Irwin Sparkes of the Hoosiers – Interview

Right Irwin! Yeah, so you’re coming to Dublin

Great, yeah, I’m very glad to hear that, I wasn’t sure that it’d definitely been confirmed so you’ve just confirmed it for me

Have I confirmed it? I don’t know, maybe it’s not confirmed. *puzzled panic*

You’ve confirmed it so this is great

It showed up in the advertising anyway, whatever about anything else…

Brilliant. Well that’s a very good sign, It’s always a good sign when they’re already advertising it. and that they’re advertising it at all actually

I don’t know about that, we’ll see what happens anyway!

A highly sarcastic beginning makes me wonder is this guy gonna be a complete diva dick or someone with a good, if not cruel, sense of humour. Thankfully, The latter fellow came out on the other end of it.
I spoke to Irwin Sparke, lead singer of The Hoosiers over Skype and to some very harsh beginnings and a lot of cussing, I finally got the hang of it. (I cut that part out though, you didn’t need to hear that.)

The Hoosiers were that band that sang me into first year of secondary school, the band everyone remembers for ‘Goodbye Mr. A’, ‘Worried About Ray’, and that FIFA game. As one might expect I got a lot of question suggestions for him, all ‘hilarious’ of course, and surrounding the story of the mysterious Ray from the song, and the band’s whereabouts for the last 8-10 years.

Unlike them though I looked back at their record and found a story that is heard all to often in the music Industry – One of a band releasing a hugely successful first Album (‘The Trick To Life’, their 2007 effort which produced a UK#1 and 2 top 5 singles).

They were dropped from their label though, as you’ll read below and continued making music independently.  They’ve persevered and are now about to release their fourth studio album That’s the first thing I wanted to find out about.

You can listen to interview via the YouTube video and/or read below.

I’ll talk to you first about The Secret Service, your new album; what can we expect when you release that on October 9th?

For the sky to grow dark, and a mighty sound like roaring. Thunder and rushing water just tear the earth asunder, and suddenly, boom there will be, coming down, descending from heaven, our 4th album.

I mean it gets harder and harder to do a publicity stunt, but I think we’ve managed it, we’ll pull it off this time.

It sounds glorious. Is it like the simpsons when they open up the new mall and there’s this angel?

Thats exactl- you can’t go wrong, you had me at simpsons.Pretty much when it’s in the simpsons, it works.

Exactly. *stutters awkwardly*

Of course, and as well as that, do you need an actual answer as well?

Ah, pfft, yeah sure, give me an actual answer if you could, I’d appreciate that.

O-kay. Well you’re getting a band who’re actually getting their heads around what they’re supposed to be doing now, rather than just fecking about with it for the first 3 albums!

You know in any other trade people get better? That’s i think the way it should work with music, but obviously a lot of bands don’t get that time to develop. But we are for some strange reason staying together after several albums and a number of years.
You’re getting a band that’s still progressing. Come grow with us, people.

So do you think the approach you guys took helped you out, with regards to development and stuff? Like, instead of sticking to labels religiously and stuff, was the approach you guys took –

Well yeah, we do have 100% artistic freedom with this record and we’re still aware of knowing what The Hoosiers is and it’s very melodically based and we have another number of musical projects that we’re involved in that allow us to scratch our itches.

But we’re aware of what The Hoosiers is, that in order to carry on for us and to make it worthwhile and that’s a big part of it; that we have to be inspired by what we’re doing. What we’re doing is progressing and the sound is growing up with us.
If it stayed still it’d just be redundant and boring for everyone.

And how do you know, you know when you’re road testing material, and you’re trying to figure out “Is this the right sound,” and “will people like this,” or “are people reacting to this,” Is that a pain in the ass when people are only asking for Goodbye Mr.A and stuff like that?

I think it really helps, having a modicum of self-awareness. I’m kind of fine with it really. You know it’s gonna happen. Ok, it’s not my favourite part of the show, when you’ve just started and people are saying “play goodbye Mr.A“;

You know you’re gonna play it, It’s alright everyone. You kind of want the night to be a bit of a journey but you can put that in there: We will definitely play Goodbye Mr.A, so no-one is to waste their breath.

Goodbye Mr A reached number 4 in the UK singles charts

Goodbye Mr A reached number 4 in the UK singles charts


Yeah! But at the same time you are aware that that is why people are there at all, that’s why you sold tickets, its because of the big songs that people know.

Will you play Freebird? I’ve got a few requests…

*laughs* Wow! Well, we still reserve the right to say no to requests, you know.

Damn! Ok then. Fair enough, fair enough…
But when people say, after maybe choices, which is a great song, but you went off the radar a bit – Is it a pain in the ass when people are asking you stuff like “ooh where did you go?”

Um, It’s ehh-

-Like me, right now.

No, do you know what, I relish the opportunity to answer it in this particular platform, but usually, its hard, cause i feel like that, I think, “hey, what happened to that band, where did they go, why did they stop,” and it’s funny with the question, the impetus is on the band, like, “what happened to you guys, why did you decide to ‘stop promoting your music’.”

Of course usually , it’s more of a case for what happened for us, and it’s the same that happens to so many bands, is that guys that signed us, the label, he exits. And then the bands that he signed tend to follow, because with new people that come in, they wanna give all the money and resources to their new acts.

They don’t benefit, they don’t get anything pride-wise, kudos, from having a band that someone else has signed.

