In Conversation with The Crookes!
Just ahead of their gig at the Foundry to celebrate the opening of the new Students’ Union we caught up with Sheffield band, The Crookes!
With the exception of Tom Dakin, three of the band members are Sheffield alumni - George Waite (BA English Literature 2009), Daniel Hopewell (BA English Literature 2009) and Russell Bates (BA Geography 2008) and they met on the legendary Foundry dancefloor! We met up with them to talk about their uni days and to find out what they’re up to now…
How does it feel to be coming back to the University and playing back at the Foundry in the Union?
George – It’s a bit surreal really - It’s the first time I’ve ever been in the Foundry during the day time so it’s weird to see it when it’s not pitch black and everyone’s covered in Snakebite. One of our main aims when we were starting out as a band was to one day play Fuzz Club and be on that stage. It’s amazing to have been asked.
What do you think to the new Student’s Union?
Daniel – It’s so much bigger, I keep getting lost. Although it’s been done up, it’s still how we remember it – they’ve still kept the old character of it which is good. I’m having pangs of nostalgia as I walk down the various alleyways.
George - Everyone is a lot younger!
What made you choose to study at The University of Sheffield?
Daniel –I narrowed it down to two choices, St Andrews and here. I really couldn’t decide between them so I flipped a coin…is that like dice man? I don’t know but I’m glad it was Sheffield.
Russell – I chose to come here because I decided I wanted to be somewhere near the Peak District. So I went to have a look at Leeds University and Sheffield but I just got a really good feeling about Sheffield as a city and the University as a whole.
George – I could tell from the Open Day that it was a good place - it had a certain feel to it, much like Russ said, and we’ve all decided to stay in Sheffield since leaving university too as we really like the city.
So you’re clearly named after the suburb of Crookes, do you still live there?
Daniel – No, we got sick of all the students! (laughs)
Russell – Plus it’s really expensive, we’ve been priced out of the Crookes area (laughs)
George – We’re living on London Road now – much cheaper!
How did the band develop?
Daniel – I think the first time we had the idea of setting up a band was right at the end of the first year. It wasn’t until the third year that we actually started to play properly. We were doing little shows around Sheffield in the second year but by the third year we were doing it all the time.
George – I remember I sang for the first time for you guys on the day of our last exam in the first year and I knew I was going to sing so I was way more nervous about that than the exam. It was June 6th 2007.
Daniel – None of us could actually play anything though. We just liked the idea of being in a band and thought we could try and form one.
Russell – I joined at the same time as George and Daniel with Alex who’s left now as a way of attracting girls pretty much (laughs).
Daniel – It was just a bit of fun really initially which is why we picked the name The Crookes, we never thought we would get anywhere.
Do you all live together?
George – No, no we used to but we found that we sort of grew to loathe each other after a while, we’d come off tour, after 3 months of being away and then wake up the next morning at home seeing everyone else in their dressing gown downstairs eating cereal I just thought, I don’t want to see these guys right now (laughs).
Were you part of any clubs or societies?
Daniel – I did a lot of events stuff which is how I got to know our manager. Me and Russ used to volunteer to help out at gigs and hand out flyers for Fuzz club, that kind of thing.
Russell – We’d get on the guest list for all our favourite shows and that’s how we met Penny our Manager.
Daniel - Straight from the off we were really interested in music and going to gigs and Sheffield was good for that.
Russell – How about you mate, you were in the football team weren’t you? (laughs)
George – Er, yeah but not THE football team (laughs). I did the intramural football league, but we got the wooden spoon three years in a row…it’s still a prize though technically isn’t it.
Where was your first gig?
George - Our first ever ‘paid’ gig was for the Dam House in Sheffield, the payment was whatever was left over on their buffet which was mainly warm tuna sandwiches. It was a hot day too.
Russell –We ate them all (laughs)
What would you say the fondest memories are of the University?
Daniel – I was always a believer in enjoying uni for the experience. My favourite memories without a doubt are all the nights we’d go to at the uni, this is where we all met as we had similar tastes in music and went to similar clubs.
George – All my best memories come from that room we’ve just been (The Foundry)
The best gig you’ve ever done?
George – The gig we did last year at the Leadmill or a gig we did a couple of years ago in Ljubljana in Slovenia.
Russell – Yeah Leadmill was probably my favourite, it’s a strange thing where as a student you go to watch bands at a venue like the Leadmill and it seems like a completely unachievable idea that you’d ever step foot in there, and to play there and have a lot of people to turn up and see the show was amazing.
Daniel – We did three shows last year in Tokyo and that was a similar thing, it was just really surreal to see how full it was. It was crazy to be that far away and there be loads of people there, singing back to us the songs we’ve written about Sheffield.
Tom – I’d go for the two that George picked – they were great.
George – The one in Ljubljana was amazing. It was in what looked like some kind of abandoned prison or army barracks and the crowd were really up for it.
What has been the highlight of your career to date?
George – We got asked to support Richard Hawley on his UK tour this year and that was incredible.
Russell – Seeing our songs on vinyl.
Does what’s happening feel surreal?
Russell – Yeah it does. I think your expectations continually shift. We used to chat about imagining playing a gig at the Leadmill, then we did it, then it was imagine what it would be like to record a song in the studio, and then we did that. Every now and then you kind of have moments when you’re like, I’m holding a vinyl copy of our record which has just been released in Japan and then you flick back to that mind set you had in the beginning.
George – the thing that always brings it back to me is the people who come to see you – for example tonight there was a guy who got in touch with us on facebook who is coming from Stockholm to see us tonight, he said do you mind playing my favourite song? We got this message yesterday whilst we were at practice and we weren’t actually going to play that one so we had to practice it really quickly and it get it up to scratch so we could play it for this guy. If you play in London people will come from Spain and Japan and bring you gifts…it’s completely surreal but amazing to think that our music means stuff to people.
Daniel – I don’t think I will ever get used to hearing our songs on the radio. That’s always a very surreal moment.
Who inspires you?
George – Russell every day, just look at him (laughs)
Tom – Matt Peel, our Producer. He always tells us when something is rubbish and has good ideas. Richard Hawley as well, I think we all look up to him.
Russell– We all really love his music and it’s so good to see someone who has had an amazing career and is still going, there’s no stopping him. It’s really good to see that pop bands don’t have to fizzle out after 5 years or whatever.
Daniel – I think anyone who works hard. We joke and muck about because we enjoy what we’re doing but we work really hard, ever since the start of this at uni, there hasn’t been a moment where we haven’t put everything into it. Richard Hawley is like that, he said to us that all you’ve got to do is make enough money to get the next record out there. So anyone who works hard at what they do, whatever that is is an inspiration to us.
What are your ambitions for your 3rd album?
Russell – Just global mega stardom.
Daniel – (laughs) yeah that’s basically it.
George – We want to get back on tour and make a record that speaks to enough people that we get booked in as many different towns as possible across the world.
What’s it like being on tour?
Russell –It’s like travelling the world with your friends and having ridiculously fun experiences. And then there’s the show where you get to play the music that you’ve created and love to other people who think its good.
What are you up to at the moment?
George – busting a gut to finish the 3rd record. We go to Italy in two weeks time to record it and we’ve got some friends over there who are in a band called the Charlestones and they’ve kindly lent us their house in the forest in Northern Italy so we’re going to record the album there.