The Spook School have been delighting the initiated for years now, but with the release of their third album and some major touring duties under their belts – including a slot at this year’s Handmade Festival – they’re showing signs of breaking through in to the wider public consciousness. Great Central caught up with the Adam, Nye, Niall and Anna as they began a six-week US tour.
“Musically, we’re still doing our best to write fun, brash, noisy guitar pop songs, hopefully with some pretty points in the right places.”
“We recorded it a wee while back with MJ from Hookworms at Suburban Home studios in Leeds” explains Adam of their new record Could it be different. This record is a lot more introspective than our previous work. We still touch on topics that I guess we’ve become known for; navigating life as young(ish) queer people, worries about personal relationships and wider political goings on. But itís definitely through a more personal lens than the broader, societal way we approached topics on our previous record. Musically, we’re still doing our best to write fun, brash, noisy guitar pop songs, hopefully with some pretty points in the right places. We’re having a great time playing these songs live!”
Playing the songs live is what they have being doing rather a lot of lately. Having recently guided Brooklynites Diet Cig around Europe, they’re now off on the return leg to North America on a mammoth tour with them. It’s over a month long and takes them all around the US and Canada. “Weíre currently almost a week into the tour.” continues Adam. “We’re very busy, and the shows have all been amazing so far, but it is COLD!! I didn’t bring very sensible footwear or very thick socks, so at the moment I’m just looking forward to playing the show each night so I can warm my feet up on the stage lights and get the feeling back in them for a wee bit. We’re really looking forward to the west coast. We’ve only ever done stuff on the east coast before, so it’ll be our first time over there and we’re very excited to see some sights if we can like a visit to the Castro in San Francisco. Also, I heard it’s warmer over there.”
“we’ll always be vocal about trying to ensure that shows we play are welcoming for everyone.”
Touring the states as a band that identifies with the queer pop tag at a time when the country is very polarised inevitably invites the question of whether any Trump discussion points will be raised – especially considering his attitude to trans people? Nye picks up this point. “It would come as no surprise to anyone that we don’t count ourselves amongst Trumps admirers but I think we also have to be aware that we’re coming to another country and while we can express sympathy/understanding with people that come to shows we wouldn’t want to pretend that we are experts on US politics. I feel like if an American band were to come over to Scotland and started to lecture the audience about Scottish independence or something like that, however well-meaning they might be, it wouldn’t come across well. There are some things that we can do (for example, requesting gender neutral bathrooms at shows) that illustrate our stance on particular issues, and we’ll always be vocal about trying to ensure that shows we play are welcoming for everyone.”
The Spook School’s live shows usually end up with everyone smiling, laughing and dancing – but is the fun element of the show always present or do they ever think ‘you know what, I can’t be bothered tonight’? “There’s always a fun element.” Niall tells us. “There are certainly times when you might feel tired before a show but if you’ve been cooped up in a van driving all day the adrenaline and release valve that the live shows provides is so enjoyable. I always feel energised when I see a crowd and the realisation that they’ve chosen to spend their evening with us makes me want to raise the bar and give them our energy back in kind.”
‘Try To Be Hopeful’ is a song that seems to resonate with the crowd in a particularly special way. “We have absolutely no idea what people are going to think of our music after we write it” Adam tells us. “I think we all manage to convince ourselves that it might be terrible, so it’s always a big surprise when people connect emotionally with our songs. It really means a lot to us.”
In early May the band head to Leicester to play this year’s Handmade Festival, following a number of Leicester shows – notably multiple appearances at the annual Leicester Indiepop Alldayer. Do they have fond memories of the event? ‘Of course!’ Niall states. ‘The Firebug has always been kind to us and the bills the Alldayer puts together end up being a who’s who of our friends. It’s so warm and lovely and then getting to jump around the stage for them is always a pleasure – Leicester has always been lovely to us!’
The band have been forced to change label for this record after their old home Fortuna Pop! announced they would be closing their doors. “It was a bit strange when we heard Fortuna Pop! would be no more because Sean has been such a massive positive force for us since so early in the band and the label was such a lovely collection of like-minded artists that we were proud to be associated with” explains Nye. “But we were also happy that Sean gets to go and do other fun things now, and what we’re realising is that none of the lovely relationships we formed during our Fortuna Pop! days are lost – we just get to add more lovely people into our lives now through working with both Alcopop and Slumberland. Both Jack at Alcopop and Mike at Slumberland have been so helpful and brilliant throughout the recording and release of this album, and we owe both of them and everyone else involved in both labels/press a massive debt of gratitude.”
With the move to Alcopop and the increasing status level of the band we’re left contemplating whether or not they’re ready to cope with fame and fortune if they go on to become one of the world’s great bands? “I don’t think that’s something we need to be thinking about any time soon!” Adam laughs.
The Spook School play Handmade Festival at O2 Academy Leicester on the weekend of the 5th & 6th May.