THE CRIMEA

Crimea interviews

Hopefully I’m not adding in stuff already in the archives… I’m basically sifting through the links I was sent, though… next up we have a selection of band getting-to-know-you sessions, courtesy of Culture Deluxe (who also have an artist profile up), Drowned In Sound, Entertainment World and Caught In The Crossfire. Click ‘more’ if you want it easy.

Ben Goldrun interviews The Crimea

I don’t want this opening sentence to sound like the start of some epic 19th-century romantic novel, but Christ, it’s absolutely bloody freezing standing here outside The End on a chilly and overcast Tuesday afternoon. I’m here to meet and interview The Crimea, a band fronted by Davey MacManus that was born out of the ashes of The Crocketts, a country/punk/indie rock band that laid waste to venues all over the world, but failed to make much of an impact on the charts. Thankfully, the band arrive only minutes after our scheduled meeting time, and out of the back of the van clambers Mr. MacManus and his merry men. He is a ball of pent-up nervous energy, with his shoulders hunched up as protection against the cold winter air. ‘Christ, it’s fucking freezing, isn’t it?’ were his first words to me before we were ushered round the corner and down a dark set of stairs to the venue itself. Tonight is a corporate shindig to promote the band in front of some of the industry’s movers and shakers, so understandably the band admit to finding it a little weird to be playing such an intimate gig in front of so many people who are unfamiliar with their work. ‘We’ve been allowed a very small hardcore fan base to come along today, but they haven’t got their tickets yet.’ says Davey, visibly disappointed that it hasn’t been sorted out yet, ‘So we could actually end up with a room full of people standing there with their arms folded, but that’s the way it goes sometimes unfortunately.’ adds lead guitarist Andy ‘Gandy’ Norton. After finding a quiet nook way from the noise of the band unloading and sound checking, I settle down with Davey and Andy to discuss their experiences of the industry, how The Crimea came together and how they made Zane Lowe cry’

BGR: It’s more of an industry gig than anything tonight for all of the head-nodders and hand shakers tonight, isn’t it?

Davey: That’s all it is, an industry gig full stop.

Andy: We’re not nervous, it’s just a bit weird though isn’t it when you play to the Industry rather than an audience.

Davey: Maybe I’ll just stand there and scratch my chin’

Andy: It’s ok though, I think we’ll thrive on it if anything, on the fact that we’ve got to convince a room full of people that we’re worth watching.

BGR: Speaking of your fan base, you have a very dedicated and thriving fan network on the internet’

Andy: Yeah, we do a lot of work though Myspace, Davey’s got a blog on there, and we’re constantly on there messaging people and keeping in touch with people.

Davey: It’s been picking up. We toured the UK with Ash last April and we’ve more or less been away on a big long tour apart from Reading and a few shows over last Christmas, and it’s incredible that the fan base is still there, or exists in the first place at all. It’s great.

BGR: Are you pleased that a lot of people followed your work from The Crocketts through to The Crimea? Have there been a lot of new fans won along the way as well?

Davey: I think it’s been a long time and there may be the odd Crocketts fan coming back, but really the whole thing is a different experience. There’s no moshpit, it’s not punk rock. Hopefully a few have grown up with us though.

Andy: There’s been quite a mixed reaction [from Crocketts fans] I think’

Davey: Yeah, some of them have stuck with the band, but some of them couldn’t understand it either, which is good because it gives some new people the opportunity to come and see the band.

BGR: Did you feel a need to ‘Start over’ after the demise of The Crocketts?

Davey: Definitely. There was a definitive plan to completely start over again musically, just try something fucking original that wasn’t just three-chord punk rock.

BGR: So how did The Crimea as it is today come together?

Davey: Well, after The Crocketts finished me and Owen (Hopkin, drummer) were both working dead-end jobs in London, and we just decided to keep going and start again. We demoed a load of tracks at home, and then we just slowly started picking up members. We were going to be a five-piece, or ultimately an eight-piece. We spent a long time tracking down the right people. We got Andy our keyboard player first, and then Joe (Unwin, bass) moved into our house from Zimbabwe and we turned him from a guitar player into a bassist, and then we got Andy just before we went to South By Southwest festival in 2004, which is where we were signed up by Warner Brothers.

