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  • Writer's pictureBarney Townsend

The Sherlocks: Back To Business And Basics

Fresh from Yorkshire indie-rockers The Sherlocks' live comeback triumphs at Tramlines and Camp Bestival, and on the eve of some very big news, we sat down with drummer Brandon Crook to take us through the band's journey over the last couple of years, from their newfound independence to some tantalising details of that hotly-anticipated new album.

TM: Your social media accounts declared "Back in business baby!!" last week. You guys had a great few days with Camp Bestival and especially the Tramlines (Festival) show. How has it been getting back into the live arena with a fresh line-up?

Absolutely - we’re buzzing just to get back to gigging again. It’s been 16 months since we last played a gig but we were lucky in the sense that we just finished a UK tour just as the pandemic really hit and the government said no more gigs. We just actually squeezed that tour in but yeah, being back... it’s mad! I were feeling like "what’s it gonna be like being back on stage?" but as I got into the first tune it was just like "bang!" and we straight back into it. I knew when everyone got halfway through the first tune it would be alright. It’s definitely good to be back and to see people in fields again having a good time and just going nuts. Buzzing!

TM: So was there any trepidation from your side in terms of the pandemic? There has been a lot of different information and opinions about when artists start playing again. Were you guys vaxxed, good to go and raring to get back into it?

Well, to be honest, we just wanted to get back out and start gigging whenever we could. I know three of the lads in the band - including myself - have already had one jab and are trying to get a second one in. Alex (Procter) has managed to get two in so he’s alright!

At both festivals, we had to have a negative lateral flow test to say we were alright.

We just thought let’s get on with it, let’s get in there, so we’re just buzzing we could.

TM: In that sense, it's kind of ideal to play a festival. You’ve got the sunshine, you’ve got the greatest hits set - that just looked like the perfect opportunity. What was the Sheffield Wednesday kit reveal about? How did that get arranged?

That were barmy to be fair! We were in the studio in Manchester and I just got a text from an old friend that I know from our village. His dad’s a barber, he’s one of them blokes who like you see him once a year in the pub. He just sent me a message saying "Liam Dooley wants yer number, pass it on."

It's a bit mad actually... we were in New York a few years back and we were in the dressing room and somebody knocks on the door and says somebody upstairs says he knows you. Well, I'm thinking this is one of my uni mates that messaged me saying "I’m in New York" so I went up to see him then came back down. Someone else says, "somebody else upstairs says they know you". In New York! I'm thinking are you having a laugh here? They say, no they’re from Bolton upon Dearne - a village - there are probably only about 2000 people who live there. So I went up and saw this bloke and I thought "oh I recognise him - he’s like a footballing lad from the village". Didn’t know him but had a beer with him and the crack and then he was dead sound and I didn’t think ‘owt about it.

Then that message come through saying "Liam Dooley wants yer number" and I’d just seen he’d been promoted from marketing office to Chief Of Operations at Sheffield Wednesday in the Sheffield Star. And I’m a Wednesday fan anyway so like, that’s a bit mad! I looked him up a bit more. When we were in New York he said he’d worked for Pepsi and Pipers Crisps so he must have been quite high up. Anyway, he’s got this job and he’s a Wednesday fan.

I was in the studio in Manchester I’d just finished doing a take. He said "are you free? I’ve just got this idea to run past you" and told me he was COO. So I said "pretty high up then?" and started laughing my head off.

A lot of this side of Sheffield, the Hillsborough side, it’s quite cool; they’ve got Kelham Island which has loads of cool bands and they’ve just turned all the steelyard into an enclosed pub and independent food thing. He said "basically Sheff United is associated with grime and hip hop artists but I want to be associated with more guitar music. I want a few people and put a few names forward but obviously, I know you boys and you’re a bit more in the spotlight now. I want you to do the new kit launch." And I were like "Chuffin ‘ell like!" I knew it’d be a big deal but I just said "sound". He says "go and have a word with the lads and let me know what they say and come back to me."

I just walked straight in the studio and went "we’re doing this thing next week, lads!"

