Irish band The Crawling have been making waves recently in their local / national scene and beyond with their brand of doom/death metal. In November, The Crawling will release their second album entitled Wolves and the Hideous White through Irish label Grindscene Records which I am sure will garner some followers from overseas and take the band to the next level. I caught up with guitarist / vocalist and all-round good guy Andy Clarke, and we chatted about the band and the album. Make a cup of tea as this is a long one as Andy, as I am sure his band members would wholeheartedly agree, likes to talk a lot!
First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions for our readers at Moshville Times over here in Scotland. In November, you are about to release your second album Wolves and the Hideous White. What can you tell your fans and the metal world about the sound of the new album and will there be a change from your previous material?
Cheers for taking the time to chat with us, so thank you too! Wolves and the Hideous White is basically the next step from our debut, Anatomy Of Loss. When the debut came about we had really honed our sound and established the type of music we wanted to play. That said, we had literally only found our feet – the debut was a solid foundation to start from, and we planned to build from there.
Our sound is based around a slow, doom/death metal, and where the first album was focused on the use of repetition and eerie riffs, our new album has developed the song writing further, using more complex structures and nuances within the tracks. It has worked really well, and led to an engaging album. It is still founded on the doom / death thing, but certainly newer aspects are creeping in, which has been a great journey for us.
You like to release music videos to accompany your music. Of the six brand new tracks, do you have ideas for videos to accompany them yet?
I’m a big fan of the visual addition to music, and I’m also aware in this day and age you have to do music videos to help get the album out there. It’s an interesting challenge, and adds a further creative outlet which can be frustrating, but very rewarding.
We have one video already shot and edited, and we have plans for a second. I don’t want to reveal too much just yet, but everything is in hand – stay tuned into our YouTube channel for updates.
How were the songs constructed in the studio? Are there the main songwriters of songs that take care of everything or is The Crawling a band where all members contribute to the songs?
The songs always start with me and my guitar. I write a lot at home with the use of my computer and a drum machine, usually in the company of a lot of beer. I tend to have a fairly solid song structure, and demo to a pretty high level; dual guitar tracks, vocals, basic drum loops and fills. I send the demo tracks over to the guys and they work on their parts, then we get together in the rehearsal space and see what works. Sometimes it comes together immediately, sometimes we add bits or take them out, and on occasion they get binned. Ultimately it has to feel right; if it doesn’t instantly grab us in the room, we tend to move on.
I would like to try the ‘band in the room’ approach, but with lives and time constraints it would just take too long, and I would get frustrated.
How often is the band able to get together and rehearse in the studio? Where do you get together and record?
It depends what we’re doing. I’m not a fan of just showing up to practice every week and banging out the same songs without purpose; time is too valuable for that. If we have shows coming up, we build the set and decide what works and what doesn’t, and make sure we are playing well. We rehearse religiously to a click track to keep the feel of the songs in check – I hate speeding up live and running the vibe. We don’t use a click live, which really adds to the enjoyment of the show; we keep all the hard work for the practice room.
Our drummer Gary has his own rehearsal space in a converted garage, so we practice there. It also doubles up as a recording studio when it comes to album time. It’s a tad small for recording, but it’s ours and we are always very focused in that room.
Thankfully you as a band are what every band wishes for and that is to have a solid line up. What would you say is the reason behind the stable line up and how do you keep it that way? Are there times of disagreements but they are more constructive rather then destructive now than before?
Firstly, there are only three of us, which makes everything instantly easier. I think a lot of bands have line up problems due to organisational frustrations. I mean, using a five piece as an example; getting five guys and related families, jobs, holidays, sickness, responsibilities, into sync to arrange a show or even a rehearsal is incredibly difficult – it can drive people mad. I did the five piece band back in the late 90’s, and I don’t think I’d do it again, just too hard to manage.
We are also a bit older, a bit wiser, and have a lot of experience of band life. We are very aware of the commitments that go along with being in a band; financial, time, hard work, grim tour life, buying gear, breaking gear, dealing with difficult people, dealing with each other, travel – all the things that create pressure, stress and ultimately have the potential to cause problems. We’ve all been through this before, so there are no surprises when shit happens; well … less surprises!
