Crookes: Don’t let the looks fool you

The Crookes
The Crookes
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IT seems many people might well have got educated popsters The Crookes all wrong.

With their sponsored swanky clothes, nice accents and the occasional costly long haul flight, there are plenty of young ladies who wouldn’t mind taking the Sheffield band home to meet mum.

The Crookes - relaxing in Barcelona before a gig

The Crookes - relaxing in Barcelona before a gig

Alas, guitarist Daniel Hopewell reckons they’re not entirely the blemish-free fops some of you might have had them down as.

“We’re not like that at all,” he says, finishing his cappuccino. Just because we dress in smart clothes... that’s only because we can’t afford clothes and the ones we get are what Burberry give us.

“That’s the paradox of this life; we’ve got no money but we get great clothes. We get to Tokyo on a first class flight...and come back to getting kicked out of our house.

As part of their deal with Burberry the band were at a party in London with Elton John just last week, but the rest of the time it’s life as a jobbing band.

And with new album Hold Fast, out Monday, they’ve captured the freer feel of their live shows, partly fired up by a line-up change.

Performing in Burberry’s Tokyo shop may have helped validate what they do for a living, but socialising with a Sheffield music veteran provided further inspiration for the bright new platter.

The title landed when they went to the pub with Richard Hawley.

“There was a point of coherence about six pints in, when it was just about to tip into something messy, and he started talking to us about sailors who tattooed Hold Fast across their knuckles and was using that as a metaphor for being in a band and keeping going, ignoring everyone else, sticking it out.”

That outlook was tested when guitarist Alex Saunders – who co-formed The Crookes with Sheffield Uni pal Daniel – quit for the ‘civilian’ life.

“When Alex left the title was even more appropriate, that we keep going. That’s a theme, one of the mentalities behind the album,” says Daniel.

“When we first came out we were quite naive, had a quite a bit of interest early on and then all that interest died down a bit. We’ve now changed our desires.

“There was a time when we wanted to impress the music press. Now we just get on with it and forget that.

“There’s a good Hunter S Thompson quote... ‘Good men die like dogs in the music industry’.

“It’s true and we’ve gone through that cycle.

“The biggest validation is we can go and play shows all over the world in strange countries where we wouldn’t expect them to know us.”

With those thoughts in mind they turned a potentially damaging blow into an opportunity, substituting someone who had apparently lost their appetite for someone who craved music over an office job.

Tom Dakin knew The Crookes crew through his previous band Silent Film Project and seemed a logical replacement.

“Alex and Dan formed the band and had always been the fulcrum,” says singer George Waite.

“So for Alex to leave, on the face of it, we were incredibly shocked.

“But for four months leading up to that he had been in a world of his own trying to figure out how to tell us.

“When he finally did leave it felt like that negativity had been lifted and we could finally get on with what we wanted to do instead of treading on egg shells.

“It’s always been Tom’s dream to be in a band and quit his job at Aviva. We were able to give him that opportunity, rescue him from his job.

“He was able to rescue us as well. He brought a new vitality.

“We had the album title before Alex left but when he left it became this all-consuming idea.

“We had no choice but to buy into the whole album concept. There was about 30 seconds between Alex saying ‘I’m leaving’ – although we all looked at each other and went ‘Oh my god’ – and us saying ‘That doesn’t change anything’.

“From that point on there was no option to mope around or lie down. We got Tom within four days and it became a whole different band.”

Although several songs were recorded prior to that, Hold Firm has a sophisticated and substantial vitality about it, both in style and execution, advancing it greatly from debut Chasing After Ghosts. It is the sound of a band emboldened and believing.

“It’s a combination of a few factors,” says George.” We’re all a year older, have more confidence in our abilities. We’ve made an album already and know what not to do. Tom coming on board refreshed our outlook – and the fact we were having a drink or two in the studio.”

Daniel expands: “We were all happier, whereas when we wrote the first album I was generally quite miserable. That shows in aspects of the songs.

“But this time we weren’t so worried about trying to make this perfect thing. A lot of people heard the first album, then came to see us and said they enjoyed us live much more because we were free to enjoy it.

“So we wanted to be as close to live as possible, to take that energy and charm we have live which before we cut out. We recorded at night because that’s when we play. We would listen to Bruce Springsteen and The Clash before we went in to do a take because that got us pumped up.

“We’d get people in to watch us play. Rather than recording it, we were performing to them. The Cooler King, for instance, we wrote that morning, got wasted and listened back to it. We had a party.”

Travels past, as well as the prospect of more, informed much of what they were recording, however, plenty written on the road. “We’d be in all these incredible places and you’d meet someone who would inspire a song. That’s a natural thing about travelling,” adds Daniel.

“At the end of a show you’d meet someone and they’d take you around their city at night and that’s where the best anecdotes and stories come from. For a fair few songs that was the genesis.”

New single Maybe In The Dark is out July 23, two days after their main stage Tramlines show. They also play Sheftival, Don Valley Bowl, August 4/5 weekend.