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TGTF Exclusive Interview: The Crookes at Fierce Panda’s 19th Birthday Slamdown at London Scala – 21st May 2013

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd July 2013 at 1:00 pm
 

Photos by Braden Fletcher of Sound Influx; interview filmed by Samuel Hopper of Woodpile Sessions and Toby McCarron of Sound Influx

The first time I met Sheffield band The Crookes was at my first Great Escape, in May 2012. I was so excited to finally see them live; as an American, I didn’t think I’d have too many chances and this chance fell into my lap just at the right moment when I happened to be at the festival. Armed with nothing but a Sony point and shoot, I wanted to videotape the interview I was doing with them while we were sat in the beloved coffee bar of the Komedia that has sadly now turned into a noisome, candy-coloured cinema. The actual interview came out all right, but that was mostly due to the Crookes’ friendly nature in dealing with this American music editor who was quaking in her boots with the prospect of interviewing some of her musical idols.

Flash forward about a year later, to when the Crookes were due to headline their record label Fierce Panda’s 19th birthday party ‘slamdown’ party at London’s Scala on the 21st of May 2013. It’d been advertised as their biggest headline show to date in London. Having followed their pursuit of musical success from the early days of a CDR of ‘Backstreet Lovers’ played on Steve Lamacq’s then Radio 1 programme in 2009 all the way to today, I decided that since I was lucky enough to be in London for the actual event, I wanted to document this important moment in their career. Regular readers of TGTF will recall that I previously posted exclusive live gig videos of new single ‘Dance in Colour, second album title track ‘Hold Fast’ as part of my live gig review of the show and the encore that included George Waite’s stunning solo of ‘The I Love You Bridge’ and ‘Afterglow’ B-side ‘Honey’ from the evening.

What you didn’t know was hours before the actual show, myself, along with some friends from Sound Influx and the Woodpile Sessions, were running around the Scala, working on some other exclusive bits. This is one of those bits: a completely candid interview with the band on their story so far since I last chatted with them in Brighton last year. They’d had an amazing 12 months, which included the release of second album ‘Hold Fast’ (review here); a support slot with hometown legend Richard Hawley; a repeat shout at this year’s SXSW, their second time at the famous music festival in Austin; and their newest release of the double-A-sided single ‘Bear’s Blood’ / ‘Dance in Colour’.

None of us knew it at the time – or if the band did, they certainly did not let on – that a few weeks later, they would be celebrating an American recording contract. No, this interview was a pretty relaxed affair of me chatting with friends on the eve of the most important night in their career up to that point, and I couldn’t have been happier for them. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did doing the interview with them. (If you’re wondering why drummer Russell Bates is not in these photos, it’s because he left after the interview and we didn’t get to shoot any photos until after we were done with a session. And that session is still forthcoming, so hang tight for that.)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6YNhFs7OFY[/youtube]

Thanks very much to Braden, Sam and Toby for their kind assistance in this TGTF / Sound Influx / Woodpile Sessions collaboration, without whom none of these videos would have been possible. Big, big thanks to the Crookes for indulging me yet again with an interview; they are honestly the sweetest guys in the business. I also want to thank their manager Penny for being a sweetheart and bearing with me with my many requests I sent through to her during my travels across Britain, as well as the head of Fierce Panda Records Simon Williams for allowing me to interview both the Crookes and the Heartbreaks during such an important event on the Panda calendar.

The Crookes Scala Interview 2

 

TGTF Exclusive Interview: The Heartbreaks at Fierce Panda’s 19th Birthday Slamdown at London Scala – 21st May 2013

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd July 2013 at 11:00 am
 

Photos by Braden Fletcher of Sound Influx; interview filmed by Samuel Hopper of Woodpile Sessions and Toby McCarron of Sound Influx

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the lovely boys of The Heartbreaks before they appeared live as part of the absolutely fantastic bill for their label Fierce Panda Records’ 19th birthday party. (They were accompanied that night by the equally fabulous Hey Sholay and headliners The Crookes.) I just to ask about two of their members’ previous work experiences as ice cream men in their seaside hometown of Morecambe (really, how could I not?) and how it felt to be singled out for their amazing music by the man himself Morrissey and going on tour with him. And of course I couldn’t not ask them about forthcoming new material that fans are anxiously awaiting for after the 2012 release of their aptly titled album ‘Funtimes’.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=My4p5Xnc4FY[/youtube]

