The Hoosiers 20 Questions

The Hoosiers are an English pop rock band from Bracknell, Berkshire, United Kingdom. The band consists of members Irwin Sparkes (lead vocals, lead guitar), Sam Swallow (keyboards, backing vocals), and Alan Sharland (drums, percussion). Their 2007 debut album, The Trick to Life was a multi-platinum success and they are now back with a brand new studio album The Secret Service which is released in October 2015. The band kindly sat down and took part in one of our ’20 Questions Series’. Here our their responses:

Irwin Sparkes (Lead Vocals and Lead Guitar)

  • Do you have a preferred stage guitar?

My blue-burst Les Paul Custom

  • Has a radio DJ anywhere (and any era) ever impressed you and if so why?

A few have “moved” me. Jo Wiley always made you feel very welcome and there was never any pretension of any sort. No nonsense. Speaking of which Dixie and Gayle at Yorkshire’s Real Radio were such pro’s. It helped that they were hilarious but also they convinced us that they actually cared about what we were saying. I’d say that’s a big plus: when the interviewer really wants to know the answers to the questions they’re asking.

  • A recording that makes you laugh, intentionally or otherwise! (artist / track / source album)

Song? Snake In The Grass – Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich

With the help of our long-time friend/collaborator (Andy Cartwright) we performed a “Pants People” choreographed dance to this at our album launch. Yes, in our pants. Those were the day (yes, singular).

  •  Is there a song that both you and your Mum or Dad really like? Or liked?

Father God I Wonder – Ian Smale.

  • Is there a book or novel that you would like to create songs or the score for? Why is this?

Great question. Al and I sometimes talk about how we create playlists to help create more of an immersive environment to suit the book we’re reading. Haruki Murakami’s Dance Dance Dance would be one. It references rock n roll’s roots whilst creating a world so jarring and abstract that it’d be interesting to reference music familiarly from the past and render it unrecognisable as it progresses.

  •  The radio is playing…what song would you cross the room to turn UP and what song would you cross the room to turn OFF?

I’m going to take a leaf out of Wayne Coyne’s book (although I’m almost positive he didn’t invent … positivity) and focus on what I love rather than what I don’t. I’m loving I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty.

  • What is your favourite track on the new album ‘Secret Service’ and why?

Depends on the mood I’m in. I’m really happy with the honesty level of the writing in Runs in the Family. It’s dealing some complex subject matter and is a track that’s helping us progress rather than revisit what we’ve previously done.

Up to no Good has a great swagger to it. It’s sexy. We’ve never done “sexy” before.

That said, I haven’t even heard the finished album yet! That’s how fresh it is.

Sam Swallow (Keyboards)

  • Name a great recording including in the title 1/ Red 2/ White 3/ Blue (artist / title / source album for each please) and explain why chosen

Red: ELBOW – RED – ASLEEP IN THE BACK The beat still trips me up at the start. I always think it’s in a different place, so when the band comes in I am constantly and pleasantly surprised. A beautiful track from a beautiful album.

White: ELLIOTT SMITH – BLED WHITE This whole album accompanied me through some of my best times at university. It’s a classic.

Blue: EELS – ELECTROSHOCK BLUES – ELECTROSHOCK BLUES One of the saddest, most poignant songs of all time. How can a song so small and understated be so emotionally powerful?

  • Which artist did you go to see perform with low expectations but ended up impressed? Where and when was this?

We went to see HAIM at Optimus Primavera festival in Portugal last year. I had the impression they were a bit of a fad. It turns out they are an awesome band with wicked songs. Blown away!

  • Do you have a preferred make of keyboard? If so, what is the reason?

In my opinion, Nord are the greatest. They are utterly reliable, have every base covered and, most importantly, they are RED.

Two tickets suddenly arrive for a live performance, they are for someone you have always wanted to see… Which act or artist and which numbers will be hoping to hear?

Modest Mouse. We had tickets to see them a couple years ago and they cancelled the tour, gutted. The World At Large and Float On. Randomly heard these two tracks in an HMV in Canada in 2005 and bought the album immediately.

