Interview: Spring Offensive

Alex Yau meets Spring Offensive

Posted on Apr 28th, 2012 in Features and Interviews / By Alex Yau
Interview: Spring Offensive Oxford’s Spring Offensive very kindly invite us to join them in Manchester for dinner on the fourth night of their massive 18 date tour and, as we’re digging into our fish and chips, some very questionable music blasts out of the speakers above us. “I don’t know who this artist is but I’m not sure if they intended their music to be listened to or, if it indeed, sounds better through a little box,” ponders guitarist Matt Cooper. Drummer Pelham Groom adds: “It sounds a bit like Macy Gray but I wouldn’t want to say. That might be a disservice to Macy Gray.” Indeed, the terrible music isn’t the only thing causing confusion. Imagine some odd Walt Disney franchised restaurant and you’d probably be close to picturing where we’re sat tonight. “The walls aren’t even made of brick,” drummer Joe Charlett chuckles.

All smartly dressed, witty and extremely well spoken – Oxford’s Spring Offensive are hardly a band you’d associate with raucous stage violence. Yet rewind a couple of nights back to the Vice Magazine launch show they played in Brighton and you’ll perhaps see a very different story. “That show was very wild,” says Matt. “It was very rowdy and we’re not usually rowdy people ourselves. Someone in the crowd looked up, muttered something and gave me the finger. I would have got into a fight if I wasn’t playing. I don’t know why. Maybe I offended him or maybe he thought I was someone else.” All school friends, minus drummer Joe who joined the band at a later stage, the band jokingly hint at a degree of domestic violence behind closed doors. Matt whispers: “We're such a bunch of wimps because when Joe joined, we thought he was going to kill us. He’s fantastic though and fits in very well.” Drummer Pelham adds: “We’re still scared of him but he’s sitting there so we need to say nice things. He rules the band with an iron fist.” However, nothing that’s been said so far compares to one event from their last European tour. The life of band on the road can be wrought with danger, yet the band wasn’t prepared for what would befall them in Germany. Matt explains: “It was our first time out of the UK. The police stopped us on the way to Munich because they saw we were in a British vehicle and assumed we had drugs, but didn’t believe us when we told them we hadn’t.” It was guitarist Theo Whitworth who almost felt the long arm of the law however…literally. He says: “I was put up against the wall of a van. The guy slapped on a rubber glove and it was all very intense. I think he wanted to put his hand up my arse but didn’t do anything. My honour was preserved.”

Back to the present and so far it hasn’t been quite as heart wrenching as the band will probably tell you, yet there’s still plenty of things for the band to be excited about. Their previous single ‘A Stutter and Start’ gained masses of positive response upon its release and single ‘Worry Fill My Heart,’ which was released just days before this interview, has been met with the same response. “We’ve had support in terms of 6 Music and they’ve been really wonderful,” Matt explains. What about the crowds? “People’s reaction for the single has been wicked. We decided not to do a big hometown show which is what we’ve done before and we wanted to do house parties this time round too because it’s cool to play somewhere you know no other band will play. We offered when we played Truck Store, our local record shop which was full, and we got an overwhelming response. The second house party was absolutely rammed.” So the shows were quite hectic then? “A lot of people say our sets can be quite up and down. Some people don’t like it because it disrupts the flow and some like it because each song is a self-contained story,” says vocalist Lucas Whitworth. So would you say it’s like a rollercoaster? “Rollercoaster’s the right description because it doesn’t say if it’s good or bad. We like to keep it in one direction, not like One Direction the band. Their music’s fucking dire.”

One aspect of the band’s music which makes them so appealing then, is their blunt honesty. ‘Worry Fill My Heart’ for example, deals with the limbo between unemployment and employment and the difficulties which arise from that. Lucas says: “So many of our friends, family and people we meet are stuck in this terrible position – we keep being told that we’re lucky to have a job, but we still need an outlet to escape the monotony. So we sing, or we go to gigs, or we do whatever we need to just to feel engaged.” Rather than force their music to come together though, the band’s natural approach allows each member’s individual ideas to mould together into that Spring Offensive sound. “We can’t help but write honestly. Whatever comes comes. It’s a case that we have a lot of different interests, personalities and tastes and what comes together is quite organic.” Superstitious types, the band avoid one thing when writing music. “Music’s like naming a child but some of the worst songs we’ve written have been named before they’ve been done. We avoid that now“, Matt reveals.

This has translated into the band’s wonderful method of releasing music. ‘A Stutter and a Start’, for example, was released as an eight-page colouring book and was lovingly hand sewn by the band themselves. The physical copies for ‘Worry Fill My Heart’ are no different: this time round - the release is wrapped in a scroll including stunning pictures taken by the band themselves. “A band at our stage has to make it as interesting as possible and we put our own style into it. We want to give a release as much life as we could and we want to give our fans something in return.”

As we watch them play live in the Castle Hotel’s antique walls, it’s easy to see how well the bouncy guitars of ‘Worry Fill My Heart,’ the themes about loss of control in ‘A Stutter and A Start,’ or the ominous moans ‘I Found Myself Smiling’ resonate in such a setting: with a maximum capacity of 100 people, the intimacy is high. There are no stages to separate band from the crowd which is what the band prefer, as Matt explained earlier, “We love playing eye level with people. I’m not a fan of sauntering on stage and I want to be part of the gig. It has to be a shared experience.” The highlight though is ‘Carrier’ where the band goes acapella in the middle of the crowd. A glass breaks and Matt jokingly shouts: “This is what happens when you break the fourth wall, you break other things.” And as the crowd looks on in awe, the band are headed in the right direction should they want to break into bigger places.