They are one of Oxford’s most exciting bands, so what are Spring Offensive doing playing a small restaurant? MATT AYRES finds out

Many bands are at a loss for words when they’re asked to describe their music. Not Lucas Whitworth. “Melancholic”, he asserts, “but not downbeat. Harmony driven, rhythm driven. We chose the name of our band because it’s sad, violent, but hopeful. That’s the kind of music we make.”

That name is Spring Offensive. Since releasing their debut EP Pull Us Apart in 2010, they’ve become one of the most hopeful collectives in Oxford’s legendary local music scene, respected around the city by gig promoters, other bands, and most importantly, music lovers. Theirs is a sound that encapsulates the intelligence of the best Oxford bands whilst remaining accessible enough to hook new listeners.

The band was originally formed by lead vocalist Lucas and guitarist/vocalist Matt Cooper, “sitting in a room together and writing lyrics.” It’s a collaborative process that continues to provide thought-provoking verse, although Lucas stresses that the rest of the band’s input is also vital in the song writing process.

“We always finish off our songs as a full band. It’s definitely collaborative, the final process involves everyone.”

Having undergone a recent line-up change in the arrival of bassist Chris Chadwick, the rest of Spring Offensive is comprised of drummer Pelham Groom and Lucas’s brother, guitarist Theo Whitworth. Roles in this band go further than toting a guitar or a pairs of drumsticks, though – each member has a responsibility in shaping the artistic output, whether it’s contributing towards five way harmonies in the most climactic moments of their live performance or regularly updating the band blog with details of their busy work schedule, and what to expect next.

The latest recruit is certainly pulling his weight, says Lucas.

“Since he’s joined the band, Chris has helped us to introduce samples and keyboard elements into our music, and helped us to work out how to use them on stage.

“The rest of us are quite simple minded,” he laughs. “Not very technical.”

An unlikely truth: Spring Offensive are a tangle of cables and guitar pedals when they play live, let alone the stunning technicality of their songs. It must also be pretty complicated working out how to successfully stage a gig in a church, or a living room, or a conservative club: the band are notorious for unconventional venue choices. “There aren’t that many venues in Oxford to play shows in, so you have to think outside the box a bit,” Lucas says. “We like to play gigs in as many different places as possible.”

It’s no surprise, then, that they’ve chosen a central Oxford restaurant, the Turl Street Kitchen, for their next local appearance. Despite its tiny capacity, Lucas is excited to play a pair of gigs there on Sunday and Monday.

“We’ve got two shows lined up there now,” he smiles. “The first one went on sale and sold out in less than a day. They’re going to be quite low key, acoustic sets, which will be a lot of fun. Our last Oxford show was at the Town Hall with Stornoway, and there were about 800 people there. This time we’ll be playing to about 60 people. You really get to know the audience at a show like that.

“It’s a really nice place with a really good vibe to it. I think people are very happy there, it’s a comfortable place to be. That’s a part of the reason we chose it.”

Local fans would be well advised to attend – it may be their last chance to catch a hometown show for while, as they prepare for an extensive tour of similarly intimate venues, followed by a more conventional tour around the country with ex-Supergrass star Gaz Coombs. Although Spring Offensive might be more closely aligned with Radiohead in terms of iconic Oxford bands, the prospect of touring with a rock music legend is not one to be passed over. “He’s a great guy with some great fans, and this is a really good opportunity for our band.

“We’ve not toured the UK as much as we’d have liked, and we’re really excited to do that now.”

Breaking beyond this city (and even beyond the UK, with a recent string of European dates), it’s an exciting prospect to watch another Oxford band rise to prominence, although Lucas and his mates are in no hurry, working best at their own pace.

“We don’t want to rush anything,” he concludes. “We’re working on an album, and we have a few songs written and recorded that people will get to hear soon.

“For now, we’re enjoying being a band, going to places we wouldn’t usually get to go to. It’s a lot of fun!”

Spring Offensive play the Turl Street Kitchen in Oxford on Sunday and Monday at 7.30pm. Tickets are £6 from