The Hoosiers beat second album blues

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The Hoosiers
Image caption,
The band scored hits in 2007 with Goodbye Mr A and Worried About Ray

This year has given birth to an odd trend of bands scrapping entire albums at the last minute.

The Scissor Sisters, Sigur Ros, Good Charlotte and The Klaxons are among the chart-topping acts who took stock of their latest work, decided it wasn't up to scratch, and started over.

Now joining their ranks are power pop trio The Hoosiers.

They hit number one with their debut, The Trick To Life, in 2007 and were set to release a follow-up in time for Christmas last year... but everything suddenly went silent.

A raft of new studio sessions followed, and the band emerged with a brand new set of songs, crafted around a synth-pop sound, as evidenced by their latest single, Choices.

Lead singer Irwin Sparkes, guitarist Martin Skarendahl and drummer Alfonso Sharland told the BBC about their "year of turmoil" and why they continually taunt each other on stage.

Image caption,
The band celebrated their number one by "having a cup of mint tea and staying up late"

How did you lose an entire album. Isn't that a bit careless?

Irwin: We realised that we were a pop band and pop had progressed. When we released our first album pop was guitar-driven, whereas now it has fully embraced electronica. So we had to scrap an album, because we had got the balance wrong.

What was the point where you realised it wasn't working?

Al: We played it to Irwin's mum and she didn't like it.

Irwin: You show it to friends, you show management, you show the label, and people weren't getting excited. We were four months into recording and thinking "maybe there won't be any singles on this album". That was a very real concern.

What did you change second time around?

Irwin: We worked with a couple of different producers, and tried a couple of co-writes as well. So we've really tried branching out. Even lyrically, there's been room for movement. Some songs rely more on symbolism and catchphrases…

You worked with Roy Walker?!

Al: What's Mr Chips doing now? That's the third single.

Was there a song where you thought to yourselves, "okay, now we're back on track"?

Martin: Yes, it was probably Choices. It came very abruptly at the end of the first stage of recording - and everybody got very excited about it.

Al: It's got a big synth riff at the beginning and a four-to-the-floor beat. It guided the other songs a little bit. You need a song to set the tone of the album.

Image caption,
Choices is accompanied by a kung fu-themed video

Music fans can be very puritanical. Do you worry that people will say "they used to play guitars, now they have synths. I don't trust them any more"?

Irwin: For us it would have been worse to come out with an album that sounded the same, because I think that shows a lack of imagination. Our thinking is that the people who've stuck around in this business have been progressive and changed with the times. People like Madonna.

Don't take this the wrong way but sometimes I suspect you write songs just as an excuse to make videos.

Al: You've just nailed it on the head!

Irwin: There is a point on the set where we all pinch each other. We're making little films. It's bolder to try and pack a short story like a film into a three-minute pop video. It's great fun.

Irwin: I'm actually a brown belt in Shaolin Monk.

At the beginning of the video, a mafia boss bursts in, presents you with a synthesizer and says "you've got to play our song". I assume he represents Sony Music?

Irwin: [laughs] I'm glad you saw that. That's the undercurrent. It's a finely-woven tapestry.

It's lucky that your press officer has left the room…

Irwin: Yes, there is no way she wouldn't have interjected at this point. But, actually, the label has been ridiculously patient.

Al: It wouldn't have been as good in the video if he'd jumped in and said, "now play this song, or take a bit of time and write some new material, but at least give us something in the next couple of months".

Have you got any plans to tour?

Irwin: I like the idea of using various things we've used in the videos - creating an aesthetic for the whole campaign. So I'll be coming out as a Shaolin Monk, and we'll recreate that scene with the block of ice from the Karate Kid.

Image caption,
Worried About Ray was nominated for best single at the 2008 Brit Awards

The original or the remake?

Irwin: I don't believe in the new Karate Kid… Oh wait, that's a Sony film, isn't it? I love that film.

What's the best live show you've ever seen?

Al: I remember watching the Libertines at the Reading Festival, and they had a fight on stage. They actually fell off the side. That's how they finished the show. You saw the tension between them building throughout the gig.

Do you have a similar relationship like on stage?

Irwin: We always try to do something that surprises each other, so whether it's like…

Martin: Ripping out someone's leads...

Irwin: Or Martin will try to come and play my guitar with his bass guitar...

Al: Or he'll go up and whisper "you're hopeless" in Irwin's ear while he's playing his solo.

Martin: [whispers] You've got no talent. I hate you.

Irwin: [also whispering] You see that girl down there? You don't stand a chance. I saw her vomit in her mouth earlier.

Last time we talked, you told me you wanted to buy a yacht and call it HMS Chart Success. How's that going?

Irwin: We've got a few pennies towards it from our first album. The spoils of victory. Actually, can we change the name to Spoils Of Victory?

Martin: And we will use it for the sacking of pop town!

Choices is out now on RCA records. The Hoosiers' second album, The Illusion Of Safety, is released on 16 August.

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