The Whoosiers?

_The manic stylings of English pop-rock band the Hoosiers set the charts alight with their debut album ‘The Trick to Life’ back in 2007. Composed of the triumvirate of Irwin Sparkes (vocals), Alphonso Sharland (drums), and Martin Skarendahl (bass), the band has stuck it out without ever truly disappearing from the public consciousness. Known for such hits as ‘Worried About Ray’ and ‘Goodbye Mister A’, the band’s roots are full of the mix of the odd and the mundane. The band’s name is based on a local nickname for residents of Indiana (USA), which was “stolen back” by old mates Irwin and Alphonso following their studies at the university there. They completed the lineup, after returning to the UK, by eventually meeting Martin following a combination of NME ads and providence. From there the Hoosiers started to become the band we know and secretly sing-along to in the shower. Dean Simons talks with Alphonso Sharland about the latest twists in the Hoosier story: the second (and-a-half) album, going independent, and the importance of fandom in keeping the dream alive._

**How did the process of making your second album, _The Illusion of Safety_, compare to your debut?**

The second album was really hard. The first album was made over the course of 10 years – developing a sound and getting our selves together, without much creative pressure. The second was written after touring for about 3 years and suddenly being forced into a studio and told to deliver an album. It took us a while – just the pressure, and not clearly knowing exactly what we wanted to do. We knew we wanted to move the sound and direction on, though. It’s not easy developing a second album. We were living the cliché.

**Did the chart success of a number one have a big effect?**

That was part of it, of course, because expectations were high. When the record company, the manager, everyone starts to second guess whether your singles are as good or as big as your previous singles. As soon as you get a little bit of doubt or anything like that in the creative arts, it makes everything a bit complicated, as you start second guessing things. Although I think our songwriting was good enough to produce a solid album regardless, for the second album we let the pressures get to us and second-guessed ourselves too much.

**When you were moving the sound on, did you find the process quite enjoyable?**

We were always going to get buzzes from sounds and keyboards and synths and any kind of different things that we could get our hands on. We’re not a band with a set sound, unlike a lot of bands where you know what they’re going to sound like. It was just as exciting as it was frightening. You open the door to lots of options and that makes the paranoia creep in, but that was really fun and we’re really pleased for where we went. The main thing we have now is the freedom to go where we want and people won’t expect too much from us in terms of a set sound.

**You’ve recently left Sony and moved to a new label. Why did that happen and what is different now?**

We’re independent now. It’s different insomuch as Sony were a big record label. The reason we left was a mutual thing. As we released ‘Choices’ and the second album there were a big changeover in staff. We found our selves at the back of the queue of importance. With our main supporters at the label gone, our manager and us decided that the best thing would be to get out or risk going stale. So we decided to go alone.

It was good for us at the start. I think a major label is important for getting in touch with the big market, providing the level of expense required to promote a new band. We had already made our name through that and I think now we can start making a living for ourselves independently, without the big bucks, which I think is nice.

**Why did you rerelease your second album, _Illusion of Safety_, with extra tracks and a new name (_Bumpy Ride_)?**

This is all part of the move away from Sony. Sony owns _Illusion of Safety_. During the split from the label they kindly decided that we could have the album back but because there were already a lot of the albums put out there, if we were to release or sell any more of the album in that form, all the money would go back to Sony. For us to function economically we had to rerelease the album under a different name so that Sony didn’t own it. We also didn’t want to put the exact same album out there, to sell to the same people, just to milk that, so we put some extra tracks on it and added a bonus DVD to give it value. Obviously the cynical person would jump to the conclusion that we did it to milk extra sales, but at that point we hadn’t sold that many copies of _Illusion of Safety_, so we wanted to get the newer album out there and sell to people that hadn’t heard or knew about it.

**How far along with album number 3 are you?**

We are quite a way along. We’ve written about 30 tracks and have whittled it down to about 12 that we’d like to work on, to start with, and we’ve recorded quite a lot of it. We’re trying to be quite quick with it, but we’re in the middle of a tour right now. We’re aiming to finish it by the end of the summer and maybe release it before the year is out.

**How does being independent make the process different?**

There are still people in charge of us, still people to deal with, and people with opinions. But it’s fine as long as you pick the right people, who you trust. That’s the good thing about being independent; when we want to release another album we can hire the right people ourselves.
Before, it was down to the people that run Sony to decide that for us. It’s nice to have that freedom. Ultimately your career is still down to relationships with the people that sell your music. We get a little bit more control but equally we are aware that in the Pop game your career is still down to taking advice from the people that you trust and who know the game. We’ll still have similar soundboards and people to listen to our stuff and give us advice but we can take it or leave it, if we want to, now. It’s a nice room to be in.

**You guys do quite a few promotional things with fans. How come you guys do that?**

You live and die, in this day and age, by your fans. We have a lovely loyal base of fans that we’d like to keep hold of. We’ve always wanted to work hard and do everything we can to make sure people remember that we are still here; particularly in that period of time between tours and albums. I guess that’s the reason why, but we’ve always done it.
These things (meeting with fans) can be a bit hit and miss, they can be odd and exciting in equal measure.

**What do you guys get up to on your days off?**

It varies. We like a Pizza Express and a Cinema – that’s a common one we do as a band. Otherwise we split up and do our own things. I play golf. Martin loves a bit of yoga. Irwin does embroidery. He’s very good. That, and cupcake making. It’s quite camp. We just do what we can to take our minds off the band, because otherwise you can think about music too much and it can blow your mind.

**What’s the most random thing that’s happened to you guys?**

Most exciting thing we’ve done was a Christmas song with Ricky Gervais for Radio One. He came to the studio and we met up with him. That was pretty random and really exciting because who isn’t a fan of him?! He’s amazing! He was really genuinely lovely and kind of similar to his characters. That was really nice.
We’ve also done a Girl Guides gig in Manchester which was……lovely (laughs). Really high pitched – a lot of squealing.

**Any make it onstage?**

No they didn’t make it that far. We had a group of Cub Scouts monitoring the stage. (laughs).

_The deluxe album, Bumpy Ride, is out now._


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