Photo by Conor O’Beirne
By Ellen Pentony
Picture this. No, not the band. This. You’re surrounded by a bunch of sweaty people. The floor is sticky. You’re standing at the bar. “Pint of Hop House,” you shout over the booming bassline that’s making the room shake. You carry it through the crowd, trying to hold it high enough to avoid a mess. It doesn’t work. Oh well, everyone’s already drenched in their mates’ sweat anyway, what harm is a bit of beer?
That’s what I imagine it’s like to be in the middle of a SPRINTS gig. It’s been over a year since that scenario was a reality, but listening to their debut EP Manifesto transports me right back to the upstairs of the Grand Social, Workmans, Whelans, and all the other small sweaty rooms that used to be our norm.
SPRINTS is made up of Karla Chubb (lead singer and songwriter), Jack Callan (drums), Sam McCann (bass) and Colm O’Reilly (guitar). They’re a noisy grunge-punk band from Dublin with a lot to say. Their debut EP is filled with experiences of contemporary Ireland.
“Drones” throws you straight in with a mix of uptempo drums and guitars heaving into overdrive. Chubb speaks rather than sings in a matter-of-fact way about the pressure to prove yourself in a world consumed with comparison: “And you’re getting better / And I’m getting bitter”
The song ends with a massive, loud explosion of guitars as Chubb’s calm delivery breaks into a shouted refrain: ”Maybe I always wanted to be like you / Maybe you always wanted to be like me.”
“Swimming,” draws attention to the limitations of Irish society. SPRINTS point to political incompetence and the willful ignorance of those in power with the refrain, “the city is sinking, but let’s go swimming.” Chubb sings about how she’s been working full-time since she was seventeen and highlights the frustration of struggling to make ends meet in a society consumed by greed. Backed up with more pulsing guitars and hard drums, it’s a real powerhouse of a song.
In the title track “Manifesto,” Chubb asks for faux-guidance from an oppressive society that tries to tell her what to do. You can’t help but feel the sarcasm in her voice as she pleads for someone to “come entertain me and show me what’s right.” Similarly to “Drones,” it’s loaded with screeching guitars and an absolutely banging bassline that you can feel in your soul. It’s worth noting that while SPRINTS are loud, their music is not without thought as they build up layers that work together to create a powerful, full sound that suits their impactful lyrics.
Chubb, who has previously discussed what it’s like to be queer on ‘’The Cheek,” joins a host of LGBTQ+ voices in the Irish music scene who are doing wonders for visibility and representation. On “Ashley,” she sings about a tricky relationship with a girl. This is definitely the most musically conventional song on the album, but that is by no means a complaint. The infectious hook is catchy as hell, as she shouts: “Why did I feel / like I was going to die for you / lie for you / wait up in the middle of the night for you.”
I can imagine a room of love-torn queer women belting it back at Chubb thinking, I FEEL SEEN. While her vocal delivery is more spoken-word on tracks like “Drones” and “Manifesto,” “Ashley” is more melodic and showcases Chubb’s vocal talent.
There’s something so familiar and authentic about the music SPRINTS make. Their lyrics are to-the-point, unpretentious, and accessible. While the songs don’t make explicit references to Dublin or Irish culture, SPRINTS offer relatable observations of what it’s like to live in the capital right now, discussing themes from oppression (“Manifesto”), political incompetence and wealth inequality (“Swimming”), to more personal accounts of imposter syndrome (“Drones”), and relationship troubles (“Ashley”). The band have been generating buzz for a while now, and with the release of their debut EP have firmly solidified their place as one of the most exciting acts in Ireland right now.
They have a live stream from the Grand Social coming up on March 31st as well as an Ireland and UK tour beginning in November 2021. Grab your tickets and your concert beer of choice, it’s about to get messy.