BGR: I remember hearing ‘White Russian Galaxy’ on the Claire Sturgess show about two and a half years ago, so there’s been quite a long period between the band coming into the public arena and the album (‘Tragedy Rocks’ , out now), although I understand that a different version of the album was released last year’

Davey: Yeah. When we went out to South By Southwest last year we printed up a thousand copies of the album and took them with us, and that was what got us the deal. Since then we’ve spent a lot of time in America, about five months there recording and then we’ve toured there about four times this year as well. It’s not like we’ve just been sitting there; we’ve been really busy the whole time but we’ve only just got round to releasing our album in the UK.

Andy: there’s a few new songs on the album and a few changes as well, a lot of stuff has been remixed or re-recorded, so it’s not a case of us putting out the same album again.

Davey: We re-recorded everything basically. We did five tracks in Mississippi, about three of them made it onto the album, and we did a lot of remixing in New York of tracks we’d made at home.

BGR: How did it feel recording the original album at home? Was there a certain element of freedom to the process?

Davey: No, it was more like slavery between us and the machine really, and a lot of constant work. When you’ve got a studio at home you just can’t stop because it’s so easy to just carry on. When do you finish? You can’t finish. There was a lot of freedom in some respects because you could do what you wanted, but in a way there wasn’t any freedom because you didn’t have any decent equipment, so you were just chained to this piece of crap the whole time. Trying to sound like Led Zeppelin on a Roland 16 track’ But I much preferred it to being in the studio with a producer, which I just absolutely hate. But it took us a long fucking time.

BGR: How long?

Davey: About two years on and off I’d say, maybe more.

Andy: And by the way, the Roland is a good piece of crap as well if they’re interested in giving us any more machines.

Davey: Are they fuck! It hasn’t worked so far.

BGR: Was it pleasing for you to be featured at number eight in the John Peel’s 2003 Festive Fifty with ‘Baby Boom’? It ranked higher in the countdown than The White Stripes and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’

Davey: That was fucking brilliant, yeah.

Andy: And he also mentioned that ‘Lottery Winners On Acid’ (due to be re-released on the January the 9th) was his favourite song of the past three years, which was amazing for us.

Davey: His endorsement was something else. He really supported the band, and he hated The Crocketts, he never played us once! So for him to say ‘Oh, well I didn’t like The Crocketts but I do really like The Crimea, so I’m going to play everything they’ve ever done.’ was amazing.

BGR: But that’s because you’re a different band’

Davey: Yeah, that’s why I was so pleased that John Peel was the first person to sit up and say it, because if he had the fucking guts to say it then everybody else starts to listen and follow suit.

BGR: So that seal of approval meant a lot to you then.

Andy: It did. It also translates over in the US, where there’s a cult audience for John Peel and the bands he promoted, a lot of people respected his opinion, so that was a big help for us over there, definitely. We did a show for John Peel day at the Camden Enterprise.

Davey: Zane Lowe came along and we made him cry.

BGR: You made Zane Lowe cry?

Davey: Yeah, but not because we were bad or anything! It was because he liked the music. It was a very emotional night.

BGR: Davey, you’ve been described by the founder of One Little Indian Records, Derek Birkett, as ‘The Lewis Carroll of your generation’. How does that sort of accolade sit with you?

Davey: I never remember who he [Carroll] is, so’ Is he the guy who wrote ‘The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe’?

BGR: He wrote ‘Alice In Wonderland’.

Andy: I think he looks more like Alice In Wonderland!

Davey: I thought I was more the Fred Durst of my generation. I don’t think I’m the anything of my generation. I don’t think I have a generation.

BGR: Maybe your next album could be a concept album based on ‘Alice In Wonderland”

Davey: No no no, we need to make a concept album that plays alongside the new version of ‘The Chronicles Of Narnia’.

Andy: Just like that theory where you play ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ alongside ‘The Wizard Of Oz’ and it fits.

Davey: That’s what we’re aiming for on the next album, a soundtrack to the new ‘Alice In Wonderland’ film.