I could not have done this without the assistance of Braden, Sam and Toby, so thanks very much, guys, for this TGTF / Sound Influx / Woodpile Sessions collaboration. And of course we’d never have an interview without The Heartbreaks, who were true Northern gentlemen in every respect and made me long for the North West! Thanks very much too to Nian for helping set up this interview and a big thank you to the head of Fierce Panda Records Simon Williams for allowing me to interview both the Crookes and the Heartbreaks during such an important event on the Panda calendar.

The Heartbreaks Scala Interview 2

 

TGTF Exclusive Live Gig Videos: The Crookes play ‘The I Love You Bridge’ and ‘Honey’ in Fierce Panda 19th Birthday Slamdown encore – 21st May 2013

 
By on Friday, 7th June 2013 at 4:00 pm
 

Header photo by Lennon Gregory

When you’re a fan of a band – any band – I think there’s certain expectations you have when you go see that said band live. Even if you prayed for days on end, there are certain songs that you just know will never show up in a set list. Despite my greatest wish to see ‘Stars’, ‘The Crookes Laundry Murder 1922’ and ‘I Remember Moonlight’ played live by the Crookes, I always have assumed I’ll never see them live. The time has passed; two out of three of those are of the 2011 ‘Chasing After Ghosts’ / Alex Saunders era and therefore unlikely to be pulled out for public consumption again.

I had a similar resignation when it came to ‘The I Love You Bridge’, the last track on ‘Hold Fast’; it’s so different from the rest of the album in tempo and raucousness, and admittedly, it can be a bit of a downer, depending on the way you look at the words, so I just never expected it to pop up in a Crookes live set list. However, at last month’s Fierce Panda 19th Birthday Slamdown in the deft hands – literally – of singer George Waite performing this song, written about the iconic Sheffield landmark, with a guitar. All alone onstage and under a single spotlight, his performance was, in a word, breathtaking. As a singer, I get chills just thinking about it. “It’s a magic trick / an escape from this…who cares she told him no / it’s the gesture, don’t you know? / we’ll cling on and we won’t let go”: if you ever needed hope, this is the song to give it to you in spades.

The other video I have for you is for ‘Honey’, which is probably best known to Crookes fans as the b-side to ‘Afterglow’, the first single to be released from ‘Hold Fast’. In stark contrast, it’s a hard rocking number, as you will see from the energetic performance below, but it has equally thought-provoking lines: “I want to die with sunshine on my face…I’d rip out my pages to be someone else.” Likewise with ‘The I Love You Bridge’, I wasn’t expecting to hear this in London and I just keep thinking, what a wonderful treat they gave us fans. Watch both videos below – enjoy!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzL2YU5yp-8[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmWkIj52Ih0[/youtube]

 

TGTF Exclusive Live Gig Video: The Heartbreaks play ‘I Didn’t Think It Would Hurt to Think of You’ at London Scala – 21st May 2013

 
By on Thursday, 6th June 2013 at 4:00 pm
 

Header photo by Lennon Gregory

The incredibly gracious boys from Morecambe, Lancashire the Heartbreaks sat down with me for a chat and also performed a track in session for us and our friends at Sound Influx, and that’s coming up soon on TGTF. In the meantime, enjoy this video of the band performing ‘I Didn’t Think It Would Hurt to Think of You’, which they used to close out their set at the Scala last month. They played alongside other Panda acts the Crookes and Hey Sholay.

Read the entirety of my review of Fierce Panda’s 19th Birthday Slamdown at the Scala on the 21st, including a video of new song ‘Fair Stood the Wind’ performed, right this way.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldZ8_k2t-NE[/youtube]

 

Live Review: Fierce Panda 19th Birthday Slamdown starring the Crookes with Hey Sholay and the Heartbreaks at London Scala – 21st May 2013

 
By on Monday, 3rd June 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

Header and black and white photos by Lennon Gregory; colour photos by Mary Chang

It may be hard to fathom, but Fierce Panda Records is getting close to celebrating a full 2 decades in the London indie label business. From its humble beginnings written on a cocktail napkin during a drunken night out, it wasn’t long before Fierce Panda founder Simon Williams spotted promise in one of its earliest acts, a then-unknown band called Coldplay, going on to put out the band’s debut single ‘Brothers and Sisters’ in 1999. And we all know what happened to Coldplay…

