Interview: The Crooks

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The Crooks are one of the most exciting up and coming bands in the UK right now. After breaking through with ‘She Walks Alone’ last year, the Chesterfield band have backed it up with two of 2021’s top indie tracks, in the shape of ‘I Wonder’ and ‘Frankie’. Their reputation and acclaim has seen their fanbase grow, with the likes of XS Manchester, BBC Introducing and This Feeling championing the band.

They are close to selling out their November / December UK tour with This Feeling, which kicks off with a hometown show at ‘Real Time Live’ and sees the band visiting iconic UK venues such as King Tut’s (Glasgow)Night and Day (Manchester) and The Leadmill (Sheffield).

The Crooks have also gained support from multiple stations in the USA, South America and across all of Europe, with their ever-developing sound following their rapid progression to becoming one of the most highly rated new guitar bands on the circuit.

We spoke to Chris and Tom from the band about the upcoming tour, support from This Feeling, the latest track ‘I Wonder’ and plenty more!

NC: How have you found the numerous lockdowns as a band. It must have been a tough time, yet you have still managed to gain new fans and popularity?

Tom: “We’ve just been cracking on with a lot of recording really. We recorded Frankie and I Wonder during lockdown, and the next single will be coming out soon too. We’ve been keeping quite busy on socials but it has been quite tough at times to get the creative juices flowing.”

NC: Have you managed to see much of each other as a band at all, or have you found yourselves having to work virtually?

Chris: “We did a couple of covers virtually but it was tough working through a screen and hard to motivate ourselves when we couldn’t meet up. It was about five months before we saw each other in person.”

NC: Have you noticed an increase in fanbase from the beginning of lockdown to now, because it seems from the outside in as if you’re getting more and more popular?

Chris: “It blew up just before lockdown for us, I think. When we released She Walks Alone, things really kicked off. Then In Time came out just before lockdown and we were on a roll. It has been steady since then I’d say.”

NC: So it was the worst time for the band to be plunged into lockdown as things just started to get going?

Chris: “Yeah we were at a peak, the tour was about to kick off and then two gigs in it was cancelled. But we’ve just got to kick on, everyone is in the same boat.”

Tom: “One thing for us is we don’t want to take our foot off the gas. We want to do as much as we can and keep smashing it, as hard as it has been.”

NC: You recently performed at EBGBS in Liverpool for a stream, how was that and have you managed to get out to play any full gigs yet since restrictions were eased?

Chris: “Not yet, we’ve had a lot of setbacks. We feel like we’re about four weeks away from a gig and then it gets put back, but we’re getting closer. The EBGBS gig was a weird one, we had to record all our parts separate then put them back together again, so that was a strange process because we were excited to get gigging together. Although there were no fans it was good to play in a venue, the first one we’d been to for about a year.”

NC: We’ll talk about the latest single now, ‘I Wonder’. Can you tell us a bit about the track and what the reception has been like since release?

Tom: “It was written as a getaway, getting our heads out of lockdown and looking forward with a positive mindset to the summer ahead. She Walks Alone and In Time were both deep thinkers and emotional, whereas we wanted something we could let loose with and enjoy playing on stage, with the crowd jumping. So it’s a bit different ot the stuff we’ve brought out before.”

NC: Do you ever feel pressure as a guitar band to innovate with your music?

Chris: “Yeah, all the time. It’s hard because we are pleasing some people and we’re getting compared to certain bands, but the challenge we have as writers is to progress rather than going back to the sounds that have been done before. When we had a bit of success with She Walks Alone, we said we would release everything we wanted to, purely because we enjoyed it. Now we’re thinking about whether it will take off and if people will listen to it, rather than just releasing something we enjoy. We’re always second guessing ourselves but that’s all part of the process.”

NC: You seem to be doing something right and sound like a proper guitar band in the sense that your riffs make you stand out from the crowd, is that how you feel?

Chris: “Yeah, it’s nice to hear people from outside of the box saying that because we’re in our own little bubble overthinking stuff. We’ve had a lot of time to reflect, so hearing positive feedback is what we need.”

NC: How important have This Feeling been for your progression?

Tom: “Massive. They’ve done loads for us. With the charity single, ‘Alltogether Now’, through to getting us gigs and festival slots. It’s nice to see we’re getting backing from somebody as big as This Feeling.”

Chris: “Everything we’ve done has been through them. We’d only played three gigs before we had an email from Mikey who runs it, and anything we’ve done since has been with them. We’ve done about 14 gigs and 11 have been with This Feeling, same with the upcoming tour and festivals. They works their socks off for us and seem to love our music, so it’s a great partnership.”

