London four-piece Crows thrive in the darkness. That much has been clear since their earliest days - from tearing a DIY Presents Hello 2015 show limb-from-limb, to inciting chaos across Europe alongside the likes of METZ and Slaves, it’s in the seedy, sweaty underworld of basement shows that they’ve dug their roots. Dropping back in the shadows after every hurricane outing, to date the group have kept a relatively low profile, drip-feeding immeasurably accomplished teasers like last year’s standalone single ‘Pray’ before disappearing into the black once more. Now there’s a weight behind the four of them that can’t be held back.
‘Unwelcome Light’, the band’s debut EP, is a record unlike others. Recorded live and designed to flow as one continuous piece, it bottles that wide-eyed stare of their live show, whacks a petrol-soaked rag in the neck and sets everything ablaze. A cloudy brew of gut-churning psych nestled up against the kind of serrated, clattering noise that’d make even a factory-worker blush, it’s pudding-proof that biding their time has paid dividends.
DIY have the first play of ‘Unwelcome Light’ below, ahead of its release this Friday on Telharmonium Records.
Below the player, we catch up with the band’s frontman James Cox, to talk everything from broken bones (he punched a curtain once, and it bit back) to the current crop of British breakthroughs Crows find themselves making fitting bedfellows with. They hit the road for the following dates in the coming months, including a surprise (!) record release show this Friday at The Shacklewell Arms, before they hit the significantly bigger platform of London’s Forum the following day, in support of Wolf Alice.
25 London, The Shacklewell Arms (EP release show)
26 London, The Forum (w/ Wolf Alice)
28 Glasgow, Broadcast (w/ Big Ups)
29 Manchester, Gullivers (w/ Big Ups)
30 London, The Lexington (w/ Big Ups)
31 Leeds, Headrow House (w/ Big Ups)
01 Bristol, Louisana (w/ Big Ups)
02 Birmingham, Sunflower Lounge (w/ Big Ups)
21 Amsterdam, OT301 (w/ Big Ups)
22 Leeuwarden, Asteriks (co-headline tour w/ St Tropez)
23 Rotterdam, Rotown (co-headline tour w/ St Tropez)
24 Tilburg, Extase (co-headline tour w/ St Tropez)
26 Utrecht, Kingsknight Festival, DB’s
27 Venlo, Kingsday Festival, Grenswerk
28 Antwerp, Trix (w/ Ought)
29 London, London Fields Brewhouse
First things first, then: talk us through the curtain story. What did that poor piece of fabric ever do to you?
We were playing at Shapes in Hackney with Girl Band, got too pitted and thought I would punch the curtain backdrop. Turns out the backdrop was one inch from a concrete wall. I knew something was up when I tried to grab the mic and couldn't even make a fist: Laurence (Rushworth - drums) was already playing with a fractured knuckle, so my cry for sympathy was met with a stone-cold glare.
Your live shows have a bit of a reputation for ruckus - was there an attempt to try to capture that on record?
We spent a week tracking the EP, then we listened back to it and felt it wasn't the best representation of our sound. We did consciously decide that the EP needed a bit of that "ruckus", so we scrapped what we had done the previous week, and recorded live, all of us together in the same room playing the EP start to finish in one take. We have always felt that our sound benefits from more of a live feel to it, but obviously we don't want to just release fully "live" records, so we polished up those takes with overdubs and the like.
We hear there was a vocal session recorded in complete darkness, what was the thought process behind that? You do know most phones have torches on them these days, right?
There was zero lighting in the hallway and a phone light doesn't really create much of a setting for when you're trying to get a good take for recording... you actually have to get into it. That blackness did help, as a lot of the EP is written about anxieties and mortality.
It’s been a steady progression through various singles and frankly bloody loads of touring - what’s the plan now you’ve got a ‘proper’ release in the world?
Think that's fairly obvious... tour even more! Followed by trying to fit in as much studio time we can get our hands on so we can get out all of this new material we've been writing and put out a couple more releases in the coming months.
Ideally, we want to have an LP ready and recorded by the end of the year. We've seen a growing response from places halfway round the world recently and we want to get out to those places and go play for them as soon as we can. That's always been the plan, to take our music all around the world, being able to travel and share what you make with the world is an opportunity not many people have and we will always be pushing to do that.
There’s a real gang of great British bands knocking about at the moment - how does it feel to be part of that? Anyone we should be keeping a close eye on?
It's good to see UK music thriving at the moment despite the difficulty of sustaining a musical 'career' in 2016. That's down to people wanting new music and people giving new music a chance. Virgin Kids just released their album which is pretty rad, Cult Of Dom Keller, Claw Marks are a killer live band, Bloody Knees are bros, get The Magic Gang stuck in your head for days and Jan Terri.
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