  • Can you dance? Do you dance? How do your family rate your dancing?

I pride myself on at least always moving in time with the music. As far as I’m concerned, having my movements exactly in synch with musical sounds should make me a great dancer, yeah? Apparently not. Moving well and moving in time are very different things, it seems.

  • Where are you planning to tour this year?

Home sweet home, up and down the United Kingdom. But we will also enjoy a three day trip to Ireland, first time in a few years, so that will be great.

  • What is your favourite track on the new album ‘Secret Service’ and why?

Currently it’s The Wheels Fell Off. Irwin nailed the lyrics on this one. I hear a different clever line each time I listen to it. Also, I got to play bass guitar.

Alan Sharland (Drums and Percussion)

  •  Three tips for a novice drummer please

1-Spend as much time playing to a metronome as you can. It’ll help no end.

2-Make sure you get yourself in a consistent and comfortable posture. Try and always set up the same way.

3- Don’t spend too much time learning how to spin the sticks in the air. Perhaps only 80% of your drumming practice time should be spent on this.

  • Did you enjoy school? Whether you did or not, which song reminds you of schooldays ( artist / title / source album)?

The Day I Caught the Train – Ocean Colour Scene. That was a big Easthampstead Park favourite.

  • Name a recording (an album maybe) that really ‘grew’ on you and has ended up as essential listening? What is it about this recording that you value?

Tame Impala – Lonerism. That grew and grew and still continues to grow. The production is brilliant. The emphasis these days is heavily on Vocals and drums and this is a lovely change from that. It’s all about the bass and the chords- which are magnifique.

  • Could you please tell me about ‘The Wheels Fell Off’

It’s a little autobiographical number an ‘homage’ to a breakdown in communication. And it’s 162 BPM.

  • Which of your own recordings show you at your most a/ aggressive b/ relaxed c/ confused?

A/ In my Ultimate Fighting days I would always come on to Goodbye Mr A – soooo intimidating.

B/ Most of our second album sends me to sleep.

C/ We have a b side somewhere called Soul Exchange – what were we in?

  •  What is your favourite track on the new album ‘Secret Service’ and why?

I’m really into Up To No Good. It’s so groovy to play live. Makes a nice change.

Pete Sargeant

The Hoosiers new 4th studio-album ‘The Secret Service’ is released on Friday 9th October 2015 and available to pre-order in various formats here:   To coincide with the release, the band will be embarking on a 16-date UK Tour at the following venues:

Saturday 10th October 2015 – The Aquarium, Lowestoft, United Kingdom

Sunday 11th October 2015 – Hole In the Roof, Deal, United Kingdom

Thursday 15th October 2015 – Patterns, Brighton, United Kingdom

Saturday 17th October 2015 – Oobleck, Birmingham, United Kingdom

Sunday 18th October 2015 – The Engine Rooms, Southampton, United Kingdom

Wednesday 21st October 2015 – The Borderline, London, United Kingdom

Thursday 22nd October 2015 – LSU, Loughborough, United Kingdom

Friday 23rd October 2015 – Diamond Live, Doncaster, United Kingdom

Saturday 24th October 2015 – Club Vision, Weston-Super-Mare

Sunday 25th October 2015 – Academi Bangor, Bangor, Wales, United Kingdom

Tuesday 27th October 2015- Picturedrome, Holmfirth, United Kingdom

Wednesday 28th October 2015 – King George’s Hall, Blackburn, United Kingdom

Thursday 29th October 2015 – Mine, Leeds, United Kingdom

Friday 30th October 2015 – Night & Day, Manchester, United Kingdom

Saturday 31st October 2015 – Beachcomber, Cleethorpes, United Kingdom

Sunday 1st November 2015- The Engine Shed, Lincoln, United Kingdom

(All shows are priced at £13.50 not including fees) 

For more information visit:

(Many thanks to The Hoosiers for taking part in our ’20 Questions With…’ series and to Erik Nielsen for helping to make this article possible)