You'll be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable kind of sonic sci-fi than Oklahoma trio Sports' blend of inky, psychedelic R&B with indie rock from the South West. Made up of brothers Christian and Jacob Theriot and longtime friend Cale Chronister, this "band of Wizards" has been playing together for a decade, including five years in their current form.
Their 2015 debut Naked All the Time, was both glitzy and lo-fi, like a half-hour spent in the arcade from Stranger Things. The band's sound matured on 2016's People Can't Stop Chillin, and their upcoming record, Everyone's Invited (out on 8/24), is Sports' strongest project to date, a perfect marriage of their homespun roots and sateen sensibilities.
"The album has a lot of cowboy sounds and western nuggets. It’s our most Oklahoman sounding music yet," said Chronister. "Our album art really does capture the look of Oklahoma to me, but with three silver wizards on horses. It perfectly encapsulates us in our environment."
Singles "Shiggy" and "No Pressure" are kaleidoscopic and surreal but also heartfelt, a reflection in part on the loss of their close friend and manager Brian Dorsey, who passed in 2017. The new record is dedicated to him, and the band says that his influence is palpable.
"In this past year, we’ve grown into a more well-rounded entity and it is greatly due to him believing in us so passionately," said Jacob Theriot. "This new record is dedicated to him and we like to believe that he’d be even more proud of it than we are."
Ahead of their new album and upcoming tour, we talked to the three wizards about the maturation of their sound, the ethos of Everyone's Invited and, of course, their preferred magic spells.
Where did the title Everyone’s Invited come from and why did you decide to also carry that name onto the tour?
Cale: It was one of those things I kept in my back pocket for a while, but it stuck with this new album because everything is more transparent lyrically and emotionally. I think of it as inviting everyone to step into our world and to see if anybody relates to us. I’ve performed under the alter ego “Cadillac” for the last few years and Cadillac loves to party, he’s super confident. Now Cale has arrived. I’m finally okay with showing everyone who I am, I suppose.
Christian: There's something we feel when we get invited to a party and it’s VIP. I can also relate to the opposite, looking through the glass at a party that you weren't invited to. It's a depressing feeling. I've imagined the name as a party that feels VIP but everyone got the invitation. "Everyone's Invited." No excuse. Let's all have a good time.
“No Pressure” is a song that really stood out for its gentleness and its emotional honesty. What inspired that track and why was it important to include on the new record?
Cale: Gentle is the right word. It’s about comforting someone. It sounds like you’re being tucked into bed. I hope it can be a lullaby for anyone who experiences depression. Lyrically, it shows both sides of the conversation. So, if you’re going through something, hopefully, it can comfort you. And for people who know someone dealing with depression, hopefully, it can inspire them to be gentle and reach out.
The three of you have known each other and been making music together for such a long time. Is there a typical way a Sports song comes together at this point or does it still vary?
It’s our most Oklahoman sounding music yet. Our album art really does capture the look of Oklahoma to me, but with three silver wizards on horses.
Christian: Wild to think we've been making music together for over 10 years, five as Sports. This is the first record we wrote several of the songs together in the same room. The last two were created by us just sending ideas to each other. Tracks that sparked a melody or lyrical idea made the cut. We took those and refined them at Blackwatch with our producer Chad Copelin. We split everything evenly; it just works for us. We're all on the same page. Who knows what approach we will take on the next record. We've discovered so much about each other as artists that I think it's safe to say we'll do whatever we can to not suffocate each other's artistic ability and expression.
Your sound isn’t what a lot of people would typically associate with a band from Oklahoma, but what about your approach is inspired by your home state?
Jacob: I’m very inspired by my surroundings and the way they make me feel when writing and producing. I think the music invokes a sort of nostalgic feeling, which probably comes from living and creating in your hometown and still hanging with old friends and living a slower paced life. There isn’t a sense of competition here like you might feel in a bigger city, which takes the edge off of writing and keeps it interesting, especially now that it’s a full-time job. I think I’ll be able to better answer a question like this once I know what it’s like to live elsewhere. Time just moves a little slower in Oklahoma. There are some other bands here that are also pushing the boundaries of what people might expect. Shout-out to Breakup and Broncho, they’re killin' it hard, check them out.
Cale: The album has a lot of cowboy sounds and Western nuggets. It’s our most Oklahoman sounding music yet. Our album art really does capture the look of Oklahoma to me, but with three silver wizards on horses. It perfectly encapsulates us in our environment.
Over the course of your three projects it feels like you’ve gotten increasingly higher fi and more polished in your production approach. How would you describe the evolution of your sound from Naked All the Time to Everyone’s Invited?
Christian: We love the vibe lo-fi tracks have. As mentioned, a lot of our past stuff was created in our bedroom. We've grown as artists and I think it was just a natural progression to want to try new things. For this record, we did some production at Sonic Ranch. It's an amazing studio that sits near the border of Mexico and El Paso. We took a lot of inspiration from that place, which translates to some of the western themes heard on this record.
