WORDS MAISIE JANE DANIELS - PHOTOGRAPHY JAMIE NOISE
Crows are the London-based post-punk band that are making waves (you should see the crowd-surfing!) across the world. With a recent European tour, a not so 'difficult second album' release, and a lively headline show at London’s Scala already under their belts we have no doubt that Crows are going to be high flyers (terrible pun, we know!) And with summer only just getting started, you can expect to see them doing what they do best and performing at festivals including Wide Awake, Welcome to the Village, OFF, Black Bass and Post Punk Strikes Back, along with working on a highly anticipated third album.
Lads, we look forward to seeing you on the sidelines (if only we didn’t bruise like a peach) at Wide Awake this weekend!
Maisie Jane Daniels: Hey James, how are you today?
James Cox: I’m very well thank you! Just back from The Great Escape, so a little sunburned and broken but very happy.
MJD: [Laughs] Me too! You and the lads in the band all seem super tight - how did you meet and when did you decide to form Crows?
JC: Steve, Jith and myself all met studying. We all had very similar music tastes and all wanted to make a band so just started messing about and it all clicked together really nicely. We originally had another drummer, Laurence, who moved away to America to get married in 2018 which is when Sam joined the band.
MJD: Why the name Crows?
JC: Originally we were called something much longer and super edgy, but once we’d been writing for a bit and found ‘our sound’ and what we liked playing, it just didn’t really fit with how the direction the band was heading. So we simply shortened it to ‘Crows’. It’s funny coz' it does suit the band but for instance when we released a single off the new album called ‘Garden of England’. Trying to google the words ‘Crows, Garden & England’ hasn't done us any favours [laughs].
MJD: I saw you perform recently at Scala - it was such a fun show and great venue! You really came alive on stage. What does the playing live aspect mean to you?
JC: The live show is the most important part of this band. It’s our strongest asset and for me it's the best thing about being in a band. I think if you have a job that facilitates you to travel the world, that's a really wonderful thing. We get to jump in the van, get on a plane, go to a country or city we’ve never been to before, jump on stage and sing our silly little songs to people we’ve never met before. That’s a really wonderful feeling and one we value very much. I think our music is definitely written to be performed live, we came close to capturing the live sound and essence on ‘Beware Believers’ but it is a really difficult task to achieve!
MJD: There was a lot of crowd surfing going on, including yourself! Tell me, have you ever been dropped?!
JC: [Laughs} Yes, many times. Luckily not very badly and normally I’m clawed back from the floor and back on top of the crowd before my body touches the floor. It’s always 50/50 whether your gonna get held up, especially since I’m 6’ 3”!
MJD: You clearly have some die-hard and rowdy fans! What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever witnessed at one of your gigs?
JC: Honestly too many to remember! One of my faves was when we played a show at 3am at a dutch festival called Best Kept Secret. It was in a small stage called the Casbah and it was a corrugated iron tunnel with a living tree sticking up straight in the middle of the audience. I was crowd surfing and basically got surfed into it so I was hanging upside down off it. Then after I got back onstage the whole palace erupted and there were people hanging off anything they could, jumping off the DJ booth, hanging off the lighting rig. It was really really special.
MJD: Wow! That sounds tree-mendous... Get it?! What do you and the band ask for in your rider?
JC: [Laughs] We’re pretty simple with our rider. But we did recently update it to include Whiteclaw. We always ask for a drawing of a cat, a framed picture of the Coventry City 98/99 team and a selection of local delicacies that best represent the city we’re in. Lots of beers, and we had to switch to Gin from Tequila coz' it was just getting too messy.
MJD: Sounds like a party! Your new album ‘Beware Believers’ is out now, congrats on the release. What’s the creative process been like for making the album?
JC: Well we wrote it in the summer of 2019! So it was pre-covid, we had just come off the first album campaign and tour and we were wanting to strike whilst the iron was hot. We actually wrote it quite quickly, probably in the space of about 4 months. We were really tight and creative as we’d been on tour for so long so it actually came quite easily. Then when the pandemic hit, we had basically recorded all of it. So that meant we could take a step back and see if we wanted to add anything to it, which resulted in adding some strings and some different back vocals. It’s not often a band at our level gets so long to sit and think about an album so it was nice to have that extra time to really make sure it was perfect.
