Sports Team’s 2020 debut, Deep Down Happy, revealed a band with a knack for channeling their whirlwind existence into exuberant, ramshackle indie-rock anthems. Their urgent sing-alongs documented youthful escapades and tales of suburbia, wry observations of ring-road Britain that chimed with the London-based six-piece’s diehard fanbase. When it came to writing the follow-up, though, lockdown had put a pause on the band’s social shenanigans, and guitarist and songwriter Rob Knaggs found himself reflecting on matters closer to home. “It was an exploration of ourselves and our relationships because that was all we had in front of us,” Knaggs tells Apple Music. The band was living together in a rented house in Camberwell, South London, when they should have been on tour. Things got a little fraught, he says, and that has been funneled into Gulp!, an exhilarating second record that hones the sharp melodies of their debut without losing any of their frayed, frantic edge. “On your second record, you can’t really pretend you’re living a normal life anymore,” adds singer Alex Rice. “We’re a professional band. We tour the world together, so it’s trying to tap into these more universal and human experiences that people have, and the starkest one that we had was how closely forced together we have been living.” It’s a tension that lends Gulp! a sense of defiance and triumph, a thrilling statement from one of the UK’s most exciting guitar bands. Rice and Knaggs talk us through it, track by track. “The Game” Rob Knaggs: “Lyrically, this is probably the closest bridge between the first album and the second, so it felt like it made sense as the opening song. It’s about suburbia and that mentality—how you can fall into just focusing on yourself and your individual problems, staying out of trouble and keeping your head down, and then realizing that everything’s gone past you. I was listening to a lot of UK pub rock, like Eddie & The Hot Rods and all those proto-punk groups. Sometimes it’s really enjoyable to play E, G, and A really fast in a row and just yell stuff.” “Dig!” RK: “This was probably the first one we did in the house in Camberwell, writing about that phase where we were all living together on top of each other and didn’t really have anything to do apart from sit about and drink and argue with each other for about 12 hours in a day. I think it’s a mantra about that process of constantly repeating the same mistakes again and again and again because there’s not really anything else to do—and it feels like the more you’re slowly fucking up, the easier it is to just carry on digging.” “The Drop” RK: “For this one, I was reading about tang ping, that massive movement in China where they’re all completely giving up on that social contract and going, ‘You know what? I’m not going to sit here and destroy my life and all my relationships for this promise of a future that’s a 1980s dream of a capitalistic, cynical world.’ That was the starting point, that sense of ‘Keep your head down, work hard, and you’ll get all these things.’” “Cool It Kid” RK: “I love bands like Pavement and the ’90s slacker thing, and I really wanted to have one song on the record that feels like it touches on those things. It’s probably the most positive song on the record in a way, saying, ‘When it feels like things are getting worse, sometimes just don’t answer, bite your tongue for a little bit, and don’t have a huge go at your bandmate because they’ve taken up your half of the fridge shelf.’” “Unstuck” RK: “This was written in a period when we’d moved out of Camberwell. I don’t know at what point in lockdown that would’ve been, but I was sat at home in my bedroom, and I got a little four-track recorder and was just trying to record things like Guided By Voices—just not necessarily overthinking songs from getting a lot of things down and write a lot of sketches. I think this was one of the ones that just ended up sticking around, and then when we played it together it felt very natural.” “R Entertainment” Alex Rice: “This is about that thing where you try and draw a lot of meaning in your life, where cathartic moments often get reduced to the same platform as stuff that’s just meant to be very blunt entertainment in a way, that sense that nothing’s holy anymore.” RK: “Two hundred years ago, you probably came across one or two narratives a day. You’d go to church, and you’d hear the Bible, and then you’d have whatever sort of stories floating around. But now, you go on your phone and there’s about 50,000 things you’re looking at. It’s this endless mash of narratives that makes it very hard to experience anything apart from the really basic like, ‘I’m happy’ or ‘I’m sad.’” “Kool Aid” RK: “This is a song about conspiracy theories and the appeal of buying into a very simple narrative where everything would be solved if the lizard people weren’t screwing you somehow.” AR: “Sometimes it’s easier to drink the Kool-Aid!” RK: “It’s saying it’s much easier to believe that it’s this one cabal causing problems than to realize that actually the world is just chaotic and divided, and there is no reason, and there is no God making things happen, and there is no big lizard person who’s causing things to fuck up, and there’s no single solution to the issues. It’s just that things are fucked.” “Getting Better” RK: “This is probably both the most optimistic and pessimistic song on the album. There’s something cathartic about that nihilism where, at the end of the day, the one thing you can bet on and guarantee is that you’re going to die at some point. And, in a way, that’s something you need to have in your head to give life meaning and to not wind up wasting all your time at the gym or whatever it is.” “Fingers (Taken Off)” AR: “This was originally about the tweets we’d get every time we got on a playlist on a radio station, from the nice man on the internet, dad, lover-not-a-fighter type who’d be like, ‘I’ve heard this track 50 times today. They need their fingers taken off.’ But then the verses developed a bit more.” RK: “It’s the extreme language, when you don’t like something, so you’re asking someone’s fingers to be cut off so they can’t write ever again.” “Light Industry” RK: “We recorded it in a room, and it’s probably the only track we pretty much fully tracked live with very few overdubs. Lyrically, I guess it’s a bit like The Replacements song ‘Swingin Party,’ where some of the lyrics make sense, but a lot of it just feels like it sets a mood. It had a meaning when we wrote it, but I think it’s more the feel than the literal lyrics in this one. A lot of the record is quite direct lyrically, or quite specific and fast-paced and closed off in a sense. Rather than close it with a song that really felt like it did a big trumpet fanfare and can-can and bow, it felt nice to close it with something quite open-ended.”

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