NC: The Alltogether Now collaboration track was in support of Music Venue Trust, how did that come about and as an up and coming band, you must see the importance of the cause?

Chris: “We got the email from This Feeling suggesting they wanted to choose their favourite bands and artists and have their singers get involved to support the Music Venue Trust. Sporting events are going ahead now, Silverstone getting signed off for 125,000 people, yet music venues are struggling because they’re not allowed 150 people in. I just find it mental, so anything to raise awareness for the cause and help out we’ll get behind, it’s great to be a part of.”

Tom: “I think it was this time last year, Gorilla and Deaf Institute were at real risk of going under. Venues like that are massive for bands like us becasue they are the stepping stones for progression and taking us to the next level.”

NC: You’re heading out on tour with This Feeling later this year, where are you looking forward to playing most?

Chris: “We’re looking forward to the hometown gig at Real Time Live. We’ve played it before for our 2nd gig but it was a weird bill, there was a metal band and a Led Zeppelin cover band on with us, so it’ll be different this time. We’ve got fans coming from Scotland and Germany for that one, we can’t wait. I’d also say Glasgow, we’re looking forward to playing King Tuts. I think it’s the week before Christmas, might even be Mad Friday, so that should be a good one. I’m not sure we’ll be feeling too fresh the day after though!”

NC: What is the music scene like in Chesterfield? Are there any artists that have paved the way before you or are you hoping to put your stamp on your hometown?

Chris: “I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head. Casey Lowry is the only other artist from Chesterfield at the minute I think. There’s not much of a music scene other than cover bands who play the pub scene, you have to go to Sheffield or Derby to get any kind of music scene really.”

Tom: “It would be nice to break the mould here!”

NC: What has the rest of 2021 got in store for The Crooks?

Tom: “We’ve got some stuff in the pipeline, including a new single coming out later this year. We’ve got festivals and the tour which will hopefully go ahead. We’re hoping to get in the studio at the back end of the year and start working towards 2022.”

NC: And would a potential debut album be on the cards? Or with the way music is consumed these days on streaming platforms, do you feel there is less pressure to release an album?

Chris: “Im not sure about an album. They don’t have the same impact, you don’t see people queueing up to buy an album these days. Plus it’s hard to say relevant, if you work on an album for a year and then it’s only relevant for three or four weeks, it’s not as easy to stay on people’s radars as it is releasing singles every couple of months. It’s a strange one because the industry is so different now to what it used to be.”

Tom: “I do think the art to making an album has been a bit lost. Back in the day when it was all physicals, you listened to an album properly from start to finish and it was crafted that way. Nowadays, people are happy to just skip through songs on an album.”

NC: Another feature of the modern music industry is having to embrace social media as a means of promotion, is that something that came naturally to you?

Chris: “Not at all. When we first started, we had these social media pages but we didn’t really know how to work them. When we got our manager on board that’s when we learnt more about the social media side of things. It’s been really good for us now but we were clueless at the start.”

NC: I imagine when you finally get out there playing it will be strange playing some of the tracks that feel old to you but it will be the first time people are hearing them live because of the pandemic?

Chris: “Yeah it will, we’ve only played In Time live once and She Walks Alone twice, but people who are discovering us now are excited to hear these tracks at the gigs but they do feel quite old to us, it’s weird.”

NC: With these tracks, have you found yourselves relying on social media and radio play to capture the reception, with no live shows to test them out?

Chris: “Yeah we’re getting internet radio plays quite often. BBC Introducing picked up the last two singles and XS Manchester had us on a five week playlist, which was great. There’s a lot of great support out there and other bands are playlisting each other which is nice to see. If we’re getting on playlists with similar bands then their fans might discover our music and vice versa, so it helps spread the word.”

NC: So what are the short term and long term goals now for the band?

Tom: “I think a short term goal is to simply get back out there gigging and enjoying ourselves. We can’t wait to get back into the swing of things now!”

Chris: “Before lockdown I’d have told you I want to be a millionaire playing loads of massive shows and releasing albums. Now, I just want to play in front of a few hundred people and enjoy myself. The pandemic has really put things into perspective.”

Remaining tickets for The Crooks’ tour can be purchased at act fast to avoid disappointment. In the meantime, check out ‘I Wonder’ below!

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If you haven’t already, make sure you check out our Fantasy Pints Podcast, where we interview a different guest each week and ask the one common question – “if you could go for a drink with any three musicians past or present, who would you choose any why?” Latest episode below!

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