Marathon Band – Sprints

Posted 11 months ago in Music Features


Post-punk band Sprints discuss the tribulations of keeping the show on the road and what beckons for their future.

Karla Chubb is sitting on the carpeted floor in an empty office corridor as she speaks to me ahead of the continuation of what’s already been a hectic summer touring schedule. “I’ve had to sneak away from work for a few minutes, I don’t think there’s anyone on this floor so we’re good.”

Karla is the singer in Dublin garage rock band Sprints, one of the newest names to join the likes of Fontaines DC, Gilla Band and The Murder Capital in Dublin’s thriving post-punk pantheon. Joined by Sam McCann (bass), Colm O’Reilly (guitar) and Jack Callan (drums); Sprints have been, as their name suggests, racing through milestones many bands spend years striving for. Since their debut single Kissing Practice in 2020, the band have released two EP’s in 2021’s Manifesto and last year’s roaring A Modern Job, one of the most riveting projects released by any Irish act in the last twelve months.

As well as their long-form projects, they’ve shared a string of singles, played last year’s SXSW festival, signed to Berlin’s City Slang Records and played headline and festival slots across the EU. “It’s been a busy summer,” Chubb admits, “We’re in the middle of a very packed festival season, it’s been non-stop while at the same time we’re balancing full-time jobs, the band and side-businesses, as a lot of Irish bands are, so it’s been hectic but brilliant.”

This is, by Chubb’s own admission, the busiest the band have ever been. Born at a Savages gig in 2019, the band’s life can be divided equally between pre and post lockdown. “Last year we had our first taste of festivals but this is our first summer full-tilt with no restrictions,” she explains. “It’s been strange going from a pandemic to post-pandemic band but the enthusiasm and love for live music is amazing to see.”

The life of a touring musician, however, is predictably less glamourous than it seems from the outside, and Chubb and the rest of the band find themselves constantly juggling between life on the road and their full-time jobs. “It’s definitely very mentally and financially challenging, the cost of living crisis has hit everyone,” she explains. “People are working two or three jobs to support themselves and pay rent, and we’re not entitled to the dole or jobseekers allowance as we’re technically employed; but there’s so little funding for the arts that what we do get barely covers rent for one member of the band, never mind four.”

This conversation of funding, and what support artists and musicians are deserving of is one that has raged for as long as such funding has existed, with bands decamping from Ireland to seek better support and opportunities abroad. It’s reached the point where, for as long as the band can remember, Sprints have considered a move to London inevitable and have been talking of it in interviews ever since the band began. What, it must be asked, has made them stick it out in Dublin for so long?

“Our lives are here. Our families, partners, our friends, everything is still here,” Chubb explains. “That’s something that isn’t always covered or thought about when it comes to artists moving to London or wherever; there are girlfriends, boyfriends, brothers, sisters, mums and dads at home and around us that can’t all move. You have to balance the wants and needs in their lives too, you can’t just suddenly up and disappear. We also want to make sure that with any move we make, we make it at the right time. At the moment we haven’t felt that 100% need to leave, and because we love it so much, but we do have to see that thread sort of waning and it’s coming down to the time now where touring is taking up a lot of our time and the costs of flying from an island to Europe or the UK consistently is not affordable or feasible for a band that’s at the lower level and, like us, are barely breaking even never mind making a profit”.

As well as the financial burden it takes being a band in Dublin, there are also emotional and physical tolls to juggling life in an office and on the road simultaneously. “The burnout is definitely starting to kick in,” Chubb admits openly. “I have ADHD so I’m hyperactive; running on emotion most of the time but I’m starting to feel it in myself. My brain is clouded, I’m writing less than I was before. I’m getting more anxious about anything to do with touring, and things have definitely built up a little bit more in my head than ever before.”

One of the unique aspects of Chubb and Sprint’s songwriting is their unwillingness to ever get too specific. Oftentimes, the band will have no preconceived idea of what each song will detail until they start throwing out ideas. It’s a process, Chubb notes, that’s aimed at preventing their music from becoming stale: “It’s hard not to get bogged down in other artists or influences,” she admits.

Between tour dates, the band have begun work on their biggest project to date, a topic Chubb is reticent to discuss. “We’re not allowed to talk about anything yet but we’re working on a big body of work that we’re excited to release,” she smiles coyly. How does this creative process compare to their previous EPs? “It’s ten times more terrifying,” she laughs. “The EPs have been really good at helping us develop our sound and I think we’ve grown from each release but this is really a statement piece.” Chubb is not one to take criticism well (“I’m a sensitive soul,” she admits), so is terrified for the work’s inevitable reviews but is as excited as she’s ever been for a project. “It’s nice to have a body of work together and it really solidifies us as artists and that’s why we waited so long to do it. We really wanted it to be a proper statement and to reflect us accurately,” Chubb notes.

Chubb says of the band’s new material that it tackles the present and future far more than any Sprints work to date, with their catalogue to this point referencing her own personal experience more than anything else. Chubb is self-diagnosed with terrible imposter syndrome, making writing autobiographically the best method of preventing herself from comparing her work to that of other bands. “I’ve sometimes stopped myself and been afraid of writing about something if I didn’t think it would be as good as someone else doing it,” she recalls. “If it’s autobiographical at least I know it will be from a unique perspective because it’s mine.”

As the minutes of her lunch break tick by, there’s time for one final question. What does it mean to be part of such a strong and ever-growing post-punk movement in the city? “It’s amazing,” Chubbs smiles peacefully. “I think music in Dublin has got a bit of a spotlight on it which is great because it’s giving lots of people the opportunity to pursue their craft and their music. Our early stuff was very much inspired by the post-punk movement but as we’ve matured we’re less worried about the punk label,” she adds. “We’ve learnt to embrace that a little more and focus on influences like Savages, Patti Smith and Riot Grrrl influences. Working with Daniel Fox from Gilla Band has been amazing, as well. He’s been with us from our first EP to our most recent material so it’s been great to take that sound and make it a little more our own. I think we’re really starting to get to the bottom of what Sprints sounds like now,” Chubb notes. “It’s really exciting.”

Words: Cailean Coffey

Sprints plays the Wider Than Pictures series presented by Singular Artists, at the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, Dublin, alongside Just Mustard and Future Islands on Thursday, August 24th. Tickets from €62.45.


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