Since their first single ‘Pray’ which hit Spotify in 2015, Crows have been working hard recording new material (a steady stream of singles having been released in the three-and-a-bit years since) and building their reputation as one the best live bands of the moment. Now, as announced late January, they are finally releasing their debut album on none other than Balley Records, Joe Talbot of IDLES' own. It’s safe to say this Cool Brother writer hasn’t been as excited about anything since he met Adam Devonshire in a pub in Berlin last year.
To capitalise on this excitement and to give an excellent band some well-deserved publicity, James Alston asks Crows a few questions about what we can expect from the new album, what’s going on in the current UK post-punk scene – and about their forthcoming shows.
Crows – The Itch (Yala! Session)
The new single ‘Chain of Being’ has a lighter, happier sound than lots of the earlier tracks, although it still has elements of warped disruption which makes it an uncomfortable listen, at times. What made you move in this direction for the new track?
We worked on writing 'Chain of Being' like with all of our other tracks. One of us brings an idea to the table and we go over it as a band, exploring various structures and avenues it can take. 'Chain of Being' originated as an idea on the bass and we had a lot of fun with taking that very major key idea and making it fit in the Crows format. We were also listening to a lot of Deerhunter at the time.
Can we expect more of this slightly brighter sound on the upcoming album?
There are a few brighter moments on the album but Chain of Being was the most obvious of those. We have always enjoyed writing high intensity, heavy songs that are really powerful live – but, with the record, we also wanted to showcase the melody and song writing. We recorded the album in such a way that it recreates the raw energy of a live show, but has enough clarity that you can pick out those subtle songwriting moments.
I saw you guys at the Tramshed in Clapton a year and a half ago, and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. I remember you being outside in the rain screaming the lyrics in the faces of those who couldn’t fit through the door afterwards. How do you manage to keep the momentum up when your shows are so energetic? It must be knackering.
I remember that show, and it was very crazy! It was basically an empty room with a tiny PA and no lights, so we played the set in the dark apart from the occasional camera flash going off. I think the room and the vibe of a crowd has a lot to do with maintaining energy through the show. You get adrenaline when you see a bunch of people go nuts to your music – and, when that happens, it's easy. It’s more difficult when you play shows that have a particularly static crowd, or no crowd at all – but this is when you really need to dig deep and be a professional. If there are five people in the room, that’s five people that paid to take their time to come out to see you. They deserve your best.
Are there any stand-out shows you've done in the past which hold a good place in your heart?
We’ve played a few really great ones. People for the most part really like to get stuck in at our shows, and we feel really grateful for that because it makes what we do a lot of fun. There was a show at the Green Door Store last year that we did for their birthday. We went on at 1am – and, by that point, people had had enough beers to get really loose! Another favourite was when we played in the middle of the room and on the floor at The Shacklewell Arms. It was slightly unconventional, and we really loved that. We also have something very interesting planned for the night of the album release that I’m not allowed to go into just yet.
Lots of your songs deal with heavy, political topics – like the closing of mental health institutions, the snakeskin trade, the Vietnam War. Are you guys big on animal rights?
We love animals – the big majestic ones, all the way down to the cute little furry ones. Full respect to those who try to reduce their footprint in the world.
What do you think the reasons are behind this upswing in populist/tribalist politics in Europe and America recently? Do you think music has something important to say about that? Can it make a difference?
Music has always brought people together during uncertain times. I don’t think this time will be any different.
There’s a bit of a scene going on at the moment around IDLES – for example, Shame, Sorry, JOHN, Hotel Lux, YOWL. Why do you think this is? Do you think it’s a response to our time? Is there a need for this new movement right now?
I think that whilst alternative music scenes dip in and out of the mainstream, they have always existed – from the '60s garage scenes right through 'til the modern day. Guitar music has always given a voice to outsiders, and it’s great that bands are using their platform to give their personal take on what’s going on in the world. It doesn’t all need to be political though. The best songs are songs that are honest and personal.
There are also the small local zines spreading this scene – like Cool Brother, of course – but also So Young, for example. I think a big reason why the scene is often labelled ‘post punk’ is because of that DIY ethic. Is labelling a scene, or even a band, ever really useful or accurate?
It is inevitable that bands of a certain style will be pigeon-holed into a genre. Bands draw from each other as well, so there are going to be similarities. It’s what the press and people use to describe music, and that’s okay.
What do the rest of you do when you’re not making music?
Jith works on the bar at a restaurant, Sam works at a booking agency and Steve works at a parts factory depot.
It must be tough working full-time jobs while trying to rehearse, tour, and release new material. How do you manage this?
Sometimes really badly! We all have different working schedules and lives, but we are all really committed to the band. When it comes down to it, we prioritise Crows over our shitty jobs.
Does having a ‘regular’ job at the same time inform your music? I’m considering YOWL, for example, and their track ‘Saturday Drag’ which specifically deals with the drudgery of everyday office work.
It is difficult to juggle between full-time work and the band. We consider both as completely necessary, so in the end it’s the time to yourself that inevitably suffers. This informs our music by us treating things with a degree of humility and appreciation for what we have. There is no better feeling than seeing people respond to something that you have created, so that is worth the sacrifice.
Finally, when can we expect a Berlin date for Crows? Is there going to be a big European tour? What are the plans after the album is released?
So far, we have only announced UK dates, but you can be sure that we’ll be back to Berlin as part of a wider tour. I can’t give you an exact date, but it will be as soon as we can possibly make it over, I promise!
Pre-order Crows' 'Silver Tongues' LP via Balley Records here.
April 26th - Limerick, Kasbah Social Club
April 27th - Dublin, The Sound House
April 29th - Glasgow, Blue Arrow
April 30th - Leeds, Oporto
May 1st - Manchester, Yes
May 2nd - London, The Dome
May 4th - Brighton, The Prince Albert
Follow Crows on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter
Follow James Alston on Instagram, Twitter
Follow Cool Brother on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter