INTERVIEW: The Crooks

Introducing the Chesterfield britpop five-piece that are using their working-class background to bring the attitude people are missing.

We caught up with The Crooks to discuss their latest single ‘Frankie’, how they’ve tried to keep up the momentum during the pandemic, and their favourite stories about their loyal fanbase.

You’ve seemed to smash onto the scene back end of 2019 into 2020 with only playing a few shows. In your opinion, where’s that buzz come from?

“I think it might be down to the way we have released a lot of music in a short space of time, so that helped. It meant we had a lot of people hearing a lot of different bits of our music very quickly. Plus we’re always vocal on Twitter which has really helped us grow.”

How would you say you’ve managed to keep up the momentum during the pandemic? Obviously everything has impacted the band quite a lot with your tours being pushed back.

“If we’re honest I don’t think we did keep the momentum going especially during the first lockdown we all went off, doing as we were told not seeing each other or our families. Then in about the autumn time we finally managed to get back together and spend some time away in the studio together and now we’ve hit the ground running. From the outside we don’t look busy but trust me there’s so much going on for when we can get going again!”

If we can chat about your loyal fans for a moment, do you have any memories of something fans have done that stick with you or that has touched you emotionally?

“We’ve had fans that have travelled from Germany for our shows, which is mental. We’ve had people have tattoos of our lyrics, which is pretty crazy when you think about it. In that situation, it was the lyrics from ‘In Time’ so I think that’s touched them in a personal way for them to actually tattoo it on to their body. That really means a lot to us.”

Tell us a little bit more about your brand new single ‘Frankie’, is there a story behind the name at all?

“It was actually written about eighteen months ago, ‘Frankie’ was originally two songs that got merged together a bit like a Frankenstein. It was nicknamed that from there and slowly it’s been shortened. The lyrics were probably written a year ago and it’s just been a struggle to arrange it. It’s been a bit of a monster itself! It’s taken that long but we finally picked it back up when the first lockdown ended. It’s quite a different song for us, it just grows and grows until the end and we’re proud of how it’s come out.”

So would you say the way you wrote ‘Frankie’ is different to your normal writing process or has it been the same for your previous singles?

“Generally, our normal writing process would usually be one member writing something on an acoustic and just getting the melody and lyrics down. However, I think we’ve matured a lot so now we’re breaking the songs down more and picking things apart making sure they’re the best they can be. Things are changing as we grow and get more comfortable with writing.”

Would you say you would normally sit on a track for that long or was it the victim of current circumstances?

“On this track, there were just some aspects we liked and some things we didn’t so it just took a while for this one to click while we were working on other songs. It is a rarity for it to take that long. It’s just one of those things sometimes, it just finally clicked.”

There are still a couple of songs like that now, it’s not that they’re bad songs, they could even be better songs than what we have released. It’s not all about the basics of the guitar and the vocal melody. It’s about the arrangements and who’s doing what on the track. That’s what makes it. Yeah, it took ‘Frankie’ a long time and there are songs we’ve had in our catalogue for like two years like ‘Better Days’ but we haven’t recorded them yet because we love the track rather than the song. Obviously, COVID hasn’t helped that either.”

Talk us through your usual set up for recording and what individual processes do you go through?

“We used to go in and play it as a full band then record the parts separately in the day and write a solo on that day. Whereas now we’ve started to demo a lot more and try to perfect every part of it before we go in pre-production-wise. We focus on what we want it to sound like when it’s finished and stuff like that. That’s what we’re working on now. It used to literally be ‘Yeah I’ve got this song, let’s go in and smash it out and see what comes out with it’.”

Would you say that change has been developed naturally or something you actively wanted to change?

“I think we actually actively did it because we realised there were certain things about our back catalogue that we personally wish we did differently or whatever you know. It’s not like we rushed it necessarily but we did things off the cuff on the day. Sometimes they come out great don’t get me wrong but there are some songs we’ve released that we’ve thought some weeks later that we could have done something better. Now we’re trying both ways to see what works best!”

When it comes to recording have you remained with the same producer throughout your time?

“Every single song we’ve released we’ve done under a guy called Hamish Dickinson, over at the Phoenix Sounds Studios in Mansfield. We went to two recording studios beforehand and didn’t really come out with anything worth releasing. We did sort of jump into it and didn’t do much work in production or didn’t have a meeting before. Then with Hamish, we had a chat before we even went and recorded. He has obviously ticked all the right boxes since. We went in and recorded one song just to see how it all went and it came out pretty good so it’s just went on from there.”

What shows are they itching to play this year, if they’re able to go ahead?

“King Tuts in Glasgow is a dream venue for us all really and then playing the sold-out hometown show is going to be great; the biggest one in Chesterfield so it’s just amazing! Considering the way everything’s going we’re not sure when we’ll be backing in venues. Our tour is booked for November and December so we’re looking forward to that. It’ll be great to have some outdoor shows during the summer as we really don’t want to have to wait another year to play summer shows!”

Billy Fitzjohn
Writer and promoter

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