Those with their ear to the ground in Oxford will know that The Spring Offensive is one of the city’s most promising up and coming musical outfits. The band has been gigging prolifically in Oxford and London over the last few years, but is developing a following which extends far outside the two cities; the five-piece is getting regular radio airtime, they’ve been chosen to feature on a BBC tribute to Radiohead’s The Bends and in a recent review, BBC 6 Music stated that the outfit ‘restores your faith in the [indie] genre’: all in all, an impressive résumé.
The five-piece is a product of our city. They formed at an Oxfordshire school and two of its members (brothers Lucas and Theo Whitworth) currently study at Catz. However, when I spoke to Lucas, he wasn’t so keen on the ‘Oxford band’ label, acknowledging that ‘it’s shorthand for Radiohead copyists or Foals imitators’; he urges those who hold this view to explore our city’s music more, adding ‘they’d be pleasantly surprised’. The band’s lead singer does however recognise the bright side of Oxford’s musical life, stating that he’s ‘honoured to be active in a brilliantly varied and creative musical community – the level of talent here keeps you on your toes’.
Undoubtedly, The Spring Offensive’s music doesn’t sound like the cheap Radiohead cynics might have hoped for. Instead, interweaving guitar lines underpin Lucas’s anthemic vocals to create an undeniably distinctive sound world. On being asked about the acts that influenced this, Lucas tells me, ‘we listen to a lot of music’ (he strikes me as a man with a vast record collection) making it ‘hard to pinpoint any direct influences’. However, he does say that bands ‘that make better music than we could ever hope to, like Death Cab For Cutie’, have informed their sound.
The writing process is very much a group effort: ‘Matt and Theo (the guitarists) come up with ideas, Joe and Pelham (bass and drums) make it into a song and I flit around the two pairs making tea’. Lucas stresses the importance of lyric writing to the band, telling me that they spend ‘a disproportionate amount’ of their lives on these. The meaning behind the songs is clearly a big deal for him: ‘it simply has to have something to say. Otherwise you might as well hum a melody’.
This ethos is certainly manifested in the band’s new album, Pull Us Apart, which was officially launched with a gig at The Wheatsheaf last Saturday night. Upon listening, it’s evident that a lot of time is spent on every detail of the songs, which are all connected by the central theme of obsession. Lucas is quick to point out that while the subject permeates each track, the opus isn’t a concept album. ‘The tracks work on their own, though do sound much better in context.’ He recalls that ‘last year, being in a band almost consumed our lives entirely. The record’s about longing to escape when you can’t because you’re too invested’.
Pull Us Apart was recorded over Christmas in what Lucas describes as a ‘ridiculously good couple of weeks’. The boys decamped to Courtyard Studios (where Radiohead’s Pablo Honey was recorded) and completely shut themselves off from the rest of the world ‘to focus entirely upon the record’. The band produced the work themselves (‘which is a lot less impressive than it sounds’) but had recording help from Ian Davenport (think Supergrass and Band of Skulls) who mainly did nuts and bolts work.
On being asked about the outcome of the album, Lucas tells me that, ‘Overall, we’re very proud of it, but it’s an artefact that relates to us last year, so now it’s up to other people, not us, to take things from it’. The band has evidently moved on already, focusing on a ‘quite different’ next record that will be out before Summer. Why the hurry to work again so soon? ‘The point is that you write a song that suits you perfectly at that time, but things change and it no longer matches you’.
I wondered about what the band hoped to achieve with its music, and Lucas states honestly that they want to ‘keep growing and growing and making better and better music’, but realises ‘it’s up to other people to take an interest and believe in what we’re doing’. If The Spring Offensive continue making music as good as they are now, they needn’t worry about people losing interest; they’re truly one of the most exciting musical outfits to emerge from Oxford in a long time, and as Lucas puts it simply, ‘Anything could happen’.