MJD: There’s always talk of the ‘difficult second album’ have you found this at all?
JC: Before we started writing it we always joked about calling it ‘Successful Second Album’. I think because we set ourselves a really tight deadline for it, we just hammered ahead and because we were in a good place creatively it came quite naturally. Its been received so well and the response has been really overwhelming, much better than we anticipated so it’s nice to see and break that stereotype. Let’s see how album 3 goes down [laughs].
MJD: Whats song are you most proud of from the album and why?
JC: There's a few points but I think a highlight for me is the closing track ‘Sad Lad’. It's a really epic and beautiful last track and one that came quite easily for us. I wrote the lyrics as a poem on the day Daniel Johsnton died as a memorial to his life. Then when we wrote the music it just fit in perfectly, I didn't have to change any of the syncopation or anything, it was really serendipitous. I think it rounds out the album quite nicely which is pretty fast paced throughout so finally gives you a rest after an onslaught of fast tracks.
MJD: Do you feel in a different headspace to when you started writing the album and how does it feel when reflecting on the album?
JC: Yeah absolutely. 2 years and a pandemic later we are all very different in a lot of ways. A lot of our personal situations have changed but I guess deep down we’re still the same band. It’s funny listening back to the lyrics, seeing as I wrote it two years previously it's still a lot of the same shit. It was all written around the time when there was nothing on the news except Brexit / Trump / Farage so a large amount of it is about dog whistle politics and fake news, which, surprise surprise is still rife. So it's all still relevant.
MJD: It sure is... and with everything going on in the world at the moment, do you think this will feed into future works?
JC: Inspiration strikes whenever it strikes. I’ll be watching a documentary or film and all it'll take is one line that I like and that can turn into an entire song! Art has always been a way to find light in the dark so with all the awfulness in the world, that sometimes seems never ending, if we can turn that into something creative and beautiful then thats the way it goes.
MJD: You’ve not long been back from a tour - how was that!? Do you find the crowds differ from place to place?
JC: It was crazy, we honestly didn't have a bad show. Someone got engaged at our Amsterdam show! I had to hand them a drum stick with ‘Will you marry me?” written on it in Sharpie [laughs]. It was strange adapting back to tour life after 2 years off. You just forget the small intricacies of life on the road. Sharing a van and a hotel room every night you basically spend 24 hours a day together. You get exhausted, you laugh, you cry, you get mad, you see every spectrum of human emotion [laughs]. So it was a bit of a shock falling back into it but honestly it felt so good, like I said, it's my favourite thing about being in a band, so to be able to be back at it was just the best feeling. It was nice to go back to some cities we’ve been playing for years to really big packed rooms, it make all the years of slogging away playing to no one worth it.
MJD: Any good tour stories?
JC: Me and Steve are the snorers in the band so we normally get put in the same room together. In Berlin our bathroom just had a glass wall so when we got back pretty drunk I decided to take a bath and then FaceTimed our manager. So Steve had to witness that. We arn’t particularly ‘rock n’ roll’. Sam’s happy if he can find a pinball machine.
MJD: [Laughs] What are you most excited for this summer?
JC: Festivals!!! Traveling around Europe, dipping in and out of these places we’ve never [been] before. Play a mad set, wake up and head on to the next one. The best feeling! We’re in Europe much more than the UK this summer, going places weve not been before. Hungary, Lithuanian, Poland, honestly cant wait to try all the local delicacies.
MJD: I bet! If Crows were a cocktail, what would they be and why?
JC: Steve’s an Espresso Martini coz' he always on 110%, Sams a virgin Daiquiri coz' he's the nerd, I'm a probably a Whiskey Sour coz' I love eggs and Jiths definitely an Old Fashioned coz' he's slow as fuck.
MJD: [Laughs] You mentioned festivals, which ones are you playing?
JC: Wide Awake, Welcome to the Village, OFF, Black Bass, Post Punk Strikes Back
MJD: Anything else you’re working you’ve got coming up?
JC: ALBUM 3 but can’t give you anything just yet it’s top secret.
MJD: I'm sure it'll be another successful one! And finally, what’s your favourite F- word?
JC: FROG, coz' I love frogs.