With their new album, A Better Life now out in the world, things are getting very busy for Spring King, but luckily we managed to grab them for a chat ahead of headlining the New Music Stage at RiZE festival. Keep reading to find out more about the album and the importance of self-improvement.
The new album, A Better Life is nearly out! How are you feeling? Excited?
Andy: Yeah, it’s feeling really good, can’t wait to get it all out there. I feel like the singles have been well received.
Tarek: We’ve got four songs out and there’s another eight to go, so we’re really excited to get the rest of it out. The fans have been responding so well to the songs that are already out there, I just want them to hear everything now.
What’s the absolute best bit about the album?
James: The artwork
Andy: Oh, I was going to say the end
Tarek: I think the artwork is a really big part of it to be fair, I’d say that’s just as strong as the music. We’re all so proud of the artwork and then sonically, I think the best bit about the album is that we’ve pushed ourselves further than ever before, whereas on the first album we were limited by what we could do. I feel like we were quite ambitious and we got somewhere with it.
And as you said, you’ve already put a few songs out now, so fans are starting to get a vibe of what to expect, but do you think there are still some surprises in there that fans won’t see coming?
Tarek: Yeah, there’s definitely some surprises on this album. There’s a couple slower songs, couple songs that you wouldn’t necessarily expect we’d write, there’s a ballad on there, so yeah there’s a lot of variety on this record, which is cool.
So what did you want to differently this time around? Did you learn anything from the last album that made you want to do things differently?
Tarek: Well we wanted to make sure we all wrote together on this record. Everyone has got songs on the record together, we’ve all contributed and collaborated a lot, we worked on it from start to finish together as well, which was a really cool process. We wanted it to be heavier than before, but also more pop-y as well, so I guess we’ve trimmed the fat a lot on this record and tried to make something that’s the best of every world possible.
And lyrically are there any specific topics or themes you wanted to touch upon? Or did it all just naturally flow out of you?
Andy: I think the album title is quite a good starting point for us, so just that phrase, “A Better Life” – I think Pete came up with it initially and we just talked about what that meant and trying to make the most of the horrific state of the world and trying to put a positive spin on it I suppose.
Tarek: It’s all about self-improvement as well and coming to head with challenges. I guess the way we write lyrics are quite, like, they could translate to loads of different people’s emotions and hopefully people can connect with them depending on what they’re going through. It’s all about reaching this better place, getting through the storms and coming out on the other side.
When you’re writing and recording the songs, do you ever take into account how they’re going to sound live and how you’ll perform them?
Tarek: No, it’s kind of weird because when we start to learn the songs, because we write in the studio, we write the songs on a computer, we don’t rehearse them in a room and then go and record them – for this record anyway, maybe in the future we will. What that means is, when it comes to actually playing the songs, you have to re-learn them after the studio process, but that’s great because they’re two separate experiences, but they definitely have a mutual ground, which is the energy. The live performance is all about energy and as long as we get that across in the studio, we don’t mind what else we do around that, we’ll do whatever we want – strings, saxophones, synthesizers.
Andy: I mean, we have REALLY massively shot ourselves in the foot, big time with some of the songs.
So next time we see you, you’ll be an eight-piece live band?
Tarek: We might have to be
James: I would like to be! That’s the dream.
Now, the musical landscape has changed quite a lot and urban music is very much at the forefront right now, have you found any challenges being more of a guitar band? Have you found that the change has affected you or are you just pushing through doing what you do?
James: I mean, we’re on BBC Radio One all the time, we’re on BBC 6 Music all the time, there’s plenty of space for guitar music. I think it’s just that grime is the most popular stuff right now, which is great, but I don’t feel like rock is dying or anything, there’s loads of big festivals, there’s loads of radio play, inches in the columns of magazines and stuff, so for us it doesn’t really affect us.
If there’s one thing you’d change about the industry, what would it be?
Andy: Oh god
James: Where to begin. I don’t know maybe something along the lines of social media and using it as a tool to present artists as like products and stuff, it’s pretty distasteful. I don’t think that’s the worst thing, though. It’s just one of those things that affects people’s perception of music and you can have a big Instagram following and therefore that makes you a big artist, even if your music isn’t the best.
Andy: My head is just like a wasp’s nest
James: I think there’s a lot of pressure on bands, and speaking specifically about bands, you’ve got to make it pretty big on your first record pretty quickly, because there are only a handful of labels that really sign you. Once you get signed, if you don’t sell quite a lot of records early on in your career then you’re probably not going to get the opportunity to do that again, unless you’re very lucky. I think there’s just too much pressure on bands, when they’re too young, they need more of a development process.
Andy: It depends on what your aims are as well though
Tarek: I believe it was Shakespeare who said, “If you don’t sell, you will go to hell”
Andy: To sell out or not to sell out… always sell out
Haha, amazing. You’ve got the headline tour kicking off soon as well, are you nervous to get the new songs out there, live and in front of everyone?
Tarek: More excited. I’m nervous to get them right, I want the fans to hear them at their best, but you can’t control that all the time.
We think you’ll be fine.
Andy: You haven’t been in our rehearsal room
Tarek: It is exciting though
Andy: Oh yeah it’s gonna be great, especially some of them are gonna be really nice and we’ve been doing the same set list for a year and a half
Tarek: For the last 15 years
Andy: Yeah for the last 15 years, I’ve known you for five but it’s been the same set for 15 years haha. It’s nice for us to change things up a bit and hopefully step it up a little bit as well.
And what advice would you give to aspiring bands?
Tarek: Play a lot of shows, build up a following organically, dabble in social media
James: But don’t rely on it, just play gigs and practice writing songs. Just write good songs and play well and try and enjoy yourself.
Tarek: I believe it was Shakespeare who said, “Play songs well and the socials shall follow”
James: That’s pretty much it!
Tarek: We live by those quotes
Finally then, why should everyone go and pick up the album?
Tarek: Why? Um, because we’re really proud of it. If you enjoyed what we’ve done in the past, then we’re even more proud of this than ever, so you will love this… we hope. And, buy it because it’s great to support music, instead of torrenting it all the time
Andy: And also I’ve got a massive, massive whole in the pocket of these trousers, so I could really do with some fresh trousers, that would really sort me out personally.
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