Capturing the essence of their classic debut while pushing their sound forward, The Hoosiers’ Irwin Sparkes and Alan Sharland discuss their first album in eight years, ‘Confidence’!
1. Welcome To Confidence
IRWIN: We were looking at potentially Hello Sunshine or Making A Monster as being the starting point for the album because they’re both upbeat and fast, but they both felt a bit obvious and we wanted to have a sense of occasion. Even doing that requires a sense of confidence, because it’s not just putting your ace down first. But we do feel very confident about this record and, in an age where people expect a 12-second sound bite on TikTok and then skip, we want them to make time for this. It’s like a palate cleanser.
2. Making A Monster
ALAN: If we’d written this for the second album, there’d be no brass and it would all be a synth line. I think there’s some freedom in being confident enough to go, ‘Let’s just do what the song wants and what it needs’, which was the brass. But this was also the most collaborative song on the album; I’d written the bassline and some of the underlying track and when Irwin sent me back some lead lines it was about as good a melody as I’ve ever heard him deliver.
3. Hello Sunshine
IRWIN: This was the most reactive and natural and enjoyable process of making a record we’ve ever had. It took us three months to write and record – and that’s unheard of for us. It’s usually about three years! The first time Alan showed me this song it was like, ‘Hello 2007’, and what I liked about having it as a first single is that reintroduction, which relates to a conversation we had with Craig Logan, the man who signed us and changed our lives. He was like, ‘I think you need to remind people who you are’, which is what this song does.
ALAN: They say to write about what you know and, even though Idaho isn’t quite what we know, it kind of feeds into us going to America 20 years ago! [Alan and Irwin landed themselves football scholarships at the University of Indianapolis, despite having no interest in playing the sport]
IRWIN: At the time, we were kind of reticent to talk about it, because we just thought it was irrelevant to the music we were making. Oftentimes, you want to be something you’re not and growing up in Reading, for me it was dead end conversations and creative wastelands. Then we went to America and ended up in Indiana – the Reading of America! But I appreciate its place in the pantheon of Hoosier-dom now.
ALAN: I remember somebody suggested we use horns on the first album and I was like, ‘Oh, no’, but now I think it’s a really underused instrument and in a technical sense, there’s something about the warmth of hearing real horns in the same way you hear vocals. The dynamic is the same with brass. In this world of electro where everything’s more compressed and less real, I think brass is a beautiful thing and there’s not many bands who can get away with using it.
6. Lip Sinking
IRWIN: Very ‘90s guitar. That was quite liberating because it’s just full power chords and a RAT Distortion pedal, which we don’t usually have. And do you know what? We haven’t played it live once! We were just messaging about this and I really want to, because it starts off so serene, kind of sets the scene, and there’s a few nods to Smashing Pumpkins and early Weezer in there.
7. Losing Your Balance
IRWIN: I remember this happening on the first album; there was a button in the studio and when you pressed it, you’d hear a track slow and backwards. And it always gave me goosebumps! I was like, ‘At some point I want to use that’. Sam [Miller, producer] did it when we were listening back to Things You Remember When You’re Falling.
ALAN: It works well with the vinyl as well, because it leads into Side B and gives you a segue and an opening for the second half of the album.
8. Things You Remember When You’re Falling
IRWIN: I thought about the idea of what would be going through your head and it’s certain failures, it’s things you’ve done… When I was writing it, the lines just popped out and there’s a banality to some it, because you’re looking for some grandiose, philosophical point that will make the listener think about how they’re living their life, but the first line is, ‘Don’t tell me I left the iron on / In the centre of the Pentagon’. So there’s a playfulness and a real joy, part of which comes from that creativity.
IRWIN: Getting a bit older, we do feel like there’s room to say something. Even with Worried About Ray, our first song, we always felt a sense of pride at having gone Top 5 with a track about anxiety and the fear of losing something you love. Because that’s the existential dilemma of being alive. So with something like Snowflake, I wanted to reflect more of our worldview and decipher how to do that and how to pick on things that are not right. Like the way this country treats immigrants or the way we look after people who are here. It’s not okay.
10. Confidence (Is Easy)
ALAN: Back in the day, we just didn’t have the confidence; we did stuff that was probably a bit out there, but it was a hard push to get it through and throughout the industry, we felt some of the lyrical content got ignored because of the way we dressed it up. That’s been something that we’ve been dealing with for a while. But there comes a point when you come to terms with the fact that, ‘If we’re dressing things up with humour and upbeat pop, that doesn’t take away from what the message is’, which is still really important to us. The one thing about social media, being more in contact with some of our fans and seeing that it actually does reach people is that it gives us the confidence to go, ‘Actually, just keep writing’. Fuck the 98 per cent that don’t get it; we’re writing for the people who do connect and that’s the really important bit.
11. So High (Acoustic)
ALAN: This was a co-write from another set of songs that we reimagined, because it didn’t fit on the album in the shape that it was recorded originally. So we did an acoustic version which felt really good.
IRWIN: We’ve got a produced version of it that might come out in some form. Lyrically, it’s one of a triumvirate of songs we’ve got that take a skewed glance at misogyny and violence against women; on the surface it’s just bad pickup lines, but it’s definitely something we believe in and wanted to call out.
IRWIN: This one could almost be the opener because it sets the scene and really stretches its legs and feels grandiose. The obvious thing would have been to have So High at the end and leave them on a low, but this allows you to go out with a bang – confidently – and we love that it becomes like the album is a snake eating itself, because the album intro is taken from some of the sonic experiments we were doing late at night at Angelic Studios and the tail end of this track fades into the beginning of the album. It’s why this album was designed to be listened to on repeat.