Crooks: ‘You only get one chance with your debut album’

Crooks - Interview - FDRMX

2015 is an important year for Crooks, a five-piece post-hardcore band from Cheltenham in the UK. Having started it by announcing a record deal with Headphone Music/Equal Vision Records, the next stage is the release of their highly-anticipated debut album. With the record written, recorded and ready to go, all that stands in the way are the inevitable business arrangement that come with releasing an album. The band recently played a run of shows in the UK in support of Such Gold and Transit, and FDRMX had the opportunity to catch up with the band during the tour to find out more about the upcoming record.

“We’re the sort of people who just want to get it out there,” guitarist Alex Pay explains. “But you only get one chance with your debut album and we put so much of ourselves into it, took so long recording and writing it, that we wanted to wait for the perfect moment to release it.” Their desire to release new music is understandable, given that the last substantial release of material was the Nevermore EP in 2012. While Crooks have released intermittent singles since that time, this will be their first major release in three years. “So much had gone on with us that it was quite difficult for us to do Crooks. It was such a strain that we thought about calling it a day.” Thankfully the band didn’t take such drastic action and instead worked hard to establish their identity; a process that simplified the writing process when the time came. “I think we had so much in us that we needed to get out that when it came to us getting together and writing the album it came together really quickly. We didn’t struggle with it because we had such clear direction. Once we figured out where we wanted to go with it and what we wanted it to sound like it was really easy to get everything together.”

For singer Josh Rogers, the removal of pressure from the writing process was been a key factor in shaping the new album. “We knew we’d been away for 3 years since the EP, so we didn’t know how it was going to sound. We stepped away from a lot of things and we didn’t put any pressure on ourselves; we wrote for ourselves rather than anyone else.” In March Crooks released a video for “A Few Peaceful Days,” the first track to appear from the new album. It was a track specially selected by the band because it “portrays the album as a whole in one track.” Fans of Crooks’ previous work will notice a progression in the band’s sound from the days of Nevermore, with this track showcasing another level of musicianship and a less frantic, more considered song-writing approach.

The vocals are the most notable change, with Rogers abandoning screamed vocals in favour of clean tones and melodies. It’s a move that the band knew would provoke a reaction, but for Rogers is one that he needed to do for himself as a musician. “I want to sing more now because I’m trying. When we started the band I could never sing and just shouting so much was ruining my voice and getting me nowhere. All the guys around me were progressing and getting so good at honing in on their instruments and I was just a guy that was shouting all the time. I wasn’t contributing or putting enough effort in.” Rather than force aggression through the vocals, the new material channels the heavy elements through instrumentation instead. Based on the results of “A Few Peaceful Days,” it’s a method that has paid off brilliantly. “If we can make songs as powerful and have parts that are just as aggressive without having to scream then why do it. If we can get that, which we think we’ve achieved, then we think we’ve taken it a further step.”

Though the song-writing and vocal direction has matured, Crooks were eager for the new album to capture the distinctive production style of Nevermore. Dan Lancaster, who has produced albums for Don Broco and previously fronted the band Proceed, gave Nevermore a raw, honest sound by taking a minimalist approach in the studio and letting the music breathe. “We wanted to go back to that Nevermore sound and even though the album is a massive progression on that, we feel that Dan gets us and can capture our sound sonically. We’re always trying to push for that honesty in our sound because that’s what we take from music.”

Working with a team of people that understand what they’re about, is at the core of how Crooks choose to exist as a band. This shared ethic was fundamental in deciding to team up with Headphone Music, an imprint of Equal Vision Records. “They share that same organic thing that we stand for. We’re really proud of what we’ve done and we don’t want to jump on any opportunity. We’d rather do that with a small team in small stages and even if it doesn’t reach as many people as quickly, at least we’ve shared it with people that understand it.” Having a deal with Equal Vision Records will certainly enable the new album to reach more fans than ever before thanks to the label’s distribution platform, as well as enabling the band to release the record on CD and vinyl, in addition to digital measures.

These are the aspects of the album that are currently being finalised ahead of the eventual release date which is as yet undetermined. It’s clear from talking to the band just how excited they are to get this new material out into the world and having heard three new tracks played live, that’s completely understandable. With such an admirable working ethic, a support team that understands the band’s motivations and new material that pushes their music beyond anything they’ve done before, this should be the start of something very special for Crooks.

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