Interview: The Crookes
A striking red sky hangs overhead as we meet The Crookes outside Sheffield’s O2 Academy, casting a pinkish hue over the city centre and temporarily adding a splash of relief to what was an unforgivably grey winter’s day. A welcome change.
And change in itself is something which has been an overriding theme throughout 2015 for the indie pop four-piece. They’ve welcomed a new drummer, Adam Crofts, into the fold and launched their independent record label back in April, which has seen them taking full autonomy over the upcoming album, Lucky Ones, scheduled for release on January 29th.
‘It’s been quite a topsy-turvy year, I suppose,’ reflects lead singer George Waite. ‘In a way, we’ve been quite lucky in how it’s all turned out.’ A quick elaboration tells of how things have gone from one extreme to the other for the band in a relatively short space of time. Today we sit to discuss a fourth album and imminent UK tour; yet only twelve months ago the band were without a drummer and left seriously considering their future together. Thankfully though, ‘Croftsy’ came on-board, passing the band initiation process (buying a round of beers) with flying colours and shifting the focus back onto new music. September provided the first glimpse of a forthcoming album after the release of single ‘I Wanna Waste My Time On You’, featuring a B-side with South London songstress Misty Miller, became the first through Anywhere Records.
The decision to start up a label was instigated in part by a desire to take fate into their own hands, but also reflects a shifting landscape when it comes to the clout offered by large labels in the music industry. ‘Quite a few of the bands that we’re friends with – Little Comets and Frankie & The Heartstrings, for example – have their own label, so why not give it a go? It also seems what record labels used to do five or ten years ago, bands can do themselves now anyway,’ says George. ‘To put it a bit more simply: I don’t think there’s anybody in the current music industry who will care about this upcoming record more than ourselves, so to take the responsibility for it makes a lot of sense.’
Lucky Ones will mark a fourth studio album in less than five years for the group who met on a sticky nightclub floor in Sheffield University’s Student Union, a telling stat which backs up their ever-present zest for writing and sharing music. Guitarist Dan Hopewell, the man behind the group’s much-lauded lyrics, puts this down to their strong work ethic – ‘being grafters’, as he says – but also the pressing need to constantly write and transform experiences into songs. ‘We all tend to write our stuff separately and come back together, but it’s a continuous process. As musicians, it’s just what you do. Unless you’re someone like Adele, you can’t really afford to hold back or toss it off for a year.’
For their most recent release, ‘The World Is Waiting’, Dan’s words explore the state of modern day courtship – ‘we think it’s love, when it looks like sex’ – and questions the decision to settle for something shallow and straightforward, the lack of a sense of adventure, how we can leave a vast world brimming with new experiences completely undiscovered. In a world of dating apps, booty-calls and Netflix and chills, does he believe there is any hope of true romance for the Tinder generation? ‘I’m not sure,’ he admits. ‘I guess it’s always easy to define romance in retrospect, so maybe in 30 years’ time people will talk about how great Tinder was for meeting people. The song in itself is about some people I know and their attitudes to love and relationships: how lust comes before love and basically treating partners like a blow up doll.’ One could imagine how this sort of culture could frustrate song-writers whose bread is buttered by writing about relationships and love in modern times. Is there a sense of worry that the continuing decline of ‘old-fashioned romance’ in today’s world could lead to a deficit in inspiration for good love songs? ‘Well, I’ve always been an old romantic, I think we all are actually, so we should be ok. Luckily, being a musician is a fairly romantic thing to do; and if you’re a struggling musician then that’s even better. I don’t think anybody writes anything good when they’re feeling comfortable with things.’
As the interview begins to wind down, conversation turns to their final gig of the year supporting The Fratellis on the concluding show of a 15-date UK tour, which was due to finish weeks earlier but became delayed due to illness of the Scottish band’s frontman. It is clear, however, that even with a break in sight the band are in no rush to stop gigging just yet – tour fever has gripped them all. Guitarist Tom Dakin calls it the ‘post-tour comedown’ and you get the impression that the band would happily skip forwards to January 30th, the opening date of their tour with the new record. There’s enthusiastic talk about the fun had while recording The Lucky Ones, with tracks inspired by memorable experiences in their tour of the US last year, and a wild night in Las Vegas is briefly alluded to; this being a contrast to previous album Soapbox, recorded amongst the isolated setting of a mountain region in northern Italy, with the loneliness noticeably seeping into the recording at times. Now working entirely on their own terms and loving every minute of it, they admit to feeling more settled than ever and very excited about what 2016 might hold. One thing’s for sure: the tour’s closing gig at the Leadmill is set to be a special evening in the city where it all began, on a stage which the lead singer used to fantasise about playing during his days as a student. ‘We were asked the other night what our dream venue would be and I couldn’t answer it. Being at university in Sheffield, I always saw The Leadmill as the musical mecca of the city. Beyond that, I couldn’t actually think of any other place we’d rather play.’
Lucky Ones is released in the UK on Jan 29th. The band play The Leadmill on February 27th – see www.leadmill.co.uk for tickets.