The Hoosiers return with new album after ‘financial blow’ despite chart success

  • Bookmark
  • "II feel like, as a human, I will always keep that moment in my heart. When I’m down, I think, 'Look, we did that!' That’s quite something to have for your self-confidence."

    Al Sharland, the affable, optimistic and introspective percussionist of The Hoosiers, is reflecting on the year 2007.

    It was the year The Hoosiers took the UK charts by storm with their upbeat, odd-pop, catchier-than-thou album, The Trick to Life, which sold over a million copies for their label, Sony RCA.

    READ MORE: N-Dubz beauty Tulisa issues stern warning to man who 'grabbed her bum' while performing

    The two lead singles from The Trick to Life – Worried About Ray and Goodbye Mr. A – both gatecrashed the top 10, while the playability of their zany, high-tempo radio smash-hits earned a devoted live following.

    The Hoosiers went viral before the term entered the cultural lexicon.

    "People wanted to hear that kind of music, at that kind of time,” admits Hoosiers front-man, Irwin Sparkes, who proves to be even more ferociously upbeat than school pal, best-friend and band-mate Sharland.

    "When Ray was going up the charts, I don’t think I’ll ever get a bigger buzz than that,” Sharland chimes in, wistfully.

    The success prompted two sold-out headline UK tours, appearances at every major UK festival – as well as shows in Germany, France and Japan – and supporting James Blunt on his European arena tour.

    The Hoosiers were on top of the world, approximately 12 years after Sparkes and Sharland first shared a stage together, ‘butchering’ – as Sparkes puts it – a version of Eleanor Rigby at their school assembly.

    "I think we felt like we were going to go from The Trick To Life, to our second album, to being big, and eventually being as big as Coldplay,” Sharland says.

    He laughs as he finishes his sentence, but The Hoosiers had no reason to doubt their trajectory.

    They had it all: a major label deal, a number one album and fans filling arenas dressed as superheroes, in honour of the Goodbye Mr. A music video featuring Sparkes, Sharland and former bassist Martin Skarehandl.

    What could possibly go wrong? Well, over the course of one hour with The Daily Star, Sparkes and Sharland detail the next 15 years of The Hoosiers: the heartbreak of a commercial failure, breaking up with Sony, the exit of Skarehandl, two self-funded albums, falling into debt and making a loss while touring Europe.

    Oh, and why their next album – entitled Confidence, released on September 15 – is probably their best, and why they will never fall out of love with making pop music and performing live together.

    The Hoosiers are confident about Confidence. And it shows.

    It takes less than one minute in the company of Irwin Sparkes and Al Sharland to realise how close the duo better known as The Hoosiers are.

    They are abuzz with quick-witted metaphors, often finishing each other’s sentences, or, in Irwin’s case, interjecting with patented-Hoosier optimism at regular intervals.

    Sharland is sat in front of a signed Exeter City football shirt, from the season his boyhood club were promoted in 2008, while several guitars loiter behind Sparkes.

    "I wish I was playing football," says Sharland. "I wish you were too, Al!" quips Sparkes.

    The pair, who both enrolled on football scholarships at the University of Indianapolis in the United States after meeting at school in Reading in 1995, are preparing for the release of their first album since 2015.

    So why is the time right for Confidence? Sharland smiles. "Good question…It wasn’t meant to be eight years!"

    The drummer, sporting his trademark sprawling hair and moustache, continues: "The process started much earlier. We were recording around Covid, and then lockdown came.

    "But because it’s as good as it is, we had a lot more interest than we anticipated from record companies and management, so we spent a little longer getting the right team on board for promotion.

    "In our defence, it should have been out earlier, but, yeah, it isn’t…"

    Sharland begins to trail off matter-of-factly, but Sparkes is on hand to immediately take up the train of thought.

    "We fell out of love with making new albums,” the front-man says earnestly.

    "We were burned by self-releasing albums [The News From Nowhere in 2014 and The Secret Service, 2015] and doing everything ourselves. That was hard. We suffered burnout and became sick of the grind."

    It is easy to see why. Gollowing the smash-hit success of The Trick To Life – and, with over one million sales and two iconic pop tracks, it was as smash-hit as they come – a period of non-stop touring began.

    "I’ve got nothing but love for that era," Sharland says. "And I know it sounds cliche, but it is cliche because it’s what happens – it was a whirlwind," Sharland says.

    "You go from working your t*** off – driving, driving, driving – and then you get a record deal and you’re buzzing and then it transpires you have a hit record.

    "Then you’re sprinting through a year of gigs and gigs and gigs and everything is happening."

    The Hoosiers are not ungrateful, by the way. Far from it.

    "Because it took Al and I 11 years from when we first met, to when we were schoolboys, we didn’t take anything for granted," Irwin adds. "We always feel hugely lucky, all the time."

    But the pair cannot deny a naïveté as to what happened next.

    The fast-lane to stardom, which translated roughly into touring, festival and television appearances, arrived, three years later in 2010, at a hotly-anticipated second album, The Illusion of Safety.

