“A Game of 20 questions” is a feature where writer Tom Farmer asks 20 questions to some of the best and most promising new acts. It’s a bit like Vogue’s 100 questions, but a lot shorter and a fair bit less glamorous.
This week I am joined by West London’s Sterling Press. Touted by many as one of London’s most exciting bands, the fresh-faced four-piece released their debut single “Very Fun Times” a couple of months ago. However, the band are far from newcomers to the indie scene, achieving significant success with their old band RIC- developing a reputation as an immense live band and amassing over 150,000 Spotify streams. After a lockdown of soul-searching and self-reflection, the band decided to ditch RIC and begin a new project, forming “Sterling Press”.
With a sold out London show and a Manchester date heading the same way, a step in a different direction looks like it has paid off. Backed by Steve Lamacq (the king of indie music) and Abbie McCarthy at BBC Introducing, the four-piece have hit the ground running. I caught up with Marlon, Ed and Greg a couple of months ago to discuss the change of strategy, coincidental trumpet sections and Brentford FC’s promotion chances.
TF: What’s the story behind the new name?
Ed: We spent a couple of days looking for a new name. We went to an art gallery and looked at books and other cool stuff. Then, we found this Instagram page that posted about old bands who were not together anymore.
Marlon: Yeah, we basically saw “Sterling” in the name of one band. It wasn't a natural thing at all. It literally took us four days straight to do it. It wasn’t natural at all.
Greg: Think you boys saw the “Press” thing first.
Marlon: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, we had the “Press” thing for quite a while. Eventually we got “Sterling Press” and now we love it.
TF: Why the new band?
Greg: With RIC, nobody could really find us on Spotify. You would Search “RIC” on Spotify and you're going straight to Rick Astley. We didn't feel like we were really fulfilling the potential we had. Also, with the stuff that we were playing as RIC, we didn't feel it really represented us anymore. Lockdown gave us the time to think “Look, do we actually kind of love the stuff that we wrote two years ago?”. If not, we may as well start a new project.
TF: Is there something about maturing as musicians? Would you say that Sterling Press is a “proper band”, whilst RIC was a “sixth form band”?
Marlon: I think RIC was still a proper band but a different kind of band. We were such a gigging band. We were at our best playing live, I thought that was kind of what we were good at. But obviously, we can't do that anymore. We had definitely outgrown RIC. Ed: We started RIC in year 10 or something.
Greg: There's also a lot more preparation (with Sterling Press) because we had the time in lockdown to actually think, whereas with RIC it was constantly changing.
Ed: We could plan “Sterling Press” and make it to whatever we want it to be and focus on new influences. Me and Greg loved the Beatles, but we never really got to write in this style.
TF: Do you think there’s going to be severe long-term damage for music for young artists like you because of COVID?
Ed: For us, there’s no damage because we just stopped and actually actually thought about what we're doing.
Marlon: It depends what kind of situation you're in obviously. It's worse if you’ve just sold out a tour or something, but we didn't really miss out on anything. We basically all got jobs over lockdown and worked to save up money.
Ed: We definitely got away with it, we didn't have any gigs booked. We could just tread along quite nicely.
Marlon: We are definitely luckier compared to other bands. Lots have been way worse affected by us, but I think that music at the minute is just like a coiled spring or something that is literally gonna just pop off. There’s going to be loads of new British culture and music.
TF: Congrats on the single. Steve Lamacq spun it on Radio 6 last night for your first national radio play. How did that feel?
Ed; it's a big, big milestone for us.
Greg: It’s one of the big targets for us to hit. It was exciting and gets you motivated to do more.
“Music at the minute is just like a coiled spring”
TF: What is the story behind the single and how is it constructed?
Marlon: Basically, we were just about to record our single then our producer got COVID, so we could go in for another week. So then we had a week to play around and do random shit, and that's how the whole trumpet stuff came about.
Greg: We just got mad in the studio. And that kind of grew the idea of the trumpets.
Ed: We got your (Greg’s) cousin in for a day and I remember the moment he started playing along with the trumpet, thinking “This is fucking sick!”.
TF: I’ve never heard a debut single with trumpets before.
Marlon: That's basically what we wanted to do: go in full-steam for a first release. So why not release a track with a fat trumpet section?
TF: If you wanted one person to listen and compliment “Very fun times”, who would you pick?
Marlon: Alan McGee. We’re massive Alan McGee fans.
Ed: That would be jokes.
Marlon: We met him after a gig. I forgot he was properly Scottish, but he was really nice. He must have seen some mad shit too.
TF: Who would you most want to support on tour?
Greg: Someone mental like Anderson Paak.
