Having spent, by their own admission, quite some time putting together their debut album, the band members of Spring Offensive played their first of two album-preview shows in the packed Cellar in the heart of Oxford, England. They’re releasing Young Animal Hearts in March, but fans received an advance copy of the album at the concert, as part of the band’s PledgeMusic drive.
Spring Offensive has built up a reputation for delivering intense and atmospheric live shows in unusual venues in Oxford. Last year they had sell-out shows in London and a successful tour of Germany, where they’re currently touring into the month of April, alongside gigs in Amsterdam, Switzerland, and Belgium.
The band sets up on the stage of The Cellar, the location of some of their first-ever shows–something that clearly means a lot to them. “It’s a great space,” says lead-singer, Lucas Whitworth, his head an inch from the venue’s low ceiling. And he’s right–the location is not the best space visually (for audience members especially), but the sound is clean and enveloping.
Bunched together, they kick off with their current single, “Hengelo,” a now-characteristic stuttering chug of a song. The guitars chime and all five band members feed the melody with their blending vocals. The songs continue with “Bodylifting” and “No Assets,” taut, urgent, and full of layered tunes. “The River” is a welcome shift. It’s a slower, swirling song that steps between two melodic refrains.
The band squeezes among the audience to deliver their trademark acoustic version of “Carrier” which builds to vocal harmonies and flamenco-style rhythms. The song is about “pulling a sickie,” says Whitworth, and its lyrics manage to tease a laugh out of the audience, which is welcome amid the seriousness and the intensity the band’s songs can bring.
Back on the stage, “Cut the Root,” a new song about the “blueprints laid out” for us by our family past, is a highlight. Matt Cooper’s acoustic guitar and Theo Whitworth’s (Lucas’ brother) electric guitar converse intricately behind the band’s rising vocals.
The band starts their two-song encore with an acoustic version of 2012’s “Worry Fill My Heart,” the only one of tonight’s songs not from the album. It requires an instrument shift-around as one artist picks up the violin and drummer Pelham Groom moves to the guitar. But the best was saved until last. The opening song of the album, “Not Drowning But Waving,” is Spring Offensive’s last song of the show. It works as a showcase for the band, building and soaring into the space. It feels like the first time Lucas Whitworth’s vocals are really set free this evening. As “the storm comes in” he asks if he has “to shoulder this one,” his palms pushing up on The Cellar ceiling. The rest of the band drives the song to a guitar-filled climax before drawing back to their five unamplified voices.
Partially produced by English musician Gaz Coombes, Spring Offensive’s debut album will be available on March 10 of this year. The Pledge campaign is still open for those who are interested in contributing.