Spring King are one of the UK’s most exciting new bands, no question. But it’s not in their nature to take the easy route. From a bathroom-based de facto studio to their superb debut album ‘Tell Me If You Like To’, their story is a victory for any band plugging away endlessly in the hope of one day achieving their dreams.
In summer 2012 and with his parents away, Tarek began to write songs as Spring King. He had the entire house to himself. “I felt like this was the most honest way to go. I was obsessed. I woke up and I wanted to write music.” Eventually, best mate Pete Darlington told Tarek to put these songs in motion. They hastily formed a band and booked a show without having a drummer – hence why Tarek took on the double-duty. Shortly after, they asked guitarist Andrew Morton to join. Bassist James Green replied to a Facebook ad Tarek put out. He couldn’t play bass, but he purchased one on Gumtree, as you do.
As a settled four-piece, Spring King have racked up close to two hundred shows, some game-changing moments. Their first stateside trips to CMJ in 2014 and SXSW in 2015 playing the BBC Introducing showcase – marking the band out as British talent capable of taking the transatlantic jump. The summer prior, BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens picked them to play a slot on his Lake Stage at Latitude Festival. Plus tours with some of the country’s biggest names – from Wolf Alice to Slaves – gave them a platform to launch from.
While on the road, DJs like Zane Lowe, BBC Radio 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq and Triple J’s Zan Rowe have fallen for the group’s in-your-face, enlivened force. They’ve been press darlings from the start, too. NME and DIY have been loyal fans, while The Guardian, Stereogum and The Line of Best Fit have also tracked their journey.
In terms of live shows, they cite last year’s tour with Courtney Barnett as a defining moment. For one, it was the first time they’d played to so many people. And it’s where Spring King began to develop their insane, eye-catching live presence. All of a sudden, they had room on stage. Tarek found himself at the back of giant rooms, which led to the maniacal, in-your-face showmanship Pete, James and Andy collectively sport. “They knew that at the front, they had to take over,” says Tarek.
Then, in June 2015, the band’s fortunes were given a huge boost.
Zane Lowe opened his first ever Beats 1 show on Apple Music with ‘City’, a raucous call to arms fully capable of starting a new era. Zane’s love of ‘City’ was already proudly declared in his BBC Radio 1 days. The song followed him from London to LA, without pause. But this time, millions were listening in. Tech-heads, Apple enthusiasts and the entire music industry were waiting for this first play, and to Spring King’s shock, it was their latest single that opened the station’s doors. In four bizarre and unexpected minutes, the band’s status was transformed. Publications like Wired, Billboard and USA Today suddenly wanted their say. A&Rs flocked in their droves. Fence-sitters who didn’t stake their claim or even have a concrete opinion – began to turn their heads, too. Years of hard work paid off in a crazy moment that barely any other new band will ever experience. Spring King were suddenly everyone’s business.
Zane’s game-changing Beats 1 play was coupled with shows at Reading & Leeds – two experiences Tarek describes as a “headfuck.” Label offers flocked and eventually, in late 2015, they settled on Island Records, a major who wanted the band to retain their creative control. “Spring King started as a self-sufficient thing and we always want it to be like that. It came down to the label that’d give us more control over the album.”
‘Tell Me If You Like To’ captures the chaos and rollercoaster turns of Spring King’s previous few years. It possesses the same 100mph, blink-and-you-missed-it spirit as debut track ‘Let’s Ride’, coupled with moments of stark clarity. ‘The Summer’ is a homage to heroes The Beach Boys and a dead cert go-to anthem for 2016. ‘Rectifier’ and ‘Demons’ wrestle with fear and paranoia. ‘Who Are You?’ is the blistering garage rock sister track to ‘City.’
But throughout, these emotionally twisted songs are ready to be embraced by thousands. These are party songs with a melancholic edge, Tarek citing an amped-up Arcade Fire or Lykke Li’s ‘I Follow Rivers’ as influence. “It’s so dark. But everyone’s partying to it,” is the motto. He vividly remembers summertime as a teen, guitar songs blaring out of car stereos and soundtracking the reckless parties he’d host in his empty house. “We want this record to be that moment in other people’s lives.”
Spring King have never been a band with a grand multi-year plan. And this only goes to further emphasise the crazy journey that’s just taken place. The story is reflected in the video for recent single ‘Rectifier’, which lifts a lid on the last few years. Tarek starts drumming in an empty, deep-black room, before being joined by Pete. Those are the early days. This room then transforms into a studio, James and Andy getting involved – the formation of a proper band. The studio then morphs into a full capacity venue, all flailing arms and crazed fans – a fixture of Spring King’s current rise. It’s a neat, timely summary of everything that’s happened up to now.
The only time these four have ever been properly settled – and not on the road whisked elsewhere – was when they stepped into The Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire, to record the debut. Like being given keys to the city, a new wave of inspiration allowed them to complete this remarkable record within weeks. “There wasn’t any harm in just going for it.” And in this statement, they sum up the mantra that’s already taken them this far. No reservations, they’ve taken every opportunity that’s come their way. The odds are on their side. The next step is anyone’s guess.