Spring King have been climbing the rungs of the buzz band ladder for some time now, but it wasn’t until July of last year when Zane Lowe launched his Beats 1 station with their track ‘City’ – much to the band and the world’s surprise – that they ascended towards the more dizzying heights. The second half of 2015 saw the Mancunian foursome – purveyors of some of the most scintillating hooks of any new guitar band in the country – experience a surge in recognition and popularity, capping the year off with the ultimate Christmas present: a deal with Island Records.
“I was always a bit scared about going on a major label,” admits band chief Tarek Musa, “but they’re actually very flexible and they’re just leaving us to do our own thing.” Here’s hoping that remains the case, because Spring King have so far flourished by being able to do just that.
A first record deal feels like it’s been a while coming, and it’s down in no small part to the touring opportunities they’ve enjoyed, mainly as a support band. “It’s just such a great opportunity; there’s no better way to get yourself out there than by playing shows,” says bassist James Green. “I mean, the first one we did was the Courtney Barnett tour [last] March, every night was sold out, so we were playing to between 500 and 1,000 people every night. The Slaves tour [late last year and early this year] was between 1 and 2,000 people in the UK every night; there’s no way you’re going to get that kind of exposure any other way. I think that’s really helped us.”
Guitarist Pete Darlington agrees. “I think everyone has their own approach of doing this but I think the live thing for us is very key, ‘cause people get the band I think a little better when they see us live. The Zane Lowe thing was crazy, but it all adds up. You’ve got to push in every direction; it’s not one thing in particular.”
Integral to the development of any new band, and where the money is in this musical day and age, touring is something that’s simply got to be done – but Spring King aren’t going to let it get in the way of them reaching another major milestone in 2016. “We want to get the album out this year,” states Tarek. “It’s about time!” His bandmates laugh; it’s clear they’re all in agreement here.
When it does arrive, Spring King’s debut LP will become the sixth release in their catalogue. The previous limited run 7-inches and EPs have already become sought after items, and it appears it’s all still a bit hard for Tarek to get his head around. “It’s just weird,” he says. “For me, I’m just not that confident, so when people give us a good response I’m like ‘Ah, that’s amazing’, you know?”
I’m just not that confident, so when people give us a good response I’m like ‘Ah, that’s amazing’
It’s been two years now since they dropped their debut single ‘Mumma’, and there’s time to reflect just how far they’ve come since then. “I think our biggest paying show was was just covering expenses at that time,” says Tarek. “at the end of last year it was at least triple what we’d been doing back then,” continues other guitarist Andy Morton. Since that first single back in early 2014, the ever-smiling Mr Musa has been at the helm of Spring King’s rise, in his less than orthodox position as a drumming frontman. But it hasn’t always been that way, as he explains.
“I used to play the guitar in Spring King,” he starts. “Then our drummer left and we couldn’t find another drummer. All the original recordings and stuff, I was playing everything anyway, so Pete was like ‘Why don’t you just play the drums?’” Pete is quick to point out that such a move wasn’t “a big statement decision” and rather just “the way it [would] sound best.” It’s worked out pretty well, hasn’t it?
Of course, to many of their most devoted fans, Spring King have long since been a familiar name, but those fans might not know the name of the band is Tarek Musa. “At uni and I was working in the music department,” begins the story, “and whenever I did a load of new mixes, I used to use a lot of spring reverb on them ‘cause I loved the 60s sound at the time.” You see where this is going? “So one of my mates called me the Spring King.” Voilà!
He’s also the man behind the @springkingband Twitter handle, and he sees no reason why he shouldn’t be active and engaging with fans as much as possible. “As a person, I wouldn’t ignore people on Twitter if I had my own account, so why would I ignore them if I was in a band? That’s the way I see it. They’re still human beings; we’re all just people who love music together.”
Nor do the rest of the band believe that artists ‘run out of time’ for social media interaction once they reach a certain level of fame, as Pete argues. “Grimes, for example: she’s massive and she communicates with her fans all the time – I do think it’s a choice. It’s whether or not you see that as a part of your presentation, and I think for us it’s important to speak to our fans. I mean, we’re sat in a van a lot of the time, we’ve got phones. It’s not exactly difficult.”
If Tarek gets his way, Spring King will be spending a lot more time in the van this year as they play “as many shows as possible.” Their next two in London are no low key affairs either. They provide main support for Wolf Alice at the Forum at Easter, before the biggest headline show of their lives at Scala in May. The way they’re heading though, it won’t be their biggest for long. Greatness awaits.
Live: Scala – May 26th