Poignant and political, embittered and abrasive, Sprints are a band right at the heart of Dublin’s ever-growing punk and post-punk scene, a gloriously stark evisceration of politics and exploration of the personal.
For frontwoman Karla Chubb, who’s been part of the Dublin music scene in various guises for years, the band represent a whole lot more than just the music: they’re a deep-dive into the issues that strike her, and a form of stark, loud therapy best performed on a stage. That outlook has unquestionably made lockdown a little difficult, though not so difficult it’s prevented the launch of several new singles as the band await a return.
Their penchant for mixing spoken word segments with their music gives Sprints a calm-meets-storm effect, a distinctive style all their own.
“Our music is made to be performed live and we write it as an emotional outlet, on stage is where we really let loose,” Chubb says. “It’s weird not to play. Live can also be a real trial space for music, you test it and see how the audience reacts, and it’s a gauge for whether you’re writing the right stuff. Without it, for me there’s a lot of imposter syndrome.”
The writing has continued throughout lockdown, though not in quite the same fashion as normal.
“I do write in quite a solitary way some of the time,” Chubb explains, “but we’ve become so much more collaborative in recent years. We can express what we’re feeling through music, chords and riffs. The trap I wanted to avoid was writing about lockdown, really. It’s an obvious topic, but not an interesting one, I’m just sitting in my bedroom working.”
“Instead I pull from my own experiences, and I’ve looked inwards a lot, tried to analyse the anxiety, stress and pressures I experience. There’s also been the anxiety of coming out for me, and the anxiety of playing gigs.”
“The idea of going from lockdown to a big UK tour petrifies me. I wake up at night thinking about them, about pouring my deepest darkest secrets out to strangers.”
“The streamed gigs are great of practise and getting tight as a band, it’s better than playing nothing at all. I don’t think there’s any comparison with a real gig, though. You want the support band finishing and the prep, and that moment hitting you where you have to step out and get on stage for 40 minutes to an hour. I can feel that just thinking about it, there’s no comparison. The breaks I’ve taken from music were the most difficult times of my life, though. I’d be lost without it.”
The subjects contained in Sprints music are very much a reflection of their environment, one the band mine for inspiration, and in doing so reflect many of the issues that are pervasive in youth culture today, albeit from a personal angle.
“I write about being queer, and Jack is very political. 90% of my friends have emigrated and I’m paying out of my ass for rent. I’ll probably never be able to be a full time musician and stay in Dublin” Chubb explains. “Young people are branded as moaning, but the fact is young people are being squeezed out of the city. I stay out of stubbornness as I love the city so much, but it’s getting tough. It’s not if, but when do we move to London and try to make it there. The supports aren’t here.”
“There’s an incredible community for creative arts here, but also a lack of opportunities.”
As for those personal songs? Chubb highlights ‘The Cheek’ and ‘Ashley’ as being particular to her life…
“‘The Cheek’ is a song I wrote about a real experience in The George, about guys who don’t really get sexuality. Ashley… that’s a reflection of trying to process how digital our lives have become,” Chubbs explains. “How you can feel like you know someone and then you meet them in real life and they’re not the person you thought they were. Not even through any fault of their own, it’s just the difference between seeing your friends in real life, and seeing their lives unfold through screens.”
“A social life can be so performative now, and you find yourself sitting in bed watching people live their ‘best lives’.” With a bit of luck, soon the screens will be gone, and Sprints will be back in their most memorable and raw of forms.