    Sharland says: "We’ve done loads of reflection on this album. It was hard. The huge success of The Trick To Life put so much pressure on The Illusion of Safety, and you’re gigging so much, we just didn’t write.

    "I didn’t pick up a guitar or piano through the entire process. I was just enjoying it,” he admits. Sharland raises his voice a little as he continues: "Think of this. The first album was written over a period of 11 years.

    "The second album had to be written in four months. It’s just not possible.

    "Some people can do it, but…," he trails off. "Then [Sony RCA] sent co-writers."

    Sharland, in fairness, admits this was ‘100% the right decision’ from Sony as they looked to replicate the success of The Trick To Life, as songwriters for artists such as Take That and Lana Del Ray were drafted in.

    :But from our point of view, then we had to deal with the psychology of saying, 'Okay, we’re not good enough to write our own album' Sharland continues, wryly. "And now we have someone who writes s*** pop music to write our songs. Ultimately, that album failed."

    Sparkes interjects almost instantly. "Commercially," he adds. "The album failed commercially."

    "Commercially, yeah," admits Al of an album which peaked at 10th on the UK charts.

    As Sharland points out, the music industry landscape had shifted dramatically between 2007 and 2010.

    In just three years, streaming sites such as Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer had started to gain prominence alongside social media, while traditional charting through advertising, record sales and radio-play faltered.

    Sparkes says: “I think what’s blowing our mind is it’s a little bewildering releasing music 15 years on.

    "Back in 2007, anyone could chart, and it could happen quickly, whereas now you can’t quite chart at that trajectory. The definition of success has had to change. It’s a different world to 2007."

    How did the "commercial failure" of The Illusion of Safety feel after the dizzying, frenetic and fast-paced success of their first album?

    "I don’t know what else we could have done,: Al says. “We tried our hearts out. I still like the album.

    "But there’s a lot tied into it emotionally. It’s hard to listen to without remembering the heartache of all the conversations and the pressure of it.

    "I feel like if it had been given a little more love, and the record company spent the same as they did on the first album, it might have done a little better. It was a bit heartbreaking. Tough times, wasn’t it Irwin?"

    Irwin is on hand to reply instantly. "We had to do a lot of growing up,” he says, sounding somber. It was after this album that Skarendahl decided to amicably leave the band and The Hoosiers parted ways with their label, Sony.

    "It can be easy to identify yourself with success and achievements, and on reflection I realise that is very dangerous, because when things aren’t going so well, you keep the failure with you. That’s no way to live your life."

    Sparkes admits the pressure was so great, both he and Sharland have become proud ambassadors for mental health charity SANE. Sparkes is wearing a SANE t-shirt for the interview.

    "We really did go through the wringer with it," he adds.

    Sharland hasn’t mentioned his beloved football for about 20 minutes at this stage, and feels the time is right. "Going back to football", he begins, smiling.

    "We got close to so many bands who got so close to this huge, huge dream of the Premier League, so to speak. We got our break and got to the huge dream, but one day it has to stop.

    "It has to, there’s a stopping point, and that moment for every human is a really difficult moment. You stop and go ’S***.' You reassess and think “Who am I? What am I?’

    "When people ask what happened since The Trick To Life, it’s such a loaded question. Unless you’ve been through it, and worked as hard to get somewhere and it goes the way it goes, I don’t think you can ever fully understand it.”

    There is a moment of silence for the first time in the interview until Irwin, once again, takes the ball.

    “Can I add to the football metaphor?” he says.

    “In the big game of football which is the music industry, we looked up at the clock around 2009, and received a double sliding tackle from procrastination and electro-pop which broke both our legs!

    “We’ve been laid up, stretchered off, and had to work our way back to fitness, through the lower divisions and now we’re back ready, in the Premier League once again!

    “It’s like Rocky, but with football, and music, and we’re really old. What! That’s the metaphor. Print that verbatim. You’re not getting better than that. That’s your article.”

    After somewhat quietly self-releasing two albums in the space of 12 months, The News From Nowhere and then The Secret Service in 2015, The Hoosiers took a break.

    “Financially, yeah, it was a blow,” Sharland says of the time away.

    But it can be seen as a reset, Sparkes says. Both Irwin and Al wrote for other artists.

    “We went away and worked with lots of people, and what that allowed for us to do was to hone our craft a lot more,” Sparkes adds.

    And then came ‘the genesis’ of Confidence. Sparkes and Sharland spoke with Craig Logan, who originally backed The Hoosiers , signing the band to Sony RCA in 2007 and pushing the release of The Trick to Life.

    “At the start of lockdown, Craig said, ‘I think you need to remind people who you are.’”

    The Hoosiers have done just that.

    After a gap of eight years on their CV, The Hoosiers have released three quick-fire singles in the shape of Snowflake, Idaho and Hello Sunshine, announcing the feature-length Confidence, and even found time to play Glastonbury and other British festivals.

    The energy of the new tracks feel much closer to The Trick To Life than their previous two albums, full of energy and fun, but intertwined with political and moral layering.