We don’t tend to have disagreements, but I have no doubt we annoy the crap out of each other at times. We strive to be as open and honest as possible, but we also know when to keep quiet and let each other rant, drink, or be an asshole from time to time. It’s part of being in close proximity with people for extended periods of time, but I think we appreciate it’s a transient – in an hour, day, week or whatever it’ll all be forgotten about. You also have to accept people for who they are. I’m a workaholic-control freak who drinks too much and tends to “know everything,” and have a distinct sense of humour. The other guys have their traits too, but we just manage each other to keep the whole thing afloat. It’s not always easy, but the simple of acceptance of people are people can go a long way.
How was the lyrical content of the album created? What are your lyrical themes with the new album?
I write all the lyrics, and all my inspiration is created by simply looking around. Every song is a “story” of sorts, an emotional description of something that has happened to me, someone close, or someone I don’t even know but have witnessed first hand.
The new album is centralised around human relationships. The songs cover the creation of a relationship, reasons they fail, how people deal with failure, how the majority will sacrifice anything to remain with a damaging person. It’s amazing how humans will remain in an unhealthy relationship, purely because they can’t face being alone. I think its human nature to want to find a “mate,” and it can often lead to extraordinary sacrifices to get it, including self. People are fixated by ‘creating’ a persona in the hope of acceptance by another, or in an attempt to extend relations, rather than just living. It’s a sad state of affairs, and none of us probably even realise we’re part of it.
I love it when a band has more than one vocalist as it adds so much diversity to the music. With The Crawling having two vocalists, was this a deliberate act by the band or was it an accident that you found that you have two accomplished singers in the band?
It was a happy coincidence to be honest. I mean, initially when Stuart first got the band together there was a dedicated singer and no backing vocals. When we decided to take the band in a serious direction and altered the lineup, I decided to sing, having not done the guttural style in over 20 years. As the songs developed Stuart reckoned he could do the backing vocals, which worked out great and we carried on from there.
Can you tell us readers where the album was recorded and mixed? Did it take some time before you got the sound you wanted?
I have a home studio, and a fair amount of recording gear. I’ve been recording music for years, and as a result it made sense to record ourselves. It gives me maximum control (the control freak thing), and also gives us a luxury of time and the ability to re-do things if they don’t turn out as we’d like. As a result I recorded, mixed and mastered the whole thing.
It takes a bit of time, but I try to be as strict as I can with myself to get the thing done in a reasonable time frame. The debut was a lot more difficult, as it was the most important project I’d done at that point, and I learned a lot in the process. This time I knew a lot more going into it, and the preparation was a lot better. I made a lot of decisions before even beginning which helped forge the sound. I also removed variables that would ultimately cost me tons of time for minimal pay off.
At the end of the day, we always sound good live, and I believe it’s the result of the simplicity of our set up. I applied that to the recording process, I didn’t over dub where I didn’t have to, I let slight errors in playing slide, I didn’t quad track, we used our live gear, and there was no “cut and paste” – we just played the tracks. A lot of what’s on the album was done in one take.
There seems to be a resurgence of old-school aesthetics and releasing cassette versions of EP/albums. Is this something that you would want to do with Wolves and the Hideous White and be nostalgic about the tape trading days?
I grew up on cassettes, so I totally get the nostalgia thing. As a kid my dad wouldn’t allow me to use his ‘stylus,’ so vinyl was a no-no; as a result I collected tapes. I also loved the way friends would copy stuff for you and tape trade. It was an exciting time for discovering new music.
I have considered it for a number of our releases, but it’s purely for selfish nostalgic reasons, I’m not sure who would actually listen to it if we did. Maybe, I don’t know. If people wanted it I’d be happy to have a go; I reckon WATHW would look really cool on tape as the cover could work long ways.
The Crawling have worked with the Grindscene Records from the beginning. How has the relationship been so far with the label and are they pushing for The Crawling to try out different things?
Grindscene Records is owned by my brother Peter, so we’ve always had a love/hate relationship! ha, ha! Peter is mega supportive of The Crawling, and actually named the band, but pretty much leaves me to it – after all, big brother knows best! lol
Joking aside though, Peter can be very creative, often taking the simplest idea and propelling it to the most ludicrous level; very much a brain stormer. He’s always suggesting things to me about the band, and the label – some stuff we go along with and some not. It’s a good thing as we often take risks that set us apart from other bands … when they work!