Obviously, Sports is not the most SEO-friendly name out there. Has that ever caused any problems for the band?
Cale: I’d say it’s mostly helped us. People attach to the name. They love it. And finding us isn’t that hard, considering most people are looking for you on streaming services and not just Googling you anymore. I don’t know what kind of person would just Google “Sports” looking for us. When we first got verified on Twitter, our account would pop up next to SportsCenter and ESPN for suggested follows and it gave us so many followers that are probably still very confused.
Jacob: If it has caused any problems, I’m not aware of it. To the 100,000-plus people out there who accidentally followed three wizards from Oklahoma on Twitter, I’d like to say… you're welcome.
KeithCharles shared his bodega fried pickles with us in the green room at Baby’s All Right. An unbreakable and eternal bond was formed that night over some greasy pickles. The dynamic is perfect and he is perfect for us.
You’ve got Awful Records’ KeithCharles on “Shiggy” and I know you’re touring with him later this year. How did you guys connect and what is the dynamic like between him and the band?
Jacob: Our BFF and photographer Sham who shot all the album photos for this record brought Keith to our show in Brooklyn last winter. Keith shared his bodega fried pickles with us in the green room at Baby’s All Right. An unbreakable and eternal bond was formed that night over some greasy pickles. The dynamic is perfect and he is perfect for us. Love you, Keith.
Cale: Love Keith. Loved those fried pickles, I still think about them. Bless him for blessing us with his verse on “Shiggy." Can’t wait for tour baby boy.
Lyrically, “Shiggy” is kind of a bleak track, but the instrumental is very slick and groovy. Do you guys enjoy exploring that contrast between the sonic side of a track and its subject matter?
Jacob: "Shiggy" was one of the first tracks I wrote with vocals specifically for Sports. Up until this record, I strictly wrote instrumentals and would have Cale handle lyrics and vocals, so I got pretty good at portraying a message or feeling through the music only. In the last two years or so I really started to have the desire to push myself and start singing and writing lyrics. "Shiggy" was the result of that. The lyrics were a bit stream of consciousness at the beginning that later were refined when I went through a recent breakup.
The song is about being fed up with being in a limbo phase of a relationship and wanting to finally just own up to something, but also constantly second-guessing whether or not you’re making the right decision. I feel like the instrumentation depicts just that with how almost aggressive everything is while still keeping composure until the breaking point guitar solo. It reflects how this year has gone for me. I wouldn’t say we intentionally explore the contrasts between the sonic side and subject matter, but sometimes it just happens that way naturally.
You released People Can’t Stop Chillin relatively soon after Naked All The Time, but it's been close to two years between Chillin and this new record. What’s changed most for the band in that time?
Cale: What’s crazy is a year ago exactly we lost our good friend and manager, Brian Dorsey. He passed away while we were on tour. He was one of us. He was a member of Sports that just didn’t get on stage with us. Losing him has been really rough on us. That’s why we are dedicating the album to him. It’s going to be a heavy day for us and his family, but we want to celebrate his life and what he’s done for us.
Jacob: Brian single-handedly changed the whole course of our career. He made things possible we weren’t thinking about and was truly passionate about taking care of us and making sure we weren’t underestimating ourselves. He pushed us to release that record and insisted we do a headline tour later that summer that ended up being more successful than we could have ever imagined. He introduced us to our current booking agent, David, and our BFF Yeek, and taught us the importance of not putting ourselves in a box as just “an indie band.” When he passed away while we were in New York on tour we had no choice but to finish strong and keep going. In this past year, we’ve grown into a more well-rounded entity and it is greatly due to him believing in us so passionately. This new record is dedicated to him and we like to believe that he’d be even more proud of it than we are. Love you, Brian.
Cale: Right when we found out he passed, we had to play a show in Brooklyn at Baby’s All Right. He was supposed to meet us there. It was so hard to focus. We all kind of isolated. We had friends from home that flew in. But I was a mess. Before we went on, I remember struggling to get it together and Jacob asked me “Hey, where’s Cadillac?” and it helped me get through it because it reminded me we needed to do this for Brian. The rest of the tour was miserable, but we kept pushing through it channeling that energy. Thank you for everything, Brian. We love you and we miss you every day.
If you had to pick one Sports song to get someone who has never heard the band up to speed with what you’re about which track would it be and why?
Cale: Hmmm, that’s hard. Listen to “Shiggy." Listen to “Autopilot." Listen to “Cadillac." Listen to "We Should Get Married." Listen to it all.
You describe yourselves in your bio as “a band of wizards.” What would be each of your go-to spells?
Christian: I'd keep it practical. There's a scene in Fantasia, I think it's called the Sorcerer's Apprentice, where Mickey casts a spell on some brooms to help with some chores. I'd do that.
Jacob: I wish I could fly on a broom.
Cale: Levitation, but we’re pretty good at that already.