Search The Line of Best Fit
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Sprints Album Shots NB 17

On the Rise

03 January 2024, 08:00

Dublin quartet Sprints are bringing a tension-filled, anxiety-ridden edge to their fresh and vigorous brand of garage punk.

Sprints deal in reality. Even if that reality is dominated by whatever absurdity our brains conceive as anxieties or fears. It's something vocalist and guitarist Karla Chubb knows all too well. "When people ask me, how do you write a song? How do you do this? I'm like, I don't know, I just open my phone and my crying comes out in song," she shrugs with a laugh.

Like the tension of a tuned-up guitar hanging in a taught limbo waiting for the next strike to hit, the Dublin-based band expunge Chubb's reality with deft precision – knowing when and how to let the weight sink and when it let it fire upwards like an intense New Year's display. A fitting sentiment since their debut record Letter to Self is welcoming in 2024 ("Putting it out in January was the worst decision ever," Chubb laughs now).

As they leave behind a year that saw them reach further audiences, capitalising on the back of a handful of singles and EPs, all thanks in part to the ESNS Exchange programme – celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2023 – which awarded Sprints a round of funding, its all been a blessing for the quartet. Particularly since this allowed them to pack out 2023 with bookings, playing the likes of Iceland Airwaves, Germany’s Reeperbahn, and some of the UK’s own key fests including Truck and The Great Escape, shoving them and their noisy maelstrom in front of new deluges of punters giving rise to their riotous live experience reputation.

But it’s only recently they've been able to focus on Sprints full-time. As Chubb explains: "We've gone through so much in terms of changes in the band. When we started touring, we were dealing with the pressures of balancing work and personal lives and the anxiety and the travel and stress." But it's paid dividends, particularly now for Letter to Self which she calls "a very cathartic process – it's like a therapy session that we put on paper."


Sprints came together in 2019 wanting to make a band that energises all of their ambitions and passions. While their initial format was a trio – with guitarist Colm O'Reilly and drummer Jack Callan alongside Chubb – as an indie-folk project, Chubb barely considers it a start. She fondly recalls there was an especially different feeling when it came to bassist Sam McCan joining, and Sprints coming to life: "When the four of us got together to rehearse as Sprints for the first time, something switched inside of me."

SPRINTS JP Dougherty 12 3

Through humble beginnings rehearsing in a shed in Coolock, in the Dublin suburbs, Sprints toiled recording songs on voice notes after writing them in bedrooms. Delving further, she enthuses that "something just switched inside me, and I decided to not be so scared or held back anymore." Hitting her late 20s at the time, her initial reaction was sadly instinctual: "I don't how much time I've left in the music industry as a woman, so you better make the most of it. I finally accepted myself and that's what the music helped me to do. Now, I don't care what people think about me whereas before I was so terrified, and was so crippled by stage fright that I couldn't have dreamt of ever getting in the crowd. And now I'm in the crowd pretty much half of the set!"

Breaking out of these cuffs is the ambition of Sprints. It harkens back to their dealing with Chubb's innermost turmoil: "It's like these invisible restraints that you didn't invent yourself. I wasn't born thinking I only have until like 35 to make it in the music industry. Or, like I'm gonna retire out of it involuntarily. There's a lot of pressures still in place and obviously things are changing a lot for the better but I think growing up, it was very hard to almost be racing against that clock constantly. It's very crippling and it's a very tough thing to deal with because I don't want the time to run out, but there's very little you can do about it."


This idea culminates within Letter To Self. It's an anthology of catharsis Chubb is using to move on with her life. It's rich in hooks that splinter through your cheeks hauling you down into the murky waters that Chubb casts her lyrical net towards. Admitting that their debut eventually came to life after initially completing a couple of songs, "It felt like we had the direction that we needed to follow. It wasn't like filling in the blanks," she says. "But it was kind of like, okay, this is naturally spilling out of me so we just have to run headfirst into it, and just go for the authenticity, the honesty, and the vulnerability."

It's not always been an easy spill for Chubb. Comparing it to writer's block, "but it's an emotional block I had for a long time," she says. "And maybe that's a part of my diagnosed ADHD…I hyper-fixate on stuff. I get so focused on things that if I don't get something out of my head, I will ruminate and think about it constantly, and when I finally admit it to myself, I open the gate and the fixation is allowed to finish." Enter Chubb's foray into music.