In the last couple of years, the Panda have had a renaissance of sorts, putting out sought-after releases by bands such as Goldheart Assembly brilliant debut ‘Wolves and Thieves’ (this editor is waiting with baited breath for the highly anticipated follow-up album) and American folkies Milo Greene. Not to mention releases from the three acts that graced the stage this particular Tuesday night the 21st of May at the Scala: the Crookes, anticipatorily celebrating the release of their double-A-sided single ‘Bear’s Blood’ / ‘Dance in Colour’ the following Monday, supported by their mates Hey Sholay and the Heartbreaks.

The Scala from the outside looks rather boring from its corner location on Pentonville Road, just down the road from Kings Cross Station. Capacity-wise, I was surprised to learn that it fits just about the same amount of people as our 9:30 Club (1,145 vs. 1,200); I was sure with all the walking I did during the day up, down and around the place, working hard on some TGTF exclusives with our friends from Sound Influx, that it had to be far larger. (Good thing I brought trainers.) What’s a little unsettling about the place, especially to a small-town girl like me, is the fact that when the place is empty, no matter where you’re stood, you can hear the sound of trains running directly below the building. I was assured by the lovely Suzanne at the box office that after a while, “I’ve worked here so long, you get used to it”. Once you go through the foyer and up the worn stairs into the place, the old-fashioned tiling, preserved from back in the days when it was used as a cinema from the ’20s to the ’70s, along with its grand stairwells and labyrinthine corridors, give you the feeling that this isn’t just any club in London, it is a place in time, to be savoured and remembered.

Once we’d finished filming, I went outside to meet friends and join the queue. I have a feeling I was stood in the queue ahead of a band member’s parents but I was just too shy to say anything, so their identities will remain a mystery. Once inside, my friends and I proceeded to take our places down the front, where I was surprised to hear from all the chit chat around me that I’m pretty sure I was the only person there yet whose first language was English; German, Japanese and Russian girls’ voices fought with each other in a din that was entirely unfamiliar to me. It just goes to show how dedicated the Crookes’ fans are, and that travelling from no matter how far wasn’t an issue to them to support their favourite band at their biggest show in London, ever.

Hey Sholay London Scala Lennon Gregory live

Sheffield / Leeds artist / musician collective Hey Sholay burst onstage as the first band of the night. The singer’s main gimmick was to get audience members to shout “Sholay!” whenever he decided to shout at us, “hey!” This worked to a pretty good extent and was more entertaining and crowd-involving than I guessed. The song of theirs I’m most familiar is ‘Burning’, which got a huge amount of airplay on 6music last year; its frantic percussion and piano notes with their singer’s emphatic vocals were something you couldn’t really escape, and why would you want to? Rhythmically, it’s very fun to dance to, and the punters were really up for their blend of pop / rock.

The Heartbreaks London Scala Lennon Gregory live

A couple hours earlier, upon meeting them for the first time, The Heartbreaks won me over by being super nice chaps. Being from Morecambe in Lancashire, I was expecting warm Northern hospitality from them, but I was bowled over by the double kisses and hugs I received when I came round to introduce myself and our film crew. What a welcome. I’d never have guessed they were the sweethearts they are in person if I’d only ever seen them perform live, as they’re very serious onstage. They began with ‘Funtimes’ track ‘Save Our Souls’; they had me at the line, “we can walk in the settings of our favourite Smiths song”. Sigh. Despite the lyric it’s a very upbeat song and confirmed to me further that there probably couldn’t be a better band complement to the Crookes than the Heartbreaks.

In our chat earlier, they promised to preview a whole load of new songs, and they came through on their promise. One of the most beautiful moments of the night was courtesy of one of these, ‘Fair Stood the Wind’, with singer Matthew Whitehouse accompanied simply by Ryan Wallace’s notes on a guitar. (Watch the video under the set list.) While they didn’t play their monster hit ‘Delay, Delay’ (to be honest, I was shocked by this, I was sure it was going to be included), they instead finished off their set with a version of ‘I Didn’t Think It Would Hurt to Think of You’ that was simply on par with perfection. It may have just been 3 days prior that John and I were in Brighton for the Great Escape, but the Heartbreaks brought the sunshine to London the way that only a band from a seaside town can.