How hard has it been to juggle the touring side of things with the everyday jobs? Will there be an opportunity for the UK to witness anything on the live front. Do the Crawling have plans to tour to support the album?
We don’t really tour, mainly due to family and job commitments. I love the idea of touring, the romantic images of tour buses, beers, guitar techs, playing with other bands, meeting people on the road and stuff; but realistically it’s very difficult for us to do such things. We get glimpses from time to time – heading off for a few consecutive shows, but our focus is on more one off, well timed gigs. It’s gruelling at our level to go out and tour for weeks at a time, especially as the competition for live music is fierce – getting a decent crowd on a Wednesday night in Luton is tough, and can be more demoralising than anything else. I have maximum respect for bands that do that week in, week out.
We will absolutely be playing some shows to support the album, but no long tours at this point. It may happen, but nothing is planned. We are working with ENSO management to book us some shows in the UK early next year. So far we are booked to play Eradicationfest in Wales; it’s happening 23rd to 26th May 2019. We may decide to book a couple of shows around the fest, so it may become a mini-tour.
What should a metal fan expect from a The Crawling live show?
Our live show is based around creating an atmosphere to go with the music, so expect bleakness, misery and a touch of aggression. We use minimal lighting, strobes, smoke and some low key sound effects to establish the mood. I like to move around on stage too, and get close to the crowd when I can. We always have a good time live, and as older guys it’s basically a heavy metal show – loud amps, shouting, and banging heads.
With members being in bands beforehand and now currently a three piece band in The Crawling, do you feel that you are all writing the music that you want to record? Is there a bit of negotiating between members when songs and ideas are being recorded or are the band always on the same wavelength when it comes to song writing?
We are very much writing the music we want to play. As you correctly point out, we have played in other bands (and still do), but when I started with The Crawling I promised myself I would only do what I loved. When I first started writing music it was slow death metal with a guttural vocal. I love the early Peaceville bands like My Dying Bride, Anathema and Katatonia so I just moved back to when I was 16 and the music writes itself now.
We’re usually on the same wave length, but there are a few occasions when I haven’t been totally sold on something, but I trust the other guys to let it go when they insist it works.
How hard is it for a doom/death metal band like The Crawling to survive in the current climate where bands have to tour non stop and sell merchandise in order to bring money back into the band?
It’s difficult. To really survive a band has to do as you suggest which tour is like mad and get that merch and music out there. When we do shows I can see why so many bands adopt that very model, it does work; alas it’s something we just can’t subscribe to at the moment, maybe in the future, I don’t know.
In the mean time I’ve adapted it slightly and used the medium we have access to in an attempt to survive. We have favoured the festival circuit as it helps get a crowd, of course you have to work to make people come and actually watch your set, but it’s a good start. They’re also further apart and they tend to be a fly in, rock out, fly out system. You also get to meet a lot of bands and make contacts to help with the next thing.
I also focus heavily on the social media side of things, video in particular. I have found video creates the most interest. It takes a bit more effort, but it’s been working well for us. We have a pretty active YouTube channel, and our vlogs have proven to be pretty popular in the grand scheme of things, they’re fun to do as well. We’re also very active on Facebook and Instagram. I like these tools as it allows people to get close up with the band, seeing as we aren’t on the road to meet people – this is kind of the next best thing.
We also have a wide range of very high quality merchandise. We don’t make any money on the most of it, but if we make good, affordable merch people are more likely to wear it and spread the word. Nothing I love more than seeing someone in one of our shirts or hoodie. Very cool.
All that stuff does help our survival, but ultimately it comes down to what the three of us invest in the band, both time and financially. Not to mention I learned to do a lot myself. I record the audio, I have learned Photoshop, social media, video editing, poster design, accounts, PR, management, PPL stuff, digital distribution, stage management – anything I can to help the band move forward and keep going. I’ve also forced my photographer wife (www.exposingshadows.co.uk) into music video production which has helped immensely!
Historically, the UK and Ireland has had a tough time when it comes to being internationally recognised in terms of extreme metal compared to Sweden and Florida for example. Yes there are Carcass and Cradle of Filth but what is it do you think that prevents British and Irish bands from reaching the next level?
