Interview: Daniel Hopewell of The Crookes (Part 1)

By on Tuesday, 13th October 2015 at 11:00 am

While our globetrotting editor Mary was on her recent working holiday in the UK, I had the opportunity for a trans-Atlantic Skype interview with guitarist and lyricist Daniel Hopewell (pictured at far left in the header photo above) from Sheffield indie pop quartet the Crookes. The Crookes have been featured here at TGTF in the past, most recently for their new single ‘I Wanna Waste My Time On You’.  The song marks a bit of a change in direction for the band, and we were curious to find out a little more about what’s behind the new, more expansive Crookes sound.

My last encounter with the Crookes had been in the summer of 2014, when they toured America in support of their third album ‘Soapbox’. Hopewell and I began our Skype chat from there, then made a segue into recent developments with the band and how those have shaped their fourth album ‘Lucky Ones’, which is due for release early next year.

So, the last time you and I met was in Phoenix, I think, last summer.
It was, in the desert, and it was boiling hot, I remember that. I had a really good night there. We ended up going out to these really sort of small bars where everyone was really baffled by the fact that we were there. I enjoyed that, because you know, when you’re in like, New York, and there’s loads of English people, no one bats an eyelid, but then when you turn up somewhere like that, in these kind of…it was kind of like a bar you’d see on ‘True Detective’, that kind of place, and they were just really sort of confused by it.

Yeah, I can see how you guys are maybe sort of a novelty around here.
(laughing) Novelty is the word, yeah. They kept buying us drinks, these sort of tough biker guys kept buying us drinks, it was really nice.

Since the last time I talked with you, the Crookes have undergone a couple of changes?
Yeah, yeah, Russell [Bates, the Crookes’ former drummer] left to get a sort of proper job.

And your new drummer’s name is Adam Crofts. How did you find him?
Surname is Crofts, yeah, but everyone just calls him Croftsy. He played in a band that has supported us a few times, and he came to a lot of our gigs when he wasn’t playing, and we kind of got to know him through that. We thought it would be good to have someone who we knew was an actual fan of the band. I never really watch support bands, because I kind of want to concentrate on what I’m doing, but Tom [Dakin, Crookes’ guitarist] knew him and said he was a fantastic drummer, and he’s also a really nice guy. So he was kind of the first choice, and yeah, he quit his band and we poached him.

Aside from the drumming, what does he bring to the table for the Crookes? Has he affected the way you play in any way?
Yeah, I guess he changes things quite subtly. It’s probably not something that you’d notice unless you were in the band. He’s incredibly tight, [and] it’s down to him a lot to keep things steady, you know, sort of lay the foundation for what we’re playing. He does that really well, it’s been really easy with him.

You’ve also started a new record label, Anywhere Records.
We have, yeah. We’d done three records and a mini-record on Fierce Panda (2010’s ‘Dreaming of Another Day’), and we kind of got to the point where we could sort of do this ourselves. We always liked having control over everything, and Fierce Panda were good for that, but now it’s just down to us, you know? We’re just a very independent band, so it seemed like the logical thing to do, and it was a bit of an adventure as well, so we’re going to give it a go. We’ve got a really good team of people in place who are helping us, so it’s all going well.

And this new album will be your fourth, so it’s not like it’s your first rodeo.
(laughing) Exactly. First rodeo, that’s lovely. But yeah, we know what we’re doing by now. We’ve been going at it for a while and we’re fairly prolific, so we’re lucky to be on our fourth. A lot of bands would be doing it for this long, slaving on a second album, so we’re quite happy.

It’s already album number four, that’s a little hard to believe. You guys do work pretty quickly.
Yeah, we all just do this, it’s our only job, we just write constantly. It’s more something like we have to do, you know? I think that was the thing, Russell never wrote songs, so he never had that feeling of dependency on being able to voice things, whereas the rest of us, we all kind of need to write songs or play guitar, or whatever and songs happen because we have to do it rather than thinking “oh yeah, I want to do that.”

Do you feel like Adam is more on the same page with you in that way?
Yeah, Adam’s an amazing pianist, plays guitar, writes his own songs as well. He didn’t join us until after we’d written this album, but having a fourth person, he obviously chips in with things. I think it will just make the whole process even better.

So it will be interesting to hear what might happen on album number five, then.
Yeah. (laughing) I mean, we’re always going to need a drummer, but it’s nice to have someone who can just play piano really well in case we decide we want to stick some pianos on a track or something.

I hadn’t thought of the Crookes as having a piano in the group, but your new single ‘I Wanna Waste My Time On You’ is a little more instrumentally expansive than what we’ve heard you do in the past.
Yeah. And I think that’s probably relatively limited compared to the full album. We’re quite lucky, the studio we recorded at in Leeds is owned by a guy called Nick [Baines], or Peanut, from the Kaiser Chiefs, if you know that band. He’s their pianist or keyboardist. He had so many synths there that we could just use, so synths are sort of all over the album. (Baines opened the studio earlier this year with Andy Hawkins and the Crookes’ producer Matt Peel.  You can read more about it, courtesy of Impolitikal, right here.

It’s quite different, I think, to what people might be expecting from us, in terms of sound. We got a brass band in for one song, and we had a duet and things like that. We just thought we’d try and do things a bit differently this time, a bit more experimentally. And obviously we didn’t have a drummer, so we had to start with electronic drums and drum machines. Once you start using drum machines to set the foundation of a song, then you want to put synths with it, and we listened to a lot of the Postal Service, a lot of New Order, so it sounds a lot more like that kind of stuff, and probably less guitar heavy. There are two or three songs that I don’t even think have guitars on them.

With the new album not featuring guitars as heavily, where does that leave you and Tom in the live performances? Does it change what you’ll be doing at all?
There are still plenty of guitars [in the live setup]. We’ll have to work out exactly how we’re going to do our live shows. Whether that be simulating synth sounds with pedals or somebody actually playing it, I’m not sure yet. It’s going to be exciting to work out, though!

Check back with us tomorrow for part 2 of my interview with Daniel Hopewell, where we talked more about the writing process for the Crookes’ new album. ‘Lucky Ones’ is due for release on the 29th of January 2016 via Anywhere Records in the UK and via Modern Outsider in America. You can have a look back at our past coverage of the Crookes by clicking here.

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