Save Our Souls
Absolved
Bittersweet
Robert Jordan
Liar, My Dear
Fair Stood the Wind
Hey Hey Lover
I Didn’t Think It Would Hurt to Think of You

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sg6RkYGHAek[/youtube]

I’ve heard unusual walk-on music in the years I’ve been covering shows. In April 2010, Vampire Weekend surprised everyone when they walked on to DJ Kool’s ‘Let Me Clear My Throat’ at Constitution Hall. The Crookes‘ choice for the Scala seemed equally out of left field: ‘You Give a Little Love’, from the ’70s kids’ film Bugsy Malone. To most people in the venue, they were probably thinking, why did they pick something from a gangster film? Besides my hypothesis for them choosing it for someone who proved very important to them early on their career, the lines “we could’ve been anything that we wanted to be / yes, that decision is ours / it’s been decided, we’re weaker divided” neatly echo the premise of ‘Hold Fast’: friends sticking together against all odds, towards one common goal, making it. So it’s rather appropriate when they did get to the moment of the night when they played the title track off their searing second album, all decorum went out the window in favour of a manically energetic delivery of the song that I could had ever imagined.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXkj-c3NUEo[/youtube]

The Crookes Scala Lennon Gregory 1

The show at the Shakespeare pub 2 nights prior proved to be a nice warm-up to the Scala gig, as the set list began very much like the one in Sheffield. ‘Bear’s Blood’ wowed from the start, proving it’s got the firepower to begin a Crookes show with the right attitude: hard rocking and full of swagger. You couldn’t not have a good time going on from here. When it came time for *that* song (the single released on my birthday last year, I’d like to note), singer / bassist George Waite asked if there were any American girls in the audience. Your fearless editor naturally tried to speak up, but I was drowned out. rather hilariously I might add, by a large bloke who refused to be ignored. George, squinting to see this heckler, complained, “but you have a beard! We’ll talk later.” Laughter ensued.

The Crookes London Scala live 2

Another song that sounded huge to me on this night, more so than on previous occasions, was ‘Sofie’. Somehow I’d forgotten what a stompathon the chorus becomes with the repeated “I’m thinking of you, I’m thinking of you, Sofie, it’s you!” combined with the romantic softness of lines like “promise me you’ll try and stay happy, and I’ll promise you that I’ll do the same” and “I’ve never been one for a cliche, but I want to dance with you in the rain”, the latter of which that conjures up that rain scene in Say Anything. With the harder rock edge practically assured by ‘Bear’s Blood’ and ‘Dance in Colour’ (TGTF exclusive video from this gig here), the only thing I wish for on the Crookes’ third album is that this juxtaposition of brilliant sounding rock ‘n’ roll and carefully considered lyrics is preserved. One can hope!

The Crookes Scala Lennon Gregory 2

In Sheffield, there was no encore. So it was not only a special treat to be gifted with an encore in London, and even better, with songs I didn’t think I’d hear live. Ever. When I saw the Crookes in Austin, I thought it was worth a try to ask if I could make requests, to which George regretfully replied, “sorry Mary, it’s (the set list) already gone off to the printer’s”. When the band left the stage prior to the encore, I was surprised to see George coming back out, alone, putting on a guitar instead of his usual bass. Hmmm, what’s going on here, then? Under a single spotlight and amid fans’ cheers and one person’s wolf whistle (which made him laugh, bless), he broke into an absolutely beautiful rendition of ‘The I Love You Bridge’. (The song is based on the real-life graffiti proposal currently immortalised on a bridge in Park Hill in Sheffield.)

The Crookes London Scala live 1

The other shocker was the playing of ‘Honey’, the b-side to first ‘Hold Fast’ single ‘Afterglow’. I don’t think enough people know about this song; percussion-wise, it’s super punishing, I’m wondering how drummer Russell Bates manages not to come off stage without bloody hands from it. And it contains the immortal line, “I’d rip out my pages out to be somebody else”. What a brilliant lyric and rather appropriate for lads that met in the English lit course at the University of Sheffield. Keep your eyes on TGTF in the coming days because yes, we have video of the encore. (Sorry, I just had to throw that teaser in for you!)