    Snowflake, for example, is “if Brexit was a bop (and not a catastrophe),” according to Sparkes, while Idaho is performed from the point of view of a serial killer planning on fleeing to the Northwest American state.

    On Brexit, incidentally, both Hoosiers are irate with the current government. “A joke,” is how Sparkes describes the so-called ‘support’ given to the music industry by the Tories since coronavirus.

    “A quarter of the music industry has left [since the pandemic] and it’s at risk of further shrinking,” he says passionately.

    “We did our first little tour of Europe in 10 years recently and the total pig's ear made of Brexit means we can’t even afford to take the whole band, let alone our crew, and hope to break even.

    “You go away knowing you’re going to lose money. It’s just ridiculous.”

    But from the new singles, it is Hello Sunshine which truly stands out, both for it’s impossibly-catchy chorus, a classic Hoosier trademark, and eye-catching lyrics about fighting to see the positive while avoiding being dragged down.

    “Hello Sunshine / say goodbye to this storm / no more dark times ahead / hello good times / I choose bright sky instead,” sings Sparkes. Is the song a biographical bop?

    After everything Sparkes, Sharland and The Hoosiers have been through – a Bumpy Ride, as their popular second-album track roared – have they reached their own sunshine with Confidence?

    “There is something about the natural confidence of owning who you are,” says the naturally confident Irwin.

    “We’ve always been perceived as an upbeat, positive band – there are a lot more layers to us than that, with a lot of songs people aren’t aware of from the albums – but it gave us a new lease of life to say, 'Let’s embrace who we are at this stage of our lives.'”

    Sparkes admits Confidence ‘flew together’ in just three months – ‘the most fun’ The Hoosiers have ever had in the studio – from writing to recording the final product.

    The band also secured a coup in hiring Sam Miller, who produced The Trick To Life album back in 2007.

    So, the big question. Is Confidence the best Hoosiers album yet?

    Irwin is in no mood to hold back. “I’ll just go with a hard YES!” he says, gesticulating. “This is the album I’m most proud of.

    “What we’ve been through to get here, it wouldn’t have happened without Al and I.

    “We made it happen by hook and crook. We paid for it ourselves. We took out a loan, a bounce-back-loan. This is it,” Irwin adds dramatically.

    “Maybe that’s TMI [too much information]. We don’t know if we’re ever going to make that money back but we’ve bet on ourselves, and maybe backed ourselves into a corner, but we believe in this.

    “I would say it is the album everyone needs to hear… and buy. Definitely buy.”

    Sparkes continues: “What happens beyond that, who knows, but do yourself a favour and listen to it. It’s a different world to when we were releasing in 2007.

    “But to have a record label and a team working on the album, we know we are still really lucky. And every gig we do, it feels like Top of the Pops all over again. Genuinely.

    “We just love playing all our songs to people. It’s a mind-blowing feeling.”

    This autumn, The Hoosiers return to UK stages – literally with Confidence – playing shows in Bristol, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Glasgow, Manchester and London.

    And for the first time – maybe even ever – the band who were once better known for their superhero disguises may finally have embraced exactly who they are as artists.

    “When we took the break, we thought, ‘What were we good at, what did we do well, what did people like about us?’” Sharland says. “Who are we?” interjects Irwin once more.

    “You know what, I’m going to be romantic about it,” Sparkes continues. “When you’re young, you always want what you don’t have.

    This limited time promotion also comes just in time for new premieres from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic and more. These include FX’s Welcome To Wrexham S2 (13 September) and The Kardashians S4 (28 September)

    Starting September 6 through September 20, new and returning customers in the UK can subscribe to Disney+ for £1.99/month for three months – an £18 saving compared to the regular monthly price for three months

    £1.99 per month for three months

    “We had commercial success, so then we wanted credibility. We spent our next albums trying to redefine who we were, being more melancholy and moody.

    “And then there is a moment where you’re like, ‘No, you know what? We write upbeat pop songs, an effervescent shot in the arm that gives people a spring in their step and is the sound of their summer.

    “We want people to listen and for the songs to give them confidence. We want this album to be something that really helps them.

    Like what you see? Then fill your boots…

    There's MUCH more where that came from! Want all the jaw-dropping stories from the world of showbiz and up to the minute news from TV and soaps?

    Well, we've got you covered with our showbiz, TV and soaps newsletters – they'll drop straight into your inbox and you can unsubscribe whenever you like.

    We'll bring you the inside track from telly expert Ed Gleave and soap specialist Sasha Morris. Oh, and your daily fix of Piers, Katie Price, Demi Rose and all your other Daily Star favs.

    You can sign up here – you won't regret it…

    “We’re not trying to recreate the past, but we’re embracing what we have learned over the whole journey and writing the songs within us. We feel more assured than we ever did.

    “There’s no ego involved. Let’s just write nice, big, fresh songs that we’re proud of, and I feel like we’ve got there. I’m really proud of Confidence and excited for what is to come.”

    The Hoosiers are confident about Confidence. And it feels like everybody else should be, too.

    For the latest breaking news and stories from across the globe from the Daily Star, sign up for our newsletter by clicking here

    • In the News

    Source: Read Full Article