It’s taken a little while to get here, but the debut album from Crows has finally left the nest. A brutal, bludgeoning journey through the mind of frontman James Cox, ‘Silver Tongues’ is the perfect representation of their deafening, uncompromising live sound as well as signalling a whole new side to the London band. With a high-profile support slot with band-of-the-moment IDLES immediately followed by a headline tour of their own, these are exciting times for Crows. Dork sits down with James and guitarist Steve Goddard in a suitably gloomy booth at London’s The Social.
Congratulations on ‘Silver Tongues’! It must have felt like this moment might never arrive, it’s been a long time coming?
Steve: We’ve sat on the album for a long time, and not out of choice.
James: We all met, except for Sam [Lister, drums], when we were studying. We’ve been playing for five or six years just doing the circuit – a single, a couple of EPs and then we went quiet. There was a lot of label bullshit basically, so much wasted time. We wasted three or four months just on one label!
Steve: And then we had a bit of a reshuffle line-up-wise [original drummer Laurence Rushworth left for personal reasons], but I knew Sam from back home, so I asked if he was free. There was a month or so of teaching him the songs, then recording took another month or so on-and-off. We’ve sat on the record for over a year, we’re quite excited and relieved that it’s finally out!
It’s out on Joe from IDLES’ record label, Balley Records – how did that come about?
James: I was working at Latitude in this fucking food truck, and IDLES were playing on the stage opposite. I’d loved them for ages, but never seen them. They were just amazing; they blew me away. Joe came up as a suggested friend on Facebook, so I sent him a fanboy message – just saying what they were doing for music at the moment was so good, especially for bands like us who’ve been plugging away as it gives you hope that something can still actually happen. Literally a fan message!
He messaged back instantly, saying we’ve met before. We had met outside a METZ gig at the 100 Club actually, and I’d had no idea! I remembered the conversation as soon as he reminded me because he’d quoted a lyric that night from one of our songs from a gig in Bristol. Like four or five years previously. We got talking about everything, and he said, I don’t know if you’d be interested, but we’d love to release your album if you want that to happen. It came together really organically, really naturally and I’m glad we’re fucking doing it with them.
There’s almost an expectation that a band signed to Joe’s label would be a similar style, but you’re very different?
Steve: We’ve never really at any point sat down and said we are this genre, or we’re gonna write a song in this genre.
James: We are very picky about what we write, we stress over and think about everything we put out. When it’s right, it feels right.
Steve: There have been so many times we’ve started writing songs for a session, and then the next time we are in a studio we are like nah, don’t like that one any more. We’re quite open; I feel like there are a couple of songs on the record that are quite different to other stuff we’ve done.
‘Silver Tongues’ feels like a very dark album, very sympathetic to your live sound.
James: We needed somewhere to do the vocals properly, somewhere cheap, so we didn’t have to rent a full studio. We ended up doing some of it as live, on the stage at Moth Club during the day. Turned the lights right down in there.
Steve: When we did the guitar tracking, we went back to the same studio – 20ft high ceilings, really big room. We had six amps in there and were just using three at a time. It was so fucking loud and in complete pitch black. After a few hours in the middle of the night doing that, I felt like I was losing my mind a little bit. I could feel my ribcage vibrating every time I hit my guitar.
James: I couldn’t be in the room…
Steve: There were two guys who did the actual main core of the production, Phil and Felix. Phil does our Front of House as well, so having someone who does your live stuff is going to probably know how to get that big live sound!
There are some BIG tracks on there, six-seven minutes long. No messing around.
Steve: We’ve always wanted to do longer stuff, but it’s obviously been EPs before, and it’s a little much to throw an eight-minute banger on an EP.
James: The first half of the record is what people who know Crows will say a Crows album sounds like. Five or six songs, back to back, really heavy, really fast. The second half, not a lot of people will have heard us play like it before. It’s nice to show people that we can actually write a softer jam, not just a complete onslaught.
What sort of themes does the album have?
James: Each song is completely different and is about different things, we didn’t write it as an album from start-to-finish. ‘Crawling’ is about Margaret Thatcher’s state funeral, and not in a good way. ‘Hang Me High’ is about the snakeskin trade from the point of view of the snake. ‘Empyrean’ is probably my favourite song on the album, it comes from Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ and means the highest level of heaven that you can reach. I mixed that with a load of imagery that I read about Mexican cartels, nine men hanged by their necks from a bridge. I don’t know. It’s literally like an amalgamation of my weird brain; there are a lot of subject matters in there…
Not just the album, but the IDLES tour is soon as well as your own headline run?
Steve: It’s gonna be sick. We knew how much of a following they’ve got, but I don’t think any of us expected it to sell as quickly as it did – some of them were done within five minutes!
James: They’re so much fun to hang out with, and the shows are going to be amazing. At the moment, we’re still figuring out the set we’re going to play – whether we’re going to show what the album does and play the darker, slower ones as well as play what people know they’re gonna get.
Steve: I think our tour will be a good mix of the two. We know exactly what we’re doing, but I quite like the idea or possibility that someone is going to fuck it up somewhere! It keeps it interesting not just for us, but those who come to see us play a bunch of times.
Taken from the April issue of Dork. Crows’ album ‘Silver Tongues’ is out 22nd March.
Words: Jamie MacMillan