12:00PM, Wednesday 22 June 2022
Pop-rock band The Hoosiers have had their ups and down since they got started in 2007.
Their debut album The Trick to Life reached number one in the charts. The band released their second album, The Illusion of Safety in 2010 with a different sound, then left their record label, fronting running costs alone.
Their bassist left in 2015, leaving the original duo of Irwin Sparkes (lead vocals and guitar) and Alan Sharland (drums). Now with the pair coming to Fifield’s annual music festival Fi.Fest for the first time, Adrian Williams spoke to Irwin Sparkes about the band’s journey.
You’ve had quite a journey. What sort of challenges have you faced as a band?
The real thing that changed from our first and second record is, for your first, no one’s waiting for it. Me and Al were together for 13 years before that first record came out. For the second one, you’ve got that window of people’s attention. One of the problems was the pressure of writing songs major that record labels feel are a hit. It was all about if other people liked them – it was a bit of a creative cul-de-sac, you can drive yourself mad with it.
How have The Hoosiers grown and what does the band look like now?
We have a fanbase who were kind enough to invest in us. You lose a certain amount of marketing muscle that you get from bigger labels. We were finding our way, trying to redefine our sound. That was somewhat fractious. Myself and Al have been together since 1995 but our original bassist we parted company with.
Now it’s just myself and Al again and we’re fortunate enough to be able to select our friends to work with – one of whom is a Maidenhead fellow himself, Paul Frith, keyboardist. You’re working for one hour a day [when performing] and the rest is 23 hours you’ve got to spend with these other guys and you have to guard that chemistry. We feel we’ve got something quite magic at the moment.
What has it been like working throughout the turmoil of the pandemic?
Myself and Al have found ourselves in the bizarre situation of being never before as enthusiastic about being Hoosiers as we are now. That’s what happens when you come so close to losing it. It feels like we’ve been slightly sleepwalking though the last few years and now we’re coming out of this enforced hibernation.
We’ve got an album waiting to go, and we’re working on the next one. It helps draw a line under the past. We’ve got a whole new lease of life.
You played a surprise, secret gig during COVID in 2020. What was the thinking behind that?
The idea was bringing to bring a festival to a street rather than them come to us. Necessity is the mother of invention – our bread and butter is playing live and when that’s taken away from you, you have to come up with ways to try and keep that alive. I don’t think any of that was a money-maker, it was just for our own sanity. Right now we’re just so pleased to see things getting back on their feet. An awful lot of young talent just weren't able to ride that out.
What are you looking forward to about playing Fi.Fest for the first time?
Live music is really cherished and I think that having nearly lost it, that’s going to be renewed in people’s hearts. I’m excited to see how people embrace that. You’ve also got Reef playing, one of our best rock bands. People are in for a real treat. We’re excited to get to play new music and it will be interesting to gauge what’s moving people.
Fi.Fest is somewhere close to home – a lot of my schools friends are coming to the show, so I’m looking forward to a get-together. It’ll be a nice family event, a very inclusive, community-centred afternoon, where everyone can let loose and enjoy some music and drinks in the sun (hopefully). Who could ask for more than that?
Fi.Fest 2022 is set for Saturday, July 9. See the full line-up here.
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