The Crookes London Scala live 3

I have it on good authority from Kelly Johnston of our friends at UK music webzine UnderSong (who I’d invited to come along because she didn’t know anything about the Crookes, and she enjoyed the gig very much, I might add!) that some of the younger girls were overwhelmed by the spectacle of seeing the Sheffield band live, crying upon seeing their idols gig, practically unable to cope. While I wasn’t bawling by the end of this wonderful show, I can say that I will always keep the incredible memories of seeing the Crookes and their friends play this show, representing a huge step up in their career, close to my heart.

Bear’s Blood
Maybe in the Dark
Chorus of Fools
Just Like Dreamers
American Girls
Sal Paradise
Bloodshot Days
Sofie
Hold Fast
Dance in Colour
Afterglow
Where Did Our Love Go?
Yes, Yes, We’re Magicians
//
The I Love You Bridge (George Waite solo)
Backstreet Lovers
Honey

 

TGTF Exclusive Live Gig Video: The Crookes perform new single ‘Dance in Colour’ at London Scala – 21st May 2013

 
By on Thursday, 30th May 2013 at 4:00 pm
 

Header photo by Lennon Gregory

Every year I’ve been a music writer, I’ve always had that one band rise above the rest and completely capture my imagination to become ‘the band’ for me that year. I know, it’s only May, but for 2013, there will be no contest. I’ve followed the career of the Crookes from Sheffield ever since Steve Lamacq decided to give a CDR of their single ‘Backstreet Lovers’ a first play on his In New Music We Trust Radio 1 programme back in 2009.

Last year at the Great Escape 2012, I got the opportunity to finally see them gig (a huge deal to an American girl who’d otherwise only known of them the previous 3 years through recordings), and then meet and interview them, which was an amazing experience as a music editor but was truly one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve ever done as a writer. It’s so hard not to be nervous around people whose work you respect, but like the professionals they are, they put me at ease straight away. Somehow I knew we were always going to be friends. In an industry full of fakes and fake people, the Crookes are refreshingly genuine.

I’ve gotten to know them, reviewed their albums and singles and watched them grow as songwriters and musicians. Like many other bands I’ve come to know as friends, I see so much promise in what they’re doing and how hard they’re working to achieve this dream of making it, I really wish the best for them. So when the opportunity came for me to see them play their biggest show yet in London at the Scala on Tuesday 21 May to celebrate their record label Fierce Panda’s 19th birthday, I jumped at the chance to go. It meant I had to rearrange my holiday in Britain to accommodate the show; my stay in Liverpool for Sound City at the start of my holiday had be curtailed, but I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. Seeing your friends playing one of the biggest gigs of their lives – having the time of their lives doing what they love, I might add – is priceless.

There’s much more exclusive content from the Scala show that we will be sharing in the days to come, but I’ve been sitting on my hands the last couple of days, eager to show you readers of TGTF what we’ve got up our sleeves. So I made the decision to release today the video of the Crookes playing ‘Dance in Colour’, one of two singles they’ve released on Fierce Panda this week. The performance itself is pretty unique; as Crookes fans will readily point out, singer George Waite usually plays bass but for this song, he and guitarist Tom Dakin exchange instruments, and guitarist Daniel Hopewell takes on lead guitar once the track truly gets going, playing one of the most memorable guitar hooks in recent memory. And who’s playing the piano? Why, Wardie from their friends Hey Sholay.

Last month, the band released a mini-film set to the single, starring Sir Ben Kingsley’s song Ferdinand Kingsley. I reviewed it glowingly as a major step forward in the band’s songwriting. George prefaces the song’s performance with “I want everyone to contemplate very, very hard during this song”, which provides clear indication to all that this is one not to be taken lightly. It is for sure one of the most beautiful things to be released this year; there is something so emotional in the last line, “why are you always running, love?” that gets me every single time. I feel it so deeply. I know what the song means to me, and I’m sure it means different things to different people, but I’ll always remember this gorgeous moment in time. I think it goes without saying but…enjoy.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=to-vI0UOvgE[/youtube]

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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