Marlon: Definitely, someone quite different from us.
Greg: For the novelty, Paul McCartney.
Marlon: Oh God! Jay-Z?
Ed: I’d play for anyone to be fair.
TF: You're from West London, literally only a couple of roads away from me. Has this shaped your music, particularly exploring the concept of suburbia?
Marlon: Yeah, a lot of our tracks are story-based and stuff like that. But that’s not purely based on where we live. Growing up here is quite similar to a lot of people. We also did a bit of writing at our manager’s house in Kent.
Greg: Yeah, it was strange taking the kind of step out of London to write. It really made us actually want to kind of get back into London because you're much more disconnected. We just wanted to be back going to parties and stuff once we’re out of lockdown.
TF: What were your first gigs?
Ed: Slaves at Boomtown- they were sick.
Marlon: Jessie J at the O2. That was pretty cool.
TF: Favourite Jessie J track?
Marlon: Fuck, can’t remember.
Greg: Can’t even remember the songs- fake fan! My first gig was Arctic Monkeys at the O2.
Marlon: Was that your first gig? You must have been to a gig before that?
Greg: Nah, obviously we had played gigs and I had seen small bands and that. But that was my first proper concert.
TF: Unlikely influences?
Marlon: I listen to jungle beats for the drums. We did stuff like slowing them down and speeding them up like a club track. We listen to a lot of Ska music and quite a bit of Northern soul at the moment. So loads of different stuff, to be honest.
TF: One of the biggest problems in West London is what pub you can go to underage. Where did you go before you were legal?
Marlon: We didn't really go. Did we?
Ed: We played gigs underage. We were playing pubs and clubs at 16 and 17.
Greg: Playing gigs was the way into pubs and no one would ask any questions.
Ed: We played a gig before an England World Cup match a couple years ago and got into a club for the game. We were all thinking “How on earth do we do this?”.
“Music matters more than anything”
TF: Some very strong Beatles vibes in “Very Fun times”. Have you got a favourite Beatle?
Marlon: Do you know the answer?
Ed: I’m trying to think. Probably John, but I like Ringo as well. I think Ringo is just pretty straightforward and there's nothing not to like. He does the job, know what I mean?
Greg: Or George, for peace and love and all that.
Marlon: Yeah, I’m not as avid as the other two.
TF: You’re not the type of guy to listen to the White Album backwards and try and find Satanic messages?
Ed: I have done that once, to be fair.
TF: Favourite film?
Marlon: Nightmare before Christmas by Tim Burton.
TF: Even in July?
Marlon: All year round. If not, the second Indiana Jones.
Ed: Mine’s The Incredibles. Only the first one, though. The second one’s rubbish.
Greg: I’m a Star Wars guy, but I recently saw Fight Club- that’s a cracker.
TF: You’re all big Brentford fans and you were added to the Brentford FC pre-match playlist. What was that like?
Marlon: We got a good relationship with Stu (from Soccer AM and fellow Brentford fan). He’s brilliant. He’s a good guy and he loves to bring music and football together. It's good to have that kind of relationship with your local club, especially when we're doing so well.
TF: Finally your year to go up?
Greg: Not If we played like we did two days ago. (We’re speaking two days after Brentford choked to West London rivals QPR- not the team you want to choke against).
TF: Apart from yourselves, who else are you tipping for indie stardom?
Ed: SPOORT are really good.
Greg: Dystopia too.
Ed: Anorak Patch as well. Their drummer’s 13 too!
TF: I saw you met Carl Barat last year? Who was the biggest fanboy?
Marlon: In all honesty, no one was that starstruck. I felt like I should have been a bit more starstruck. We love the Libertines but it was all pretty normal. it was just a regular conversation and he’s a lovely guy.
TF: What’s next for you?
Marlon: We got loads of music recorded and we’re getting ready for a big year ahead. And We’ve got 25 or so more tracks to properly write and record. We’ve got a beer as well and some merch and some environmentally friendly birch company
TF: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Marlon: Hopefully just carrying on what we're doing to a bigger level. We want to be able to do what we're doing now.
Greg: In five years, we will hopefully be on the second or the third album. But yeah, we just want to get touring and get out there playing. That's the one thing that's missing and it’s what we got into music for.
TF: Finally, what’s one lesson you’ve learnt from the last year?
Marlon: Write good music.
Greg: There’s always something you can do to make yourselves better. Ed: I think, at the end of the day, music matters more than anything.
Marlon: Yep, all about the music.
'Lots Of Noise', the new single from Sterling Press is released on Thursday the 6th of May and can be pre-saved here.
The band are performing in Manchester this July. Click here for ticket information.