And with that they were off to sound check and prepare for the night ahead. When I arrive back at the venue hours later, it seems to be filled with most of the London music industry, there to check out the Next Big Thing, or possibly just to gorge themselves on free beer and mini-beef burgers. Thankfully it appears that at least some of The Crimea’s fan base have managed to make it along, and they are camped dutifully at the front of the stage, eagerly awaiting the bands entrance. And it’s just as well, because if you weren’t stood within the first four rows or so of people you wouldn’t have been able to hear much over the constant din and chatter of the music-industry barflies who appeared completely oblivious as to why they were there. When The Crimea make their entrance though, they make it in such a blistering way that they leave nobody in any doubt as to why they are being tipped for big things in 2006.

Opening their set with debut single ‘White Russian Galaxy’, the band snap, crackle and pop with the sort of wide eyed energy and pure white heat of a younger and slightly more attractive Pixies, with Davey prowling the stage and holding his guitar as if it was on fire. The sheer ferociousness of his stage presence is thrilling to watch; it’s like watching a Roman candle attached to a spinning top, packed with nervous energy and passion. It’s not Lewis Carroll, it’s Travis Bickle up there. Second track and recent single ‘Baby Boom’ is the sort of epic acoustic lead ballad that Embrace or Starsailor would give their right arms for, but in the hands of The Crimea it soars. Weird and wonderful lyrics about cowboys, Fred Flintstone and Tarzan melded to a guitar line that soars and swoops with real emotional intensity. Davey, unhappy with people still talking at the back of the room, starts screaming at them off mic, before deciding to bring the show to the audience and putting his mic and stand in the middle of the first few rows for ‘Opposite Ends’ a part shouted, part screamed spoken word track that sounds like a slightly woozier Elbow without the constant self deprecation. After closing the set with the psychedelic sugar rush of forthcoming single ‘Lottery Winners On Acid’, the band exit the stage and we are ushered out into the cold night air, still buzzing with excitement at what we’ve just seen.. Whilst many bands in the current climate see fit to sing of dirty London streets and dead -end jobs, it often leaves you slightly cold. You wonder if the London that they sing of actually exists, or has ever existed for them. Davey MacManus and The Crimea don’t deal in songs about crack dens and dodgy women called Kate or Emily; their influences and subject matter are slightly more ethereal than that. They’ve been through the hard times, they’ve been in the shitty dead-end jobs, but they don’t want to dwell on that. The Crimea are happy to carry on exactly as they are: with their feet on the ground and their eyes directed firmly towards the stars. Or was that wonderland?

‘Lottery Winners On Acid’ is released on January 9th by Warner Brothers. The album ‘Tragedy Rocks’ is out now in all good record shops and online stores (and some crap ones I suspect).

Interview by Ben Goldrun for Culture Deluxe, 02/12/05.

DiScover: The Crimea

Two years ago, The Crimea‘s single, ‘Baby Boom’ made number seven in John Peel‘s Festive Fifty, out-placing the likes of the White Stripes and Yeah Yeah Yeah’s. In October, ‘Tragedy Rocks’, their first album, was finally released. So what on earth have they been doing with themselves all this time?

Touring. Endlessly. Or, as singer Davey Macmanus puts it, ‘mincing about in America on cub scouts camp.’ He and drummer Owen Hopkin have served a long apprenticeship together, gaining a certain amount of notoriety as The Crocketts before that band was dropped and imploded in the early 2000s. This time, they’re ‘trying to do it right for once, instead of just continually fucking everything up.’ A noble ambition. ‘Owen and I were doing crap jobs and living in shit places and had no education. The only thing we could do was music. We juts wanted to think about it for a while and do something that might give us a real chance.’

Despite positive responses to their first demos and support slots with such high profile fans as Kings Of Leon, the band were largely ignored by record companies in the UK. So they scooped together the last of their coppers and decamped to America, just to see if it was really the land of opportunity that people claim. Everything was staked on an appearance at the 2004 South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

Everything went wrong. Guitarist Andy Norton shudders as he recalls the disaster ‘ all the gear broke down, the keyboards would only play peculiar sci-fi synth noises and then Davey tripped over and fell flat on his arse. ‘We thought we’d blown it,’ he admits, lost for a second in the embarrassed horror. But like something out of that film where Chesney Hawkes becomes a pop star, their post gig gloom was shattered by ringing telephones. They had gone down well and salvation was theirs in the form of a major label deal, with only minor conditions ‘ Davey getting his teeth fixed. They were able to draw the line at full styling: ‘Five grown men don’t like talking about their clothes. It’s like talking about a relationship or something.’

