BN1 sits down at LeeFest with Spring King frontman and drummer, Tarek Musa, at LeeFest, who tells us why you’re more likely to see the band playing video games than partying…
Tarek Musa may just about be the most polite guy in music right now. Despite having arrived back in the UK from a frenetic Australian festival stint (“full of total ‘pinch-yourself moments’”) just 39 hours beforehand, he appears enthusiastic, energetic, and remarkably fresh-faced – jetlag considered – for our interview.
It’s the attitude of someone for whom everything has been going right for the past year. After two years of touring with the likes of Courtney Barnett and Slaves, his Manchester-based garage-pop quartet Spring King finally caught the attention of the music industry in June 2015 after Zane Lowe opened Apple’s international radio station, Beats1, with their track City. Since then, they’ve been signed to Island Records and appeared on Later With Jools Holland and BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge, steadily laying down the bricks on their road to stardom.
Fast-forward to this summer; in June, the band’s debut album, Tell Me If You Like To, was released to critical acclaim. Written and recorded in its entirety by Musa between his self-made studio in Manchester and The Chapel in Lincolnshire, the debut amalgamates a multitude of genres, with sounds equally replicating the surf rock vibes of the Beach Boys and early-Eighties punk. Musa tells us, “I love that 60s pop sound. Songs about love, two minutes 30… But I also love the frenetic, punk energy of The Clash. Inspiration comes from all over.”
But the success of this year – of Spring King – very nearly didn’t happen. Musa started Spring King alone in 2011, writing songs in a torn-down bathroom in his house for his own amusement. It wasn’t until his flatmate Peter Darlington (now Spring King’s lead guitarist) took notice, and urged him to post the songs on bandcamp, that he considered what an impact they could make on the music world, Musa says, “We never expected such a huge response.”
Joined by Andy Morton and James Green, Spring King started working together as a band in early 2013, releasing their first single Mumma/Mumma pt. II in early 2014, shortly followed by their first EP, Demons, and then in 2015, They’re Coming After You, building a strong repertoire of tracks for their live shows. While the four are close, having met in high school, Musa is very much a frontman with equal amounts charisma and decorum, speaking on behalf of the band for interviews and such. It’s not a position that he throws around, however (perhaps it’s the drummer in him that doesn’t mind sharing the limelight). On stage, it’s clear Spring King are all about the music – there’s no awkward battle of egos, they just each play the shit out of their instruments – and after the show, they kick back together to reflect and relax. Talking about their after-show antics, Musa denies any rock’n’roll tendencies, but his eyes light up with mention of LeeFest’s Pieces of Eight tent (featuring retro Nintendo consoles with the likes of Donkey Kong and Paper Mario). He says, “We’re all just a bunch of nerds really. We don’t really get drunk, we’re so knackered after our shows we just wanna play computer games and listen to other bands.”
A gargantuan accomplishment on all counts, the band has been playing festivals worldwide this year off the success of their debut. However, they’re adamant they won’t use the album as a crutch for future releases as many bands do. Musa says, “We’re by no means relying on solely a debut. We’re all songwriters in our own right.” With Tarek Musa having written and produced all of the band’s material so far, it will be interesting to see how Spring King’s sound develops on future releases with Darlington, Morton and Green contributing to the writing process. Regardless, we’re looking forward to it.