I’m not really sure if I’m honest. I try and keep in tune with what’s going on around the world; to see what’s working for bands and what ideas I can incorporate into our plans of global domination! ha, ha!
Logistics for one I guess. In Florida for example you have easy access to enormous land mass; I mean you can literally drive around the USA, up into Canada, down into South America. A motorhome and trailer and you’re pretty set to go. That allows simpler touring logistics, spreads the word further. In the UK it’s more difficult as you have to ferry everywhere, Ireland is even worse. I know even the likes of Primordial barely tour the US for that reason. Satyricon have quit touring America as well. It’s certainly easier for American bands to tour Europe than the other way, but that doesn’t explain your Swedish argument! ha!
There are a lot of UK/Irish extreme bands doing very well, and certainly some upcoming gems. Ireland currently has Vircolac, Dead Label, Ten Ton Slug, This Place Hell, Strangle Wire, Overoth, all making waves and touring. UK has even more heavy hitters; Conjurer, Saor, Fen, Basement Torture Killings. I think those are the bands that will move on to the next level.
Ireland has an abundance of talent, what with Jenova, Coscradh, Words That Burn, Malthusian and you to name a few flying the flag high for Irish metal. Is there a good healthy friendship between bands on the Irish scene? What are venues and recording facilities like in Ireland for bands like you?
Yeah, we’ve always got on very well with the bands we’ve been in contact with. Despite Ireland being pretty small, we have a very diverse scene and it depends what circles you move in as to who you become friendly with; it’s rare a death metal band will play alongside a punk act for example. We befriended a lot of bands through the Bloodstock metal 2 the masses that we would otherwise probably not have met. We played a guest slot on the Dublin final last year and met This Place Hell as a result. They are great lads, a real hard working bunch, and I subsequently got to watch them play Bloodstock 2018 and hung out with them.
Ten Ton Slug is awesome fellas, and has been really supportive of The Crawling – spreading the word, helping us with shows and the likes. There’s also an overlap with Na Cuthnie (shared members) – when we played Metal Days 2017 they watched our set until the last minute before they had to run and play the main stage. Or ran after their set; I can’t remember exactly, but either way they made sure they came to support us. That shit goes a long way with us.
That said we haven’t played with Jenova much, but we’re due to play Mammothfest alongside them later in October and they’ve been tagging us in posts and chatting via social media; so we’re all pretty supportive of each other when paths cross.
There are some fantastic venues in Ireland, but the numbers are decreasing. We have been trying to set up some warm up shows in satellite towns in Northern Ireland and simply haven’t been able to as the promoters/venues have shut up shop. We still have strong venues in the capitals that get a decent crowd and sound amazing. The Limelight / The Distortion Project combo are the lifeblood behind a lot of local bands in Belfast; Voodoo Belfast is another really supportive venue of extreme metal.
Recording wise I haven’t really looked into it, as I have my own setup, but I’ve listened to some Irish bands and the local productions are of a pretty high standard.
The Crawling have gone from one single to now releasing your second album. All the hard work is beginning to pay off but what do you think The Crawling needs to do to maintain and build on this recent success?
I think it’s a case of maintaining the momentum. If we keep releasing quality content, as often as we can it will keep us moving forwards. We will release the album, videos will follow and hopefully some festival appearances and sporadic headline shows to go with it. It’s not an easy task, but we’re looking forward to having a go!
I thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. A fun question to end this interview. If you were a DJ and were allowed to bring 5 CDs to the party, what would you bring?
1. Mötley Crüe – Dr. Feelgood [have to get the party started]
2. Slayer – Reign In Blood [always need a good head bang]
3. The Crawling – Wolves and the Hideous White [shameless self promotion]
4. WASP – The Best Of The Best [long standing joke about my favourite WASP album, plus everyone likes a sing along]
5. My Dying Bride – Turn Loose The Swans [I usually end up drunk and putting ‘inappropriate’ music on, but hey the party has to come to an end at some point]
Any last message for our readers here at Moshville Times?
Great chatting and thank you for the constant support from Moshville Times and your readers! In the meantime, we would greatly appreciate folks pre-ordering the album from www.crawlingband.bandcamp.com . Cheers, and stay miserable…