Through raucous live performances along with an intense post-punk sound, Crows have been ripping up the alt-rock scene in the United Kingdom and beyond since 2015. The London based quartet of frontman James Cox, guitarist Steve Goddard, bassist Jith Amarasinghe and drummer Sam Lister are tightly amplified while aiming to leave a lasting impression.
Their second album, Beware Believers, that came out on April 1 via Bad Vibrations Records captures their live essence in tenacious fashion. Tracks like “Closer Still”, “Slowly Separate”, “Moderation” and “Wild Eyed and Loathsome” highlight a record that absolutely rips. In its entirety, this sophomore release is the antithesis of the “slump” some acts endure while following up their debut.
I recently had a talk with Cox and Goddard about doing things a bit differently with this album, having more time to work out the kinks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, being influenced by dystopian novels and what they hope people take from the record after listening to it.
Northern Transmissions: What did you aim to do differently this time around with Beware Believers than what you did while making your debut album Silver Tongues that came out in 2019?
James Cox: I think the main difference is that Silver Tongues was a collection of songs that we wrote over the course of five years, some of them being extra songs off the EPs. It wasn’t written as a standalone album where with this one we wrote it all at one time in the space of three or four months. We actually wrote it as a full album start to finish in itself.
Steve Goddard: We tried to be a little bit more consistent, a running cohesiveness to it was something that we wanted to have as part of this record in comparison to what James was saying. The first album was made with stuff that we had for a long time and they were thrown together. This way around it was a little bit more concise and more thought out in terms of being a collection of songs for a record.
NT: I totally get the approach from listening to the tracks. Did the COVID-19 lockdown happen right when you were about to go into the studio? How much did the pandemic affect the making of the record?
SG: We actually finished the tracking of the record in three or four days right at the end of January 2020. Then the idea was that we were going to give it a couple weeks to sort some stuff out and then go back into the studio to do some overdubs, extra vocal takes and all that kind of stuff. We were also gearing up to go to SXSW at that point and then a week before we were due to fly out it was when all the lockdowns came into play with COVID-19.
The majority of the record was done, there were still those little extra sort of things that you want to take a look at to see what else is needed. In a way, the fact that we couldn’t go back in for a while, because I think the next time we worked on the album was around June when things were a little bit more relaxed, gave us some extra time to think about the stuff we wanted to put on it. We sat with the songs to at least figure out what we wanted from a mix side of things. It was a case of making the best of a bad situation and using it as a positive rather than a negative.
JC: At that point as well, everyone was under the impression that it would go away in a few months so we would be able to release it and tour it at the end of the year. Obviously it kept getting worse with things getting pushed back and something else would happen with the corona virus that would hinder the whole process. We also had no money coming in because we couldn’t tour, so trying to get the right people to mix it and master it was one roadblock after another that the pandemic kept throwing at us.
NT: I can totally understand that. Going back to the extended time off because of the pandemic, do you think the album would have sounded differently in normal circumstances?
SG: Yeah, I think so. Like we said before, that is how things played out in that we did get extra time to sit with it a little bit longer than we would have. Especially from the mixing side of things, it gave us extra time to really sit with it and think about where we could make changes. I think it’s very fair to say that it would have been different if we didn’t have that time.
JC: Having such a long period to come back to it with almost completely fresh ears felt like a lifetime since we first started recording it. With so much time having passed, just to come back and figure out which things to change a bit was the main thing that we benefited from. It’s very rare that bands get to do it, most of the time you’re writing, recording, getting mixed as soon as possible to have a quick turnaround and keep that momentum going. As shit as it was, we did benefit from that.
NT: James, you mentioned that the lyrical content in Beware Believers is very influenced by dystopian novels. Which books were you reading during the songwriting process back in 2019 and do you feel that this theme is more relevant today?
JC: Yes, that stuff just always happens in life doesn’t it? All the books I was reading were written during the Cold War and everything happening with that soI guess there’s always going to be something in the world that’s fucked up. The main ones were High-Rise by J.G. Ballard and Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, which is probably the bigger influence. The world is always going to be fucked up, isn’t it? It’s just one thing after another so as long as I can find inspiration from that then there’s some light in the darkness.
NT: What do you want people to take from Beware Believers after they listen to it? What message do you want them to absorb or what do you want them to absorb sonically beyond the lyrics?
JC: It’s escapism. It really sounds like what we sound live, which is a big part of this band. I think for a lot of people it’s a big release because there’s so much energy and they really see how into performing we are. This is a true representation of that so what I hope is when people listen to it they get lost for 40 minutes and if they got any anger, any pent up annoyances about their day-to-day lives they can have that release of cathartic energy.
Purchase Beware Believers by Crows HERE