It could be a big week for Sports Team.
The band are up for the Hyundai Mercury Prize on Thursday (September 24). Ahead of the announcement, they are among the shortlisted acts on a BBC Four special tonight (September 23).
The debut album Deep Down Happy has moved 18,242 copies, according to the Official Charts Company. It even came close to No.1 in June.
“Sports Team have been arguably the biggest surprise of lockdown – not to us, but across the industry,” said Island president Louis Bloom. “What was a tremendous pre-order campaign turned into the most exciting chart battle in years against Lady Gaga, which Sports Team only narrowly lost.”
Bloom identified the distinctive appeal of the band.
“The band are six unique and captivating personalities, led by Ricey who is an unfiltered, undisputed star,” he said. “Such personality is immediately obvious on all of their socials, as they approach things in a manner that only they could. Press found them endearing and culturally resonant, so helped to drive some of the narratives that set them apart from other artists in their lane.”
While the band are unable to tour, they have been busy during the pandemic. They brewed their own range of beer, co-hosted on BBC Radio 1 with Annie Mac and appeared on Chris Evans’ Virgin Radio Breakfast Show. A fan of the band, Evans said: “They’re funny, they’re clever, they’re quietly irate. I love your music… what does it feel like to be geniuses?”
Music Week reported last year on Sports Team’s innovative approach to building their audience.
“Whip-smart and ultra quick to respond to current events, Sports Team showed a master class in growing a fanbase (via their hardcore Whatsapp fan-group) and in developing a D2C business – with interesting formats and a t-shirt design for every occasion,” said Bloom. “Yes, every occasion, even a disagreement with Matt Healy gets immortalised as a covid-fundraising merch item within hours. The magic that drew us to them is what others have been discovering, and their star is truly on the ascent.”
For tonight’s BBC Four Mercury preview show, Sports Team filmed a performance at London’s Bush Hall (alongside fellow shortlisted acts Georgia, Anna Meredith, Moses Boyd). But it was a rare opportunity for the group to play live (a spring tour is booked including a date at O2 Academy Brixton).
The band, who share a house in Camberwell, recently made the short trip to The Oval to film a performance of album track Stations Of The Cross at the empty venue for Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch.
Bloom promised more new music from the band soon.
“Sports Team are the highest selling British band on a debut album in four years, and it is to be expected that in the first instance vinyl would over-index to streaming,” said Bloom. “However, we know that in streaming more and more people will discover them through all their antics and we are bullish about what will come for them in the next six months. We’ll come quickly with a new album in the New Year.”
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