Shadow Of A Doubt: Sprints Interviewed

Ahead of their set at Live At Leeds: In The Park...

Sprints are enjoying a remarkable year. Blessed with a raucous live show, the group have been able to take that energy and blend it with some impeccable songwriting, fusing together grunge, Millennial pop-punk, and a whole lot more besides.

Producer-du-jour Daniel Fox stepped in to help the band on debut album ‘Letter To Self’, which caused an almighty ruckus on its release in the opening days of 2024. Achieving universal acclaim, since then it’s been fast-forward for the Irish band.

Touching down in the UK for Live At Leeds: In The Park, Sprints are eager to catch up with old friends. There’s a tinge of sadness in there, too – guitarist Colm O’Reilly is set to step back, with the band continuing as a three-piece.

CLASH caught up with drummer Jack Callan explore their stunning rise, the secret to a fantastic festive show, and what’s coming up next for the band.

Congrats on an amazing start to the year! What’s it been like for you in the middle of it all?

It really has. Initially, a couple of weeks before the album came out we were pretty nervous – you don’t know how it’s going to go! But we’ve been blown away by the response, it’s really exceeded our expectations. And since then we’ve been on the road for two, three months – and the response there has been great as well. We did our first US tour which is amazing. We’re going back again in September. It’s gone by in the blink of an eye.

The American tour must have been a dream come true.

Oh completely. We’ve done a couple of shows – New York once, and then SXSW a few years ago. But to be over there was amazing. We’d just come from a European tour, so there was a novelty aspect, but driving from Seattle to LA was just absolutely stunning. We’ve got to play a tonne of cities we’d never been to before.

Any particular highlights?

We tried to make the most of the novelty food! We got Philly cheese steaks, we got a deep dish in Chicago. Austin was great for Tex Mex! It’s a totally different buzz on the West Coast. I’d love to go back to Seattle, Portland, see a bit of that.

It all sounds incredible, but it must also be intense – how do you look after yourself on the road?

I think as we’ve been touring more over the past few years we’ve begun to get a bit better at that. It’s trial and error. I remember our first proper UK tour in 2021 – we’d just come out of lockdown, and it was three weeks… and we absolutely destroyed ourselves! The gigs were great, but physically and mentally we were miserable by the end. I think sometimes you need that, though – to remind yourself what’s viable.

I think this year, with the album out, our whole year is basically gigging. We’ve had little breaks off in-between. We try to get some exercise in, eat a bit better. Sometimes it doesn’t go that way, but the intention is there. One of the biggest things for me is finding ways to eat well, and sleep well – you’re driving all day, eating from service stations and sleeping in a different bed each night. But you try to get as much rest as you can and don’t destroy yourself.

It’s about knowing your limits, isn’t it?

It is. And the thing is, when you finally do have a night out you enjoy it all the more as you haven’t been nailing yourself all the time!

How have you noticed the songs evolving during your live shows?

We played a few before the album came out, but they’re all in there now. With the album being out, you get the interaction with the crowd much more. I think that’s the biggest thing. Obviously it’s a personal and emotional album, so it’s connected with people in a beautiful way. It’s an amazing thing to see. And then people chat to you after the shows, it’s been really rewarding.

You recently released two songs – ‘Drones’ and ‘Help Me, I’m Spiralling’ – which featured during those sessions. Both great songs in their own right, it has to be said.

‘Drones’ was originally on our first EP and it’s one where… we hadn’t played it live in a while, but it reappeared in the set. When we got to the studio the vast majority of it was brand new material. It didn’t quite fit with the album. We wanted the album to be really cohesive and exist as one piece of work. ‘Help Me, I’m Spiralling’ was also left over. It came down to thinking about vinyl – it can only be so long, you can’t put everything on it. Everyone had their own favourites.

Editing it down must have been incredibly hard.

I think so. When we were in the studio we had a rough idea of the tracklisting – where we would start and finish. There’s a few songs we always felt would work together. We would re-arrange it a few times, and then go round in circles for a few weeks. The final tracklisting came quickly, and then after all the tinkering we just went back to it!

You’re playing the CLASH tent at Live At Leeds: In The Park – a great city for live music! What are your Leeds memories?

We actually just finished up our most recent UK tour in the Brudenell. We’ve played Leeds a few times. We have a lot of friends in Leeds. It’s always a good time in Leeds, and a great city for music – so many great bands have come out of there.

Do you begin to recognise people coming back to the shows? Is a community evolving there?

Absolutely. When we played Leeds recently, we bumped into this lad outside who we met two years previously! You remember the faces. Especially in venues like that, when people go no matter what’s on – it’s a local institution. It’s great to get to know these different local scenes.

What have you been playing on the tour van? What’s the Sprints soundtrack?

Each tour we’ve made a few different playlists – people can throw in whatever. It’s actually normally pretty chill or folky. Sometimes it can be cheesy early 2000s pop-punk, for a bit of fun.

Have you managed to write something new?

There are bits and pieces there, for sure. Karla is always banging out demos when we’re home. We sometimes write during soundchecks, if we have an extra 10 minutes. We’ve got a fair bit of stuff knocking around. We haven’t had time to sit down and focus on it, but when we do get time we want to hit the ground running.

You’re supporting IDLES and PIXIES this summer – two amazing bands!

I know! We couldn’t have picked better support slots. I love them both. Me and Colm were in a band when we were teenagers that did four PIXIES covers at one stage. It’s safe to say we’re big fans. And also IDLES – that’s a dream come true, as well. It’s also nice to play venues we haven’t been to before.

You mention Colm – sadly, he’s stepping back…

He is, yeah. We only announced it the other day. I think it had been coming for a while. Me and Colm have been playing in bands of some sort since we were 10 or 11 years old. It’s bittersweet. It’s good for Colm, but it’s sad. In terms of travelling together on the road we’ll miss our mate, y’know?

One of the great things about playing festivals is that challenge of attracting passers-by. If you’re going to recommend a Sprints song to a newcomer, what would it be?

I would say – maybe – ‘Cathedral’. It’s full-throttle when it kicks in. The energy of it would draw you in. It’s about grabbing people with both hands. 

I remember playing 2000Trees a few years back, and it was in a tent. We weren’t sure how it was going to go, but after two songs it started raining – like, a biblical downpour! And people started rushing in, the tent was packed – one of the best gigs we did that summer.

Catch Sprints at Live At Leeds: In The Park in the CLASH tent.

Words: Robin Murray
Photo Credit: Eleanor Petry

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