Travelling the meandering roads through the snowy mountains of the Peak District from Manchester to Sheffield was not the only journey myself and Mark Wood took on December 17th 2011.
We also took a journey back in time to the 80’s if the Queens Social Club’s Christmas decorations were anything to go by. As we wandered backstage we came across a tiny room filled with kettle chips, a bucket of icy beers, oh and two members of Sheffield band, The Crookes. They kindly withstood the chilly conditions to have a pre-gig chat with us.
Becky Excell: How are you guys today?
Daniel Hopewell: We’re good thanks, you?
BE: Not bad, a little cold. (We came across a lot of snow on our Sheffield journey!)
BE: This is your home coming gig after your European tour, how does it feel to be back?
DH: Well we played this venue back in March. But this time lots of our friends are coming, it should be a fun gig.
Mark Wood: The venue feels quite homely right?
DH: Yeah, it does, I like the 80’s Christmas decorations.
BE: Anyway, how was the European tour? Did you find that different countries gave different receptions to those of an English crowd?
DH: Yeah, it’s different in Europe.
Russell Bates: Crowds are a bit easier going, to put it nicely in Europe. A lot of people seem to come to gigs to just have a good time and they don’t really care what bands are coming on. They dance the night away!
DH: It’s more of an event; it’s an entire night, rather than just a show.
BE: Was there a favourite place you played?
RB: We didn’t really know what to expect, it was amazing. It was sold out and everyone was really into it.
DH: It’s really hard to choose though; they’re all a lot of fun.
BE: We also saw you played in Tokyo, did you realise you had fans in Tokyo before you went out there?
DH: Not really, it’s always a surprise when a crowd starts singing all the words; it feels strange every time it happens.
BE: How was life on the road across Europe? Did you travel around in a tour bus?
RB: I’d call it a van… a small van!
DH: We stay in hotels so we get to sleep.
BE: I read in a recent interview that you don’t always have such great places to stay?
DH: A lot of the time we don’t actually. We sometimes stay at people’s houses, if we can’t get a hotel. It’s a nice way of meeting people, we meet people we wouldn’t otherwise, and just sleep on their sofas which is always fun!
MW: I guess what you do is quite different to what most people get to do in their line of work.
RB: Yeah, but, people perceive that you get to travel around in luxury.
DH: Not true! By the end of a tour you’ve run out of clothes and are having to ‘recycle’.
BE: Talking of clothes, we saw that Burberry has been supporting you. What is it, do you think, about yourselves that has drawn Burberry to you?
RB: They thought we were cheap!
BE: Did they just contact you?
DH: Yeah, I think someone saw us at a show in London and just said “you’re a similar kind of aesthetic.” We’re very English; we try and dress smartly even though we’re poor. It’s ok though because charity shops always have cheap suits.
It was Burberry who took us to Tokyo actually; we couldn’t afford it without them. It was definitely something we weren’t use to. We went to Texas the previous year on our own money and we’ve been in debt ever since!
DH: Yeah, he definitely has a big influence on us, we’re massive fans. We did a cover with him as well and he gave us a lot of advice, he’s adopted this ‘Godfather’ role.
RB: He’ll just every now and then send an email with a list of songs to cover.
DH: We were actually waiting for a response from him for ages and then we got a response telling us to cover a song called “Boy’s Cry.”
RB: Perfect song choice if the name is anything to go by!!
Nevertheless he is definitely a man to listen to. There are a lot of people who give you advice that you tend to ignore, but he’s one you pay attention to.
MW: How did you guys come to meet him?
DH: We got asked a while ago by Steve Lamaq and Jo Whiley. They were doing a reunion of their evening sessions and asked if we would get together with Richard and do a cover.
We had literally no practice time; the first time we played it correctly was live on the radio.
RB: Richard is such a professional though.
DH: I think he assumes we are too… we’re not!
BE: The Sheffield music scene in general is renowned for being pretty successful. Do you think it has helped you being from a place like this?
DH: Sort of, I think being from Sheffield, Liverpool or Manchester helps; there’s something about those cities that tends to inspire people. There are similar traits amongst the people who come out of such places; and on a practical level there are loads of places in Sheffield where you can play music and loads of people are really into it. There is loads of support your young bands.
BE: So you’d recommend it as a place to be for bands starting out?
DH: Yeah, or for anyone! When we first started out we’d play five different venues a week in Sheffield; it gave us great opportunities. It meant by the time we went down to play in London, we’d already done 50-60 shows.
BE: We noticed that recently you’ve been recording your new album; it is going to have similar sound to Chasing After Ghosts?
DH: The main difference is its going to be a lot happier. We wrote Chasing After Ghosts in Sheffield in the middle of winter. We had nothing to do and we couldn’t even afford the heating, so we were really miserable and that resonates slightly.
This album was recorded when we were travelling round Europe meeting loads of nice people, it’s much happier.
RB: And it was hot! It makes a massive difference to the songs.
DH: Every track thus far is really up beat and perky!
MW: (To Dan) You write a lot of the lyrics, is it a bit strange for you to have them sung by someone else or do you write them with that in mind?
DH: I think the lyrics I write suit George’s voice; he has quite a poetic voice. But I know there are some things he couldn’t get away with singing.
MW: So would you say you have a kind of partnership with him to make it work?
DH: Yeah, I think maybe only once or twice George has said “I can’t sing that.” It mostly clicks quite naturally, it’s never forced.
MW: You don’t get many bands where the lyrics are not written by the singer…
DH: Originally, when we started off I was writing lyrics and suddenly realised I couldn’t sing them, so I’d have to get someone else to, and it’s always been that way since.
BE: Will we hear many of the new songs tonight?
DH: At least two, but seeing as its Christmas we’re going to have to fit in some Christmas tunes as well!
BE: We saw only this morning that you’ve recorded a Christmas song of your own. Are you going to be playing that?
RB: Yeah, we practiced it yesterday for the first time actually.
DH: We wrote it over a year ago, and we left it till yesterday to learn it!
BE: Finally, we just wanted to know what the future is for The Crookes in 2012, obviously you’ve got the new album to be released, any date set?
BE: Any festival appearances planned?
DH: We’ll probably do quite a lot in Europe now that we have some good connections; we’re much more popular in Europe than England it seems.
BE: Right well have a good gig and Merry Christmas!
Both: Thanks very much, you too.
MW: Cheers guys!
- Becky Excell