The Hoosiers


Having sold a million records through Sony, scoring a number one album with ‘The Trick to Life’, including hits Goodbye Mr A , Worried About Ray and Cops and Robbers, The Hoosiers suffered the curse of difficult second album syndrome, taking longer than planned with the eventual top ten follow up, The Illusion of Safety.  In the time between albums, the music industry changed its direction, priorities and focus. With the record company having decided to cut their losses, the band had to go it alone, in among pursuing their own individual projects. They’re now set to return with their third album,The News From Nowhere’, and have gigs lined up for December. With a campaign based around a series of rewards packages for pre-release sales, including everything from getting your name in the album credits to having the band play an acoustic gig at your house, The Hoosiers are putting their fans firmly in the driving seat.  Frontman Irwin Sparkes (and recent play-writing collaborator with yours truly) had a chat about the new marketing approach, the risks and what he’ll do if it doesn’t work out.

What led you to use this approach with the new album?

The death of the music industry and the promise of a new dawn, if you’ll pardon the histrionics. Having been put through the ringer via a major label and our own inefficacy we are hoping to bring music directly to the people that buy it via our website (

Obviously there are risks, what’s plan B if the fans don’t go for it?

A suicide pact. Histrionics, etc … . Given that we’re in the very fortunate position of having some very loyal people that are buying our album on its pre-sale release already – without actually having heard anything bar one track ( – we’re already able to proceed with the campaign. You never know how successful it’s going to be but you’d drive yourself mad if you take success personally. Now we try and keep our minds on writing and playing music. Keep it simple.

You’ve got management – how much input are you having into creative and marketing decisions this time round – is it a case of having full control now?

We have all the control we could wish for. Control is no longer the commodity, it’s utilising the leg-up the major label afforded us in getting ourselves out the blocks. Of course we’re not in the same position of commercial strength we were whilst sitting pretty on a major label but the feeling of commercial impotence has been replaced with the sense we have a far greater degree of control over what happens next. Providence withstanding we are in the drivers seat and it feels pretty comfy. Creatively we only wanted to make another album if we enjoyed it and if we could make the album we wanted to. Creatively and marketing-wise we are a lot freer to turn down things that we would have found ourselves pressured into previously. I can safely assure you that there will be no “The Hoosiers ft. “crazy fad”".


Irwin Sparkes Photo by Ross Gamble/Flam Photography

Irwin Sparkes
Photo by Ross Gamble/Flam Photography

Does the industry feel like a very different place compared to when you started? 

Unsurprisingly it felt like a very exciting person to be around and be seduced by followed swiftly by a sense that it was a crazed mother intent on devouring her young. It’s important to safeguard yourself from cynicism – from yourself as much as from other people. As musician’s you want, need even, to believe that great things are possible.

In general it feels as though mainstream music is feeling the aftershock of talent TV shows. There’s a generation of musicians who believe you’re nobody unless you’ve won such a show, whereas most of those who’ve won are discovering a land of disenchantment. It’s a dangerous state of mind.

There’s a whole journalism theme to the album name and the choices on the fan packages – what led you to chose that?

We like to be very interactive with people on our social platforms and have previously asked what they want from us – from t-shirt colours/designs to cover songs. Once we’d decided on The News From Nowhere (taken from an old, nearly-forgotten song) it was a case of fleshing out the concept in terms of what it meant to us and other people. We developed the idea of a special edition paper that we get to personally thank everyone who’s bought it in and that will comprise of our own short stories and features; those people who’ve followed us the longest know we liked a skewed blog and we do enjoy some creative writing. The band’s future depends on getting fans involved so we thought we’d make this the most interactive campaign we could think of, hence we are offering editions of the album allowing fans to come down to the studio with us and sing and play on the album and even create our first video (

What’s the feedback from the fans so far?

It feels like we’re working together on this. It’s a lot more intimate than the former approach because there’s no middle man. We handle our social platforms and are immersed in this campaign. I think fans (still a little uncomfortable with the term) respect that we’re being honest in terms of where we’re at and how much we need them if we’re going to be able to carry on making music. It’s a really symbiotic relationship and makes me excited about the music industry as it promotes the concept that every band can be a cottage-industry in charge of their lot and at the mercy of the fan.

Have you changed musical direction at all with the new songs, or is it a natural evolution from your previous stuff?

Stylistically, we’ve created a more mature sounding record. We’ve always been a guitar band that’s moved by melodies so we’ve reflected this. It’s almost as if we’re getting better at it. Putting the music together hasn’t been such a liberated process since we started out. Being free of expectations and pressures has been immensely profitable, creatively speaking. Definitely less so, financially speaking. It feels like we’ve built upon our sound. Even when Al and Sam (drums and keys) were writing for other people during our lengthy sabbatical they would end up writing a song that was lyrically skewed, with an almost jarring, oblique way of putting something universally experienced (anxiety, a fight with a partner) and these formed songs on the album such as Fidget Brain. I don’t know if I should have given that title away.

What are your tour plans?

Very happy to be gigging again and showing off the new songs. We’re all glad with how they stand up to the other tracks. It feels like we’re able to give people their moneys worth with three albums-worth of music to choose from. Fills me with pith and vinegar to announce that tickets are onsale now for a short tour in early December. (Tickets go on sale Friday morning

You’ve all got fingers in other pies – what else have you all been up to while you’ve been on hiatus? 

I co-wrote, co-acted and co-produced a co-play co-called “Don’t You Know Who I Am?” with Yasmin Kahn… (Yasmeen: Who? She sounds co-dodgy to me)  It was about a noughties boyband member struggling to find his place in the world until his superfan hijacks his career. And life. Also got back to acting at the Leicester Square Theatre in an original comedy by David J. Collyer called “Human Resources: This Time It’s Personnel”, which was a hoot.

If all this doesn’t work out, you’ll become a…?

X-factor contestant.

What advice would you give to young bands starting out?

Look after your supporters. Love them.

Looking back, what would you do differently?

Had another project on the go to remind me that life is bigger than a band. I’d have been happier – wouldn’t have taken the ups and downs so seriously.

What/who are you listening to and loving at the moment?

Alexander Wolfe – his third album is out next year. The man is a poet. I hope he gets to be appreciated in his own lifetime.
Volcano Choir and Phantogram are also giving me jitters. The good kind.

The News From Nowhere is available to pre-order now. @thehoosiersuk