Reticence in talking about relationships? From a man who is prepared to sing, ‘sometimes I think you could be more than just a punch bag with lipstick on.’ But offstage, Davey Macmanus’ shaking intensity and serrated yelps are replaced by a quiet thoughtfulness. Though he remains as hard to pin down as the meandering black humour of his lyrics. So are these sordid vignettes from personal experience? ‘I’m a total liar, I try not to write from a personal point of view. I try to write stuff that anyone can understand. Though that sounds quite vain, like Noel Gallagher with, ‘Let There Be Love’, playing God. We’re trying to play the parrot on God’s shoulder going, ‘Oi! You’re shit!’ We’re playing the food in God’s beard.’

We may recognise from this a graduate of the music industry’s school of hard knocks. Mr Macmanus is not a man who’s bursting to give himself away. He wants his dark tales of drunken rows and bleak disappointments to stand for themselves and is not about to start explaining them. But he rejects the idea that the low times that inspired the album have made him cynical. ‘It’s not cynicism,’ he counters, ‘it’s reality, like the news or something. It does say life’s absolute shit and everyone’s a cunt, but have some fun along the way. Well it mentions that bit once. One percent of the lyrical content.’ Stop for a moment and try to imagine these words coming out of Jon Snow’s mouth at the beginning of the Channel 4 News.

Such defensiveness may also be explained by the band’s return to Britain. They’re not ashamed of their ambition, ‘we’re definitely trying to realise the old dream. Every boy’s dream ‘ to be in The Darkness,’ though even that gets undercut with a joke. But he has clearly been apprehensive about the reception they would get on coming home. ‘I wasn’t sure what people would think of it in England. In America people love a bit of emotion. It draws them in. But in this country people are a bit more beard scratchy, or cynical.’ Perhaps I shouldn’t have brought that word up. ‘But so far no one’s been cynical too badly ‘ as in, ‘This is a lot of embarrassing emotional shit.” In fact the reaction has been far better than that, packing venues on their first headline tour and getting positive reviews for the album.

His restless mind is already on the second album though. Not such a surprise when it’s taken so long for this one to come out. With Butch Vig being mentioned as a possible producer and a stack of new songs ready to work on, they even tried setting up a studio on the tour van to get demos recorded. ‘It’s just imperative that the second album shits on the first one.’ After all those years of false starts you can’t blame their eagerness. This is a man whose drive seems to be one part work ethic and one part self-flagellation. As he says about playing gigs, ‘you feel like a right gaylord if you haven’t done your best. You have to feel like you’ve tried really hard.’ Here I would love to waffle on about steely determination, but am unfortunately still laughing about the use of the expression ‘gaylord’.

Their pathological fear of scenes (‘I don’t mind new bands, I just don’t like fashions, because I’ve seen so many go by.’) might prove a hindrance in competing with bands who are younger, better dressed and have sillier hair than them. But this is a band who are ‘not ashamed of a bit of pop’, and mixed with Macmanus’ twisted version of reality, maybe The Crimea can convert the world. Finally.

Interview by Julian Ridgway for Drowned In Sound.

Crimea20 Things You Should Know About The Crimea In Their Own Words

1.) We´re the fucking anti-cool.

2.) We are the Not easily Impressedionists.

3.) We are Attention seekers anonymous.

4.) We are the  Fat Camp Heroes of Hamburger Hill,

5.) We are the Coke bogeys in the Devils nose,

6.) Baby gorillas die from a broken heart when they are orphaned

7.) We are World war three on ten legs

8.) We are bird flu, We are Terradactyl Mumps.