So unless you’re lucky enough, and you move quick enough, to get a couple of albums out in your career, then…yeah. And we took too long as well to record that second album because you’re touring.

And that happens so often as well, but do you think that labels can take advantage of fledgling musicians?

Well I know they have a, and again, it’s just a business model, they don’t mean to be, lets say, ‘unsupportive’ or ‘malicious’, I think it’s just what makes money. I think even labels now, they expect to only have one album ,maybe if they push the bounds to quickly release a second one while they’ve got heed, that’s fine.

But usually, labels are already looking for the next thing, even when someone’s album is doing well because it’s so rare for any act to capitalise and have continued success.

They split from the Sony label after the single ‘Choices’ from their second album ‘The Illusion of Safety’ narrowly missed out on a top 10 spot and was considered a failure. They then departed from the label, taking the album with them and they re-released it as ‘Bumpy Ride’ – all very aptly named titles.

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Just to keep talking about labels here, when your album Illusion of Safety had to be re-released and repackaged, can you tell me a bit about that?

Thats absolutely it. I think it was an awareness of Sony knowing that we may have had a bit of a rough deal, because they did something very rare which was to give us the album back. They had cut all of the marketing costs on it, so they had taken the budget away, so it was a toothless campaign, really, after Choices.

That said, and i mean that was largely because choices only went to number eleven and so it was deemed to have not performed well – so if it had gone top ten then they’d have been happy – so then there’s all these markers.

And as well, the re-release, that was us trying the new business model and we were very fortunate that it’s only in the last few years that we can really harness the potential of the internet.

Sell directly to our fanbase. and we’re very fortunate to have…a…couple…still, that are into us, and so we’re very keen on keeping our fans happy, they’re our bosses. They’re the reason we’re in semi-game full employment.

At the end of the day, they’re always the ones in charge.


So do you feel that the benefits of being independent, creative control, relaxed deadlines and stuff outweigh the disadvantages in any way?

Yeah, there’s a lot to that, and also, it means that The Hoosiers, I mean it used to be our life. But now theres been a bit more room for balance. That’s taken some getting used to as well, just adjusting.

Interestingly there was this article, I cant remember where it was from (I think THIS is the one), but it was like “ten bands from ten years ago”, and just, all of them struggled to adjust, because a band is just so consuming.

It’s hard to see a world out of that, you could live in this little bubble, and i’m not sure if it’s ever healthy to do that. You could end up with a slightly distorted world view if you take it too seriously.

You could end up destroying yourself.

Yeah, and I don’t even mean just drink and drugs, it can just mean that you struggle to relate, as well, and at the end of the day, this is rock and roll, right?

The Hoosiers, Irwin Sparkes in centre.

The Hoosiers, Irwin Sparkes in centre.

I’m gonna ask you about something, leaving the track that we were on – Whenever you heard the name ‘Hozier’, were you pissed?

Ha! Not at all, no. I mean it’s part of his actual name isn’t it?

Well…yeah but… *descends into gibberish*…still?

It was funny though, our lawyer sent me an email going, “oh have you heard of this guy, Hozier?” and i was like, “Yes, I expect you to have instigated legal proceedings by the time you’ve finished reading this email,” and he emailled back, “are you serious? do you want me to?”

And i was like “no! no, no, don’t!” It’s like, it’s his name, and I certainly don’t think it’s going to do him any favours, and it certainly won’t do us any harm!
We were thinking of covering Take Me To Church just to make it more confusing,

Yes. You must.

We just use it as our entrance music now, and there’s about 7 per cent of the audience that get it.

That’s fantastic. You should do that in DCU.

Oh, I’m sure we will.

You guys seem to be good enough craic, good enough fun, to be able to do this sort of thing, is that important to you, to come across that way? Light hearted and stuff?

I guess with all of it, the audience will know, people know if it’s real or not. You can’t ‘try it’ if that’s not how you actually are. I mean there’s the part where we’re very serious about the music, and the music we make, and I’ll admit that when looking back it doesn’t always come across with the way that a lot of the videos were. It was a big machine back then.

We had a lot of fun and I don’t regret anything. It was great, wearing a Lycra bodysuit and pretending to fly in Goodbye Mr.A, that’s definitely one to tick off.

In case your imagination just isn't enough

In case your imagination just isn’t enough

But I mean that being light hearted, we are actually really good friends, so you put us together, and being in any interview situation, any videos that you’re filming on tour, or whatever, you’re mates so you try and make each other laugh. It’s just what you do.

And that’s kind of the core of why you stayed together so long?

It’s definitely helped, but also, having our space.

Like any good marriage.

Yeah yeah, but i guess that just comes from knowing each other and not being a mega-dick as well, that helps. Just a bit.

I’m sure plenty have come across situations like that alright…what would your inspirations be?

There were a couple of things that made me wanna start playing, there was, i remember Money for Nothing had come out, and Back To The Future, I remember watching that as a kid, and i was just like “wow! They play the guitar, yes!”

I liked that, but really, i think i would’ve given up but it was actually playing with a friend. He played keyboards, I played guitar, and we were like twelve and that kind of sealed it for me. I realised that suddenly, playing it on my own is just so boring but it is something that’s communal.

There’s an air of camaraderie. It was like hanging out before I was old enough to drink – It was something else to do!

The Hoosiers play DCU’s freshers ball on the 23rd of September, and release their 4th studio album ‘The Secret Service’ on October 9th. Thanks for reading.


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