Spring King are a four-piece garage-infused, indie-rock band from Manchester, who are on their way to the top at record pace. On Thursday evening, the band took to the stage at the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham to a cool crowd of bearded blokes and doughy-eyed girls. The band excitedly performed tracks including ‘Better Man’, ‘Who Are You’, as well as a Grimes cover. Vocally, the band were effortlessly cool but controlled, shown by the tight layering of voices in tracks ‘Can I’ and ‘City’.
To say the band put every ounce of energy they had into performing would be an offensive understatement. Lead vocalist and drummer Tarek Musa admitted he was ‘exhausted’ half way through the show, and understandably so. The band were a picture of sweat and energy from the beginning to the end of every song, clearly revelling in the moment. Humbled by the response, the band shared glances of appreciation after noticing the group of lads in the audience who knew every lyric to every song. After the gig, the band came off the stage elated into an adoring crowd eager to shake their hands and sing their praises. I got to chat to Tarek, James, Peter, and Andy before the show.
How is the tour going?
Peter: Very well! The first two dates we played Glasgow and we played Newcastle and both of the shows were really good. Really crazy crowds and good energy from everybody.
Tarek: Yeah Pete and James had a little crowdsurf two nights in a row.
James: It was my first time crowdsurfing, I was a bit shaken frankly. It’s a bit high, and the ceiling was like here.
Tarek: I feel like I’ve already given all my energy in the first two days, because when we play we just give it literally everything we’ve got.
So tonight might be a quieter one?
Tarek: No, oh no!
Peter: We’re cancelling the show actually.
Tarek: I’m slowly snacking and getting ready for it.
To people that haven’t heard the band before, how would you describe your sound?
Tarek: I’d say it’s like catchy, pop melodies but with a garage undertone. We try and keep it heavy but we also try to keep it a bit catchy as well. Just high energy, really intense as well.
So how did you guys get together?
Tarek: I met Pete when I was in high school, and then I met Andy at the skatepark a couple of years after that, and then we all met James on Facebook basically. We needed a bass player and James didn’t actually play bass at the time.
Peter: But anybody can play bass.
James: I see how it is.
Who’s idea was it to start the band?
Tarek: Well it started out as a solo thing for me and a bit of fun, and then Pete got involved and then Andy and then James.
Peter: We’ve all been playing in bands since we were really young, but the songs that Tarek had written at the time just felt good enough to form a band. It was pretty quick as well and pretty natural – we started playing shows a month after we’d started rehearsing.
Was there a breakthrough moment?
Andy: I don’t think we’ve ever got that. We just kept going and going and going.
Tarek: Yeah we just keep going. I don’t mean to be pessimistic but any day it could just – you never know. You just have to enjoy everything for what it is, and we’ve had so many lucky breaks and there’s so much talent out there. For instance, the Zane Lowe thing – he chose our song to be played first on Beats 1, and he could have chose anything. There’s so much great music out there and it’s a privilege to be part of it but also kind of scary because tomorrow no one might hear your stuff.
Peter: I’ve always believed in the songs, so I think that’s the most important thing. I could never really guess how well it would go, but I always felt like the songs were strong. Over a period of just touring and working at it, hard work pays off eventually.
James: The most successful bands are the ones that are willing to slog at it for the longest – it’s quite easy to be disheartened about it, or if you’re broke or if things are tough, but if you stick at it then chances are you’ll do it. It also depends what you mean by succeed.
Tarek: It’s still quite early days for us but we’ve had such a good run, so we just want to keep going. Touch wood it will always be like this.
Who have been your biggest influences in songwriting?
Tarek: I’d say Brian Wilson. I think he’s really good at writing pop music but with a really experimental twist. All the later Beach Boys stuff is quite experimental but then he uses such interesting chords. I’ve always tried to up my songwriting skills like him but it’s just impossible because he’s a genius.
James: I always think Lou Reed. That album completely revolutionised the way I looked at songs in general, it’s pretty close to perfect.
It is just one of you who does the songwriting?
Tarek: Most of the songs I’ve written, but then I literally put them on the table and then everyone does whatever they want to them – just play a part that you think fits and do you thing.
So it’s normally the lyrics that come first?
Tarek: Lyrics are always at the end for me. Sometimes I’ll have a chorus, but most of the time the lyrics come right at the end once the instrumentation is fulfilled.
Do you still get nervous before shows?
Andy: I think you just get more used to it rather than not getting nervous anymore. You get used to the feeling and get on with it. I think you need a little bit of nerves to play anyway. You need the adrenaline in order to want to do it. You can always tell it’s not going to be a good gig if you’re not nervous whatsoever.
Peter: I think if you’re getting nerves it means that you care, so it’s a good thing.
Tarek: I head Adele gets really nervous to the point where she’s being sick. It’s really amazing that someone so big can be still so nervous after years of playing shows.
James: Not for her. I’m sure she’s human.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Peter: We have some vocal warm-ups that we do.
Tarek: Andy and James have some stretches.
James: There’s a lot of jumping around and you never know what’s going to happen. I don’t want to tear my quad or anything like that.
Tarek: You never know if Pete’s going to jump off a speaker or someone’s going to be crowdsurfing. We prepare for everything and get warmed up properly. We learnt the hard way, especially me, I was singing without warming up and lost my voice within a couple of days of the tour, so now I take it a bit more seriously.
What’s your favourite gig memory?
Andy: MIDI (festival) is probably up there. We played on top of this mountain. It was in this mansion that used to be an art deco villa in the South of France. So as you’re stood on top of this stage and looking out at the view – and we played in the evening so the sun was setting – we’re just playing this lovely set and the sun’s setting and it was incredible.
James: It was also the first time we played an old song called ‘My Sleeves’ which we don’t normally play, and Pete’s dad normally plays saxophone, but Andy did a guitar solo that nearly made me cry.
And any bad gig memories?
Peter: Plenty of those, yeah. We don’t really think about those.
Is it different playing a hometown gig in Manchester?
Tarek: This is going to be our first headliner in a while in Manchester, and the last few were always packed but this one is sold out. It’s always exciting – it feels like the whole country is even grounds for me. I respect everyone who comes to every show, so it’s just as special as any other show.
What’s coming up for Spring King?
Peter: We had a new single come out today, called ‘Rectifier’ that was Annie Mac’s hottest record. Then we have a tour with Kaiser Chiefs coming up in July, and we’re supporting Wolf Alice in London at the Forum.
Tarek: Doing The Great Escape, and then hopefully at some point this year put out an album. That’d be sick.
Listen to Spring King’s new single ‘Rectifier’ here: https://soundcloud.com/springking/rectifier