9.) We  wanna be the next Coca cola

10.) We bring packed lunches religiously, we cook food in our r.v and stop constantly to put the kettle on

11.) When we first visited Warners Brothers in L.A. we were all horrifically sunburnt after our first dip in the pacific the day before, bright red and blushing to boot, we made for a sorry site as we went around meeting all the staff

12.) We are a Welsh/Irish/Zimbabwean/English and Mauritian democracy

13.) We have a fascination with Tragedy. Tragedy rocks. tragedy smoulders. Tragedy catches fire. Tragedy takes on. Tragedy goes to L.A. Tragedy trips at the last fence, choking on his stomach contents.

14.) We helped build houses for humanity in Rockafeller Centre for Katrina victims. I got a huge blister on my hammer finger but even if I put a nail through both my feet and my hands it wouldn´t appease or comfort folk who waded through water full of oil and shit and the bodies of their own.

15.) We are not big in the secondary markets of the east coast.like Ploughkeepsie and Troy. We are weenie Ants. But once the Ants take hold, they are difficult to eliminate, just look at the Beatles

16.) We are not part of any trend ,fashion or scene, we are unique like snowflakes, our haircuts are irrelevant, our dress sense dire

17.) We played ‘one eyed jacks in the french quarter just before katriona hit, frankie volenz from  was there

18.) We previously worked as a probation officer, guitar teacher, roadsweeper, school dinner lady, and for age concern,hence the desperate need to never have to get out of bed early ever again

19.) We take ourselves way too seriously

20.) We go swimming in the sea or lakes everwhere we go, usually as a method of washing ourselves, we like to go fishing

21.) We will continue our global crusade against terrorible music til our intestines are hung round our heads like turbans, it’s Madisn Square Gardens or the Mississippi River

Interview taken from the Entertainment World website.

The Crimea

There are few bands out there so close to their fanbase that they’d actually raffle off a member of the band, but then The Crimea aren’t your run of the mill holier than thou rock stars, however more of that later..

Rising from the ashes of successful band ‘The Crocketts‘, Davey McManus and Owen Hopkins formed ‘The Crimea‘ alongside Andy Norton, keyboardist Andrew Stafford and bassist Joseph Udwin, reinventing themselves and endlessly grafting over the last three years whilst they recorded a series of demos at their East London house, whilst constantly gigging and forging a secure solid fan base both in UK and US.

But hard work has its payback, and after a showcase at SXSW 2004, they signed to Warner (a US deal which has been reciprocated by UK Warner) and this week sees the release of their debut album ‘Tragedy Rocks‘ things are definitely looking up.

Sitting down in a pizza joint in Chalk Farm on the eve of their UK tour drummer Owen Hopkins and keyboardist Andy Strafford seem relaxed before their Enterprise show to celebrate John Peel Day ‘ (the DJ was incidentally was a huge supporter of The Crimea, describing ‘Lottery Winners on Acid’ as ‘one of the best songs I’ve heard in years‘).

With the album just released they’re setting off on a 25 date tour of the UK taking in all the main cities, ‘places like Tunbridge Wells and Harlow.’ Andy adds wryly. It’s their first tour since getting signed to US based Warner’s, which seems at first an unlikely choice of labels after releases on indie labels.

‘Well, we were always trying to sign simply with the right label, we wanted to go with someone who was prepared to put some money behind the band, to really push the band, to really try and break us – and I know there’s a lot of independent labels that are capable of that now, we ended up going with Warner’s because they seemed really really keen.’ Andy counters. Their big break happened at SXSW, having spent their last funds on getting over to Texas; they played a set in an Irish pub at 1am in the morning which was, as Owen puts it .. ‘fucking disastrous!‘ Andy had hired the wrong keyboard, ‘pedals were going wrong, the drum kit was going flying, but it was passionate on top of that and it really turned heads and we ended up getting a deal” he shrugs.

Having already recorded ‘Tragedy Rocks‘ on their own 16 track, the band went into the studio in the deep South, Mississippi (surrounded by ‘country music..we listened to artists like Blake Sheldon, Gretchen Wilson and Toby Keith.’). It was time to hand the reins over to someone else, which is never an easy thing to do ‘ but was it as hard as they’d thought? Owen concedes ‘ ..to an observer..absolutely’ Giving creative control to an outsider after three years ‘grafting morning noon and night, Davey specifically’ to hand over the reins to a ‘producer’.. with his own creative agenda, it didn’t quite work. The songs were fully formed already, we didn’t need someone to put their oar in, and there was a little bit of friction did arise, and that’s probably why it was so miserable’ Owen explains diplomatically.

