SARAH WILLIAMS met up with THE CROOKES ahead of the release of their new album 'Hold Fast' and their single launch at the Bull & Gate, Tuesday 17th July.
Looking uber-suave in sharp suits and shades, Sheffield’s finest four-piece stroll through the sunshine that illuminates St. Pancras station. The Crookes will be homeward-bound shortly, but before then, they take the time to talk tours, tramps and err, Steps.
Following the success of 2011’s Chasing After Ghosts, the new pop sensations are about to release their eagerly-anticipated follow-up, Hold Fast (9 July). With a new guitarist, Tom Dakin, on board and the album totalling just 33 minutes Daniel Hopewell (guitar) says the boys have “trimmed the fat.”
Front-man George Waite laughs as he recalls, “When my dad first listened to it he didn’t say anything about any of the songs, just, “It’s only half an hour long!” Daniel explains that their 45 minute début album was “very serious” and “indulgent.” George says that Hold Fast “gives people a really short, sharp dose of how [they] were feeling in the three months that [they] wrote it.” “It was definitely a conscious decision. There were songs that we finished but we didn’t put on because they weren’t good enough,” adds Russell Bates (drums).
The tone of Hold Fast is far more optimistic than its predecessor. “It’s a lot more buoyant. We wanted to have more fun with this one,” agrees George. “A lot of it was written on the road so you can’t help but be happy and excitable when you’re seeing all these exciting new places.” The boys had a clear idea of what they wanted to achieve with the album from the outset: “We wanted to make an album that was unashamedly pop and write the most memorable tunes that we could.”
Conversation turns to Fierce Panda, and the boys fall about laughing at Daniel’s description of label founder, Simon Williams: “We love Fierce Panda. Simon is like a mad genius! He’s in the vein of eccentric characters like Willy Wonka and Dumbledore. He says things and you think he could be mental but... I think he might be a genius!”
The Crookes have a string of European live dates coming up including Italy, Spain, Holland and Poland. Tour-talk prompts George to relive his most memorable tour date: “It was in Ljubljana in Slovenia. We turned up and at the stage entrance there were homeless men sat around an oil drum, with a fire in the middle of it. It was snowing outside. We’d been driving for 11 hours and we just thought this is going to be an absolute nightmare if that’s the queue waiting to get in! It turns out that not a lot happens in that part of Slovenia...”
“We made it onto the national newspapers as well!” laughs Daniel, prompting George: “Yeah, it turned out to be a massive event! The crowd were absolutely insane! I’ve never heard a roar from a crowd like I did that night.” Russell concludes, “Two words. Steve Backman. Our booking agent - he’s up there with Simon Williams!”
The boys come alive as they remember previous tour tales. “In Tokyo we accidently left Tom behind! We drove back to the hotel without him.” And by way of justification George offers, “Well, he was new!” Daniel laughs as he explains “It was the exact thing as in Home Alone...” The Crookes clearly love touring, but when asked about the downsides Tom, who has remained silent for much of the time, pipes-up out of nowhere. “Being left behind,” he says dead-pan as the lads erupt into laughter once more. Tom joined The Crookes in December after original guitarist, Alex Saunders, quit the band; His departure became the focus for the heartfelt album track, 'Where Did Our Love Go?' Tom shyly confirms that being part of the band “is alright.” Daniel points out, “He’s a strong silent type!” and Russell adds, “He’s not a man of words. He’s a man of international mystery!”
George explains, “I think the temperaments are a lot more balanced now. Tom is so relaxed and level-headed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him get phased by anything.” To which Tom responds blankly, “I’m dead inside.” Sparking another fit of laughter from his band-mates.
The chemistry between the boys is evident and when they’re each asked for one word to sum-up The Crookes, they’re impressed at how apt their description is: “A hardworking, handsome, randy quartet. That’s pretty much us!” laughs George.
The Crookes are holding their forthcoming single launch for Maybe In The Dark at The Bull & Gate in Kentish Town on 17 July. The lads are excited to play the venue which “holds good memories” for them, according to Russell.
George laughs, “The first time we played at the Bull & Gate we thought ‘Ah, so there is a decent venue in Camden!’ We are really excited to play it; we’ve had some really great shows there. Our whole live show is based around the energy. If I don’t come off stage feeling like I need to pass out then I’ve short-changed the crowd in some way.”
As well as The Bull & Gate show, The Crookes have festival dates to play during the summer. “We’ve got Latitude and Benicassim in one weekend and we’re also on the same line-up as Steps at one festival. I never thought I’d be able to say that!” And after much discussion about the chart-topping pop stars and George’s unexpected knowledge of the group’s discography, Daniel pipes-up, “All these festivals and every time we do an interview we just end up banging on about Steps!” To which George boldly responds, “If I can get my photo taken with H...”
Hold Fast is released through Fierce Panda Records on 9 July. The band perform at The Bull & Gate on 17th July and guarantee to have you singing and dancing all the way.