Her first experiences with writing proper came after her best friend emigrated to Canada. The realisation of change and loss compounded into her not being "in a good place". After going out to drink with a few friends who'd noticed her behaviour change, "I was obviously a few Guinness in and I just said I just want to make music and I can't and they're like why not?" Chubb says. "I was like, I don't have a band and I'm too scared, like people will judge me and I'm not good enough and yada yada yada. And that was the first time I remember actually admitting that to myself I want to be a musician."

Vocalising her ambitions allowed her to start crafting songs. Having written here and there, it wasn't until she faced this fact and embraced it wholeheartedly that things started to click into place: "That's the one moment I can remember that I admitted to myself finally, and once I did, it was like I allowed myself to write."

For Chubb, the instilled love of music comes from live CDs. Guns 'n' Roses' Live Era '87-'93 is one of the first things she remembers consciously listening to: "Hearing the crowd noise in the background constantly over Axl's booming singing and Slash's in-your-face guitar solos. I said 'God that's so cool' like the people are there and they want to be a part of it."

When it came to taking the plunge and forming Sprints, it was Savages who led the way and turned the indie-folk trio into the vibe-shifting, atmosphere-breaking Sprints. "That kind of ferocity is quite brave and also endearing," Chubb gushes. "It's like you want to be one of those cool kids a little bit, it's all harking back to trying to impress teenage you a little bit." On what she reckons her teen self would say to her today, she ruminates for a moment, "I think she'd be fuckin' buzzing," she cooly beams. "To have been playing a shitty sunburst Fender Squire in my room to 'Teen Spirit' to today being able to quote-unquote play the guitar and play shows…yeah, I think it's mad."

SPRINTS Niamh Barry NB 77 1

From their start in a shed to supporting rising Irish punk-rap trio Kneecap at iconic venue Olympia – and this year heading to the States for the first time – Sprints' star is certainly rising. Most important is the impression they're having. "I don't want to sound like I'm talking like Nelson Mandela," Chubb laughs, "Like, obviously, it's music, it only has so much of a stretch for people to care about it, and it's nice to see that because I care about a lot of music. And there's a lot of music that helped me through emotional times."

With Sprints, the four-piece are vocalising and soundtracking modern life. Living in Dublin, means they're in the centre of a changing landscape both politically and socially. As well as, for Chubb, aiding her in many ways, including accepting her bisexuality, most prominently on single "Literary Mind". While she recognises that it's not specific trials for herself ("I do think that things like immigration and losing friends to distance or financial isolation…a lot of us are facing with how the world is") it doesn't lessen the sting: "I've had to deal with a lot of friends emigrating and a lot of struggles in the economy and a lot of pressures with trying to survive and in a very difficult city. It's been amazing to have Sprints to go through all that with because it's almost like with all this change constantly in life Sprints has been the constant. It has become a real community; there's friends who constantly help us or partners or families. It's kind of like this little weird, very unrelated, dysfunctional, psychotic family. But it's amazing."

Sprints Album Shots NB 8

Having obliterated her experiences and feelings up until this point in Letter To Self, she admits it feels "like a little bit of the weight has been lifted," which opens the door to more because, as is the modern way in which Sprints are acutely aware of: "There's always some other existential crisis to focus on. I think one that everyone in Ireland is dealing with is the immigration and the natural collapse of our economy and housing and medical resources…all those fun things!" She smirks.

Sprints has wound up giving Chubb and Co more than they could ever imagine. "It's a little bit sanctimonious," she admits sheepishly, "but it gives you purpose. And something I always struggled with was this existential crisis, like the idea of; wake up, go to work, go home; the house, two kids – which didn't seem even feasible for me in my lifetime." Following that well-worn path of rock renegades skipping town to chase a dream, Sprints offered up an alternative: "It's amazing that our career and our passion and the one thing we want to do in life is also something you really tangibly see results with as well, because it really does keep you motivated. Every day we can see a show selling or we can put a song out or we can create a piece of art, and then you can see it out in the world. And I think, deep down – it is so sanctimonious, actually," she breaks laughing, "but when I'm gone, I've left something behind a little bit. I will have potentially left a stamp somewhere – maybe in the bargain bin – but it's there!"

Letter to Self is released on 5 January via City Slang. Who will be the next act with such a success story at ESNS 2024? Check the full lineup.

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