so different now. Even the things we are singing about are a moment in time. It’s weird that you almost have this nostalgia for six months ago when life was totally different.
“We were talking about things like the very bad homeless crisis in Dublin, we’re talking about experiences on nights out, in bars, and with friends, and talking about all the different social changes in Dublin. All of that seems like a different moment time now – it doesn’t even seem like our life anymore.”
What stuff have you been delving into now when writing?
“We’ve been trying to focus on real experience. There are little pockets of time where we’ve had normal life come back. I always try to write about things that people will relate to but are also that are real.
“We’re not writing about Covid. We’re avoiding that as a topic because it’s not that interesting, to be honest.
“We’ve been focusing on a cohesive theme or topic to write about and then developing a couple of songs around those. We have the second EP locked away, to be honest. We were writing really consistently at the start of lockdown. It’s very much focused now, I think, on personal experience, of me being a woman in music.
“There is a lot of anxiety-inducing topics in our music, especially thematically and musically, that really come through. We’re trying to lean into that more, this idea that I don’t want to write about corona being stuck in my room.
“It’s literally trying to capture that feeling of anxiousness. I’m always in a state of existential crisis I say as joke. Like what is the point if I’m a musician or performer, how do I continue to find purpose day to day? If I can’t do that I don’t know when I will be able to do it again. It’s trying to bottle that anxiety, worry and fear and put that into the sound of what we’re trying to work on now.”
Would you say you go within for the lyrics? Would you say that’s the ethos of Sprints?
“Absolutely. I’m quite an introvert. I am quite introspective but I think that when I try to write it’s almost that all the worries and stresses in life are a little weight on you. I feel like if I can write about one of them it’s almost like shaking that bit of weight off.
“The Cheek, it’s very tongue in cheek on purpose – it’s in the name even. It’s very much like getting something off my chest.
“With the current EP, that was very similar. I think we try and not be very preachy in talking about things that are quite serious and political. They are obviously extremely important to us in our lives but it’s always our experience of it. If I can get it down on paper, I feel like there’s a bit of weight off and I’ve managed to process it. Your creative output is therapy essentially.”
You worked with Daniel Fox from Girl Band – what did he bring to the table?
“He’s got the most amazing experience. Whenever we were in the studio talking to him, he would be like ‘we were in the US in the back of the van and this happened’. We’d be sitting there thinking ‘oh my god, I want to be you!’.
“He brought a great sense of making us look at our sound in more than instrumentation and lyrics. He made us look at bringing textures and layers into it, using the size of the room and atmosphere to add more of that anxiety feeling.
“In Drones, he helped us developed that very roomy sense of being alone, but the sound is up and close and tight. He helped us space out as well. Manifesto, our upcoming single, is a super simple song. He managed to help us add these textual layers and give a lot of extra feeling to it.
“He really just helped us. Our next EP will most likely be with him again and it will help us push that sound. We really want it to be a body of work and I think that’s what he helped us do.”
How much have you evolved since getting together?
“We’ve only been together since early 2019. That’s when we first started playing together. Our first gig wasn’t until April 2019. Everything has progressed really quickly. That’s down to Jack, Colm and Sam being in bands before hand. We have a lot of experience individually what we’ve brought together.
“We’ve developed in our influences, pulling them in. Not in very literal terms, but we’re using emotion. We really want to focus on that side of it. How we take feeling and experiences and turn them into something sonically.
“We’re very much leaning into that Bauhaus, Sonic Youth space a little bit more now. Colm is the biggest PJ Harvey fan and so am I, Jack is obsessed with Bauhaus, and Sam’s obsessed with Sonic Youth. I think that makes a lot of sense, particularly with our modern influences like Idles and Just Mustard.
“If we manage to combine them in the new EP, along with the pop sensibilities of LCD Soundsystem, I think we’re in a really good place. That’s the focus now. That’s how we’re developing now, to look at those things and to plan ahead.”
It must be a really exciting time in terms of your development.
“We always want to go fast. Nice Swan are having a hard time pulling us back! We’re like ‘release everything and put it all out there!’. This year for a lot of people feels like everything’s been put on pause and you want to do something. When you look back, we’ve had lots of amazing milestones.
“Because we don’t have live performances right now it’s given us the time to become super anal about the influences and the sound. We’ve never written this way before and this specifically.
“It’s nice because it’s given us an opportunity to see if we can write on purpose instead of whenever it comes to us. It’s been great to have people like Nice Swan on board to help us see the bigger picture.”
You’re part of the Dublin music scene and among a wealth of excellent bands to have emerged from Ireland. What’s the scene like right now and is it an exciting period for Irish music?
“Before lockdown, there was a real sense of a scene. Because of so much happening in the world and so much social and liberal change, I think that births a lot of punk and post-punk. That genre is very much born out of speaking out.
“People like Fontaines D.C. have been so instrumental in terms of breaking that door down even further than bands before them did. Girl Band came before them but they’ve really opened the credibility to bands from Ireland.
“It’s given people like Silverbacks the chance to tour. That will birth a lot of influence. There are bands like Pillow Queens, Bullet Girl, ourselves, TV People, who have all played together. There is a real energy there. It’s a shame lockdown happened because it’s not had a chance to come to fruition that much but it means 2021 is going to be super exciting.
“There are so many bands that make music that’s incredible and I feel like we’re going to stuck for what gigs to go to.”
You must be itching to get back out there?
“We did an online gig a couple of weeks ago when we were allowed out of the house. It was the most amazing experience to play again. We can’t wait to tour. It’s super exciting that it’s the UK as well. We’ve been to London as friends but to go to a lot of the cities as a band and see these new places and play to new crowds, and to see online people are buying tickets, it gives us a lot of confidence and push to go on.”
You’re been championed by the likes of Steve Lamacq and Jack Saunders. What does it mean for you guys?
“It’s a bit surreal. I listen to BBC Radio 6 every day. We put it on when we make our coffee and start work. To have someone like Steve Lamacq say your name is just surreal. Jack Saunders was such a good talk up. There were a couple of times when we could meet up when restrictions allowed us and they are those moments throughout Covid that have really inspired us. They’re tangible experiences.
“I suffer a lot with imposter syndrome, I think any creative does. But I think those little moments give you that credibility to yourself. ‘You’re on to something here, keep going, be confident in it’. It stops those voices in your head going ‘you’re s*** you can’t even play the guitar!’.”
What’s next for Sprints? Do you have an ultimate goal?
“We have goals. There’s a list of targets, like labels we’d love to eventually do our first album with, festivals that are on a bucket list to play.
“Our goal for the next six to 12 months is to get the EP out at the start of next year and then start working on the next EP as soon as possible. We’re itching to get new music. We’ve captured our sound 2.0. We want that down on paper as soon as possible.
“Then to play. We want tour dates to go ahead. If they go ahead, I think that’s a massive achievement. It’s been the dream our whole lives for us. If we can get that go ahead, it’s incredible.”
Sprints’ debut EP Manifesto is out in 2021 via Nice Swan Records
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