But their savior came in the form of Chris Shaw, known for engineering Weezer and Wilco specifically, who was assisting in Mississippi, and the band and Shaw relocated to NY to finish the album.’ We got on really well with Chris, we knew he could do the job and it just seemed like the natural decision to use him to mix the album..’.

With the album in the can, they quintet took to the road in US with Ash and then Billy Corgan. Having supported a wide range of acts both here and over the pond (including The Get Up Kids, Dashboard Confessional and Kings of Leon) the band secured a support slot on the Billy Corgan tour through a friend of a friend. ‘The Billy Corgan tour was excellent, we managed to get an album to Billy and he heard it, liked it, and decided to take us on tour. We were there giving it some, turning the amps up ..and rocking out..and Billy’s there giving it his Depeche Mode impression, so I think people reacted well to our gnarly rock!’.

The US audiences were quick to accept The Crimea (the countless messages of support from American fans on the bands my space page lays testament to their success over the pond).’The American crowds are a little less jaded than we are in the UK because I think fans in the UK are so used to scenes coming and going within five on ten minutes, they’re just a little bit blas’ about it.[In America], they’ll be with you for years and years, [the] crowds aren’t really waiting for you to impress them, they’ll take you on face value and if they like your music they’ll come again, whereas a UK audience can be a little bit..you know..with their arms folded ‘impress me’ type of thing ..’ Owen explains.

Touring the states was a rite of passage for the guys, ‘we’d sometimes do 6 or 700 miles in a day, stuck in this RV, this summer we were touring with Billy Corgan in over 100 degrees heat with no air conditioning, seven blokes, in a fucking RV, 12000 miles in 7 weeks, believe me it gets a little steamy!’ Andy smiles, ‘we have our fair share of arguments!’ Whislt Davey writes inspired, winding blogs on MySpace, Owen spent the last tour learning French ‘ there this course’Michel Thomas…you don’t need a book and you don’t need to write anything down, you just need a CD player, I’ve stuck it on my ipod and you just talk along to it.’. Back home he’s well know for his freelance writing for various magazine, including NME, Kerrang and The Fly, whilst on the road the band keep in constant contact with their fanbase through their often hilarious group emails. Hopkins’ emails throughout the last years give fans a sense of belonging, as one fan described them when asked ‘ you feel like you’re part of the family ‘ you’re really 100% behind the band because they make you feel like you’re part of it.’

The summer was neatly tied up with appearances at Leeds Reading Carling Weekend and Bestival. ‘I fucking love festivals’ Owen grins when recounting his Reading experience. ‘I love them..in particular I really love Reading , because I’ve been there since I was like 15 or 16, so to play Reading, having always had such a laugh there over the years was special, I’d played there with The Crockett’s and that was amazing, and now I’ve played there with The Crimea, it was amazing, I mean it never disappoints.’

When asked about Leeds he grins. ‘I hate to sound snotty but we played Leeds on the Friday and Leeds was just a bit of an obstacle before we got to Reading. We were like ‘fuck this’ let’s just get down to reading and act like twats backstage! To play it and be there..was just amazing!’ Their enthusiasm is contagious, and anyone who caught their slot at Reading would agree, Davey’s vocal gymnastics drew in the crowds and made it a highlight of the last day.

And so having finished a pre gig pizza the guys wander back for the John Peel Day set, fans new and old pile upstairs in The Enterprise, a homecoming for The Crimea. And what of that raffle ‘ Owen was raffled off on their Myspace site, but through a random twist of fate his sister won him. So not romance there? ‘ No!..But a lot of beer and drunken dancing like a freak!’

Tragedy Rocks‘ (Warners) is available in the shops now.

Catch The Crimea on tour, for further info check out www.thecrimea.net

Interview by Dee Massey for Caught In The Crossfire.

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