Sheffield Tramlines 2021: The Sherlocks look ahead to a fresh start after tough 16 months
The Sherlocks say this year’s Tramlines will be a fresh start for them after 16 turbulent months for the music industry.
The festival will be their first live performance in front of fans since March 2020 and the biggest outdoor music event of this year so far.
The South Yorkshire band will also debut new music and a new line-up when they play on Saturday.
Frontman Kiaran Crook and his brother and drummer Brandon say it is an achievement for any group to have been able to stick together through the coronavirus pandemic.
“Big stadium acts may be able to afford to sit out for a year or more between albums but bands like us need to be the road touring to earn a living,” Kiaran told The Star.
The Crook brothers faced more challenges when childhood friends Josh and Andy Davidson decided to leave the band in March 2020.
“At that point, there was no guarantee that we would be able to carry on,” said Kiaran.
“If there was a time we would need to split up, it was then. We only had half a band, a pandemic had started and there was no money coming in,” he added.
“The odds were not in our favour,” said Brandon. “But not for one second did we think about packing it in.”
While Kiaran wrote their latest single Falling during this time of uncertainty, the brothers also began making plans to re-build the band and recruit new lead guitarist Alex Procter and bassist Trent Jackson.
“We didn’t do auditions. Our sound engineer recommended Alex, telling us he was one of the best guitarists he’d worked with, and we knew Trent, as he’d worked on our backline at a show in Manchester in 2019,” explained Kiaran.
“We didn’t mess about. It wasn’t long before we were in a practice room, although we only had two face-to-face sessions before recording a new album later in the summer. The rest of the time was spent sharing music and speaking on WhatsApp.
“When you look back, it was nuts, but it worked.”
Brandon says the band also kept busy by making music videos, including one on location on Kelham Island, and performing a streamed concert from Sheffield City Hall.
He said: “There won’t be many other bands who have been as productive as us over these last few months. We have a mentality of grafting and getting on with things.”
Kiaran added: “The delay has given us time to get everything right; to learn our new songs, practise our back catalogue and to properly get to know each other.
“If we had needed to play festivals last year as originally planned, we would not have been in trouble.”
The return to Tramlines and the Sarah McNulty stage on Saturday sees The Sherlocks third on the line-up behind Blossoms and headliners Royal Blood and alongside The Lathums and Lucy Spraggan.
While it is not their first time on the main stage, it is their highest billing at a major festival so far and a world away from their first Tramlines fringe appearance at The Harrison 1854 bar in Broomhall.
“In that sense, The Sherlocks story is a Tramlines story,” said Brandon.
“We have worked our way up like a footballer climbing the leagues or breaking into the first team after learning his trade in the academy.
“When we first started playing instruments in our garage, we never thought we’d release an album or have a record deal.”
It is a coincidence that The Sherlocks’ first live performance with their new line-up will be in Sheffield, but it is something that the band welcome.
“Originally we were to play a festival in London but that was cancelled. A homecoming at Tramlines must be fate,” said Brandon.
“We belong on the big stages now, our songs lend themselves to be there,” he added.
Their unreleased third album, the successor to their Top 6 debut Live for The Moment and Top 20 hit Under Your Sky, saw the four-piece team up with Manic Street Preachers producer Dave Eringa, who they previously worked with on single Will You Be There? in 2016.
Together, they retreated to Rockfield Studios in Monmouthshire in July last year.
Kiaran said that recording an album soon after joining The Sherlocks was “a revelation” for Alex and Trent and a “defining time” for everyone.
“Once we were in the studio everyone stepped up their game. In many ways, this third record feels like our debut all over again.
“While Brandon and I had the experience, we also had the innocence of Alex and Trent recording for the first time and their enthusiasm rubbed back on to us.
“I believe we have made our best album yet.”
The Bolton upon Dearne brothers emphasize a return to their rock roots, but Kiaran says new tunes like grunge-themed Plastic Heart and high-tempo Sorry are “completely different to anything we have done before.”
He added: “With a new album, I know we need to have some recognisable Sherlocks songs as our fans are into our band for a reason. However, as a songwriter, I also want to push boundaries and try new things. That is what my favourite musicians always do too.
“Some bands may think you just need two or three singles on a record and the rest can be filler, but we want to be proud of every song we put out.
“We look to Kings of Leon, who only ever released good songs from the start, and when they did blow up after four albums, people went to their back catalogue and thought ‘crikey this is a good band’.”
The Sherlocks have now recorded two albums at Rockfield, the studio on the farm which has seen acts like The Stone Roses, Oasis and Queen make iconic music.
“Both the Ward family, who own Rockfield, and Dave Eringa said our time there was like being back in the 1990s when bands stayed for as long as needed to complete an album before leaving,” said Brandon.
“Not many acts pack a suitcase for three weeks, leave home and don’t come back,” added Kiaran.
“I love doing it this way. I’d make another album at Rockfield, it’s a special place and my favourite studio. It is rough and ready and that suits our band.”
Both The Sherlocks’ recent singles, End of the Earth and Falling, have received Radio One and Radio X airplay and Falling was used by both the BBC and ITV to accompany Euro 2020 goal highlights.
Later in the year, the band will tour some of the country’s most important, but under threat, small music venues. They have also given support slots to up-and-coming local bands.
“We want to help put the live music industry back on its feet,” said Brandon. “Our band was built on playing smaller pubs and clubs. Without them we would be nothing.”
No strangers to Sheffield music scene, the band have previously sold out Plug, The Leadmill, The Foundry and O2 Academy. They also supported Kings of Leon at Sheffield Arena in 2017 and played Tramlines main stage in 2018.
The Sherlocks play Tramlines on Saturday. Tramlines takes place at Hillsborough Park from Friday, July 23 to Sunday 25. More at tramlines.org.uk