TM: Wow. Which studio in Manchester was it incidentally?

We always try producers between albums just to try out different people and options. And we learn new stuff ourselves going in with different producers so we tried this new fella - David Radahd-Jones - Red City Recordings.

TM: With the recent shows, you’ve been playing a couple of new singles. I saw 'Falling;' on your Twitter feed and we’ve heard 'The End Of the Earth' - that’s the one Townsend Music sold a sold-out colour 7” single with you guys on. That one had a little more of a punk vibe and energy; it seemed a bit more up-tempo. Is that how the rest of the new material is or is that an outlier?

Yeah, it’s weird actually - that one came about because we got a message from Adrian Bushby or his manager. We didn’t even know him at this point - we'd just seen a message and thought we’d get back to him. We didn’t realise he’d won a couple of Grammys for producing and he’d reached out to us. Basically, they have listening meetings and he’d heard 'Will You Be There' which is the first tune off our first album. He said "I like that, I reckon I could do something with that band."

So then we reached out and it was that period; we’d already recorded our third album - the one that’s not out yet - and we said, we've got a bit of time, let’s do a standalone single. So we went in with Adrian and went down to Essex for a couple of days when there was a gap in the pandemic restrictions and just bashed that one out. It’s funny you should say that because a lot of people have said it: it’s a lot punkier and more aggressive. It’s a fun tune to play to be fair.

When I see 'The End Of the Earth' on the setlist I think "oh yeah, this is gonna be good!"

We had just come out of recording album three and we probably chucked what we’ve been doing on album three into this session. There are some different kinds of tracks on album three; there’s one called 'Plastic Art' which is really that’s a bit more grungey, almost like Nirvana - I dunno - there’s a lot of different styles on it.

TM: That brings us nicely on: we’ve also heard 'Falling' which is going to be on the new album and was the Radio X Record Of The Week. What we all want to know is where you are with the next album.

The album launch date is 13th August, that’s when everything goes out. It's called World I Understand which is the name of a track on the album as well. There are some big songs on it. 'Falling’s just like a taster of what’s to come really. There are so many different - I wouldn’t say styles - but you listen to some bands, you hear one song you’ve heard the album. It’s the same chords just a different way around them. But this is really feeling like it’s gonna be a defining album for us because we’ve done two already. You hear a lot of bands saying "this latest one is our best album" but literally everyone that’s heard this album’s said "you boys are gonna have trouble pickings singles off this" because it really is that strong.

TM: Right, a lot of the time with artists you get the first album as the defining one but there are also artists, like Blur and The Clash, that really nail it on the third. The second album can be rushed and have a lot of pressure from the first where you’ve got to get that lightning in the bottle. A lot of time the third album is one where you can take stock of what came before. There is still hunger and a need to prove yourselves but a little bit wiser and a few more styles.

I know for a fact when I listen to this album in years to come I’ll feel like this album was something special… like you said, you’ve learned your craft a little bit. We’re nowhere near where we want to be but on this album, we know it’s just going to be one where fans connect with it. We just know it is.

It lends itself a bit more to the spirit of the first album where it was just four lads in a room playing live and Dave Eringa who produced it - he does all the Manics' stuff - he’s captured the live element to how we play. It’s got a bit of feel to it. It leaves little bits in where if it goes up a BPM he’ll leave it in as that’s how he feels the chorus should be. You get some producers and it’s like they want to make it for radio - that needs to be like that. They’ll grid it all and it saps all the life out of it. Our style of music shouldn’t be like that!

There’s a tune on it called 'Sorry' which is a little bit dancey. It’s a dance tune but it’s us and you can tell it’s us playing. That was a little bit different for us. Then there’s a stripped-back one called 'Games You Play'. That song's been knocking about for about five or six years and we knew there was a big song in it but we never took it into a recording session and we’ve just nailed it this time.

'Games You Play' builds towards the end - it just sounds like a film soundtrack or summat - you’ll know what I mean when you hear it!

TM: When you’ve been writing and mixing are there any soundtrack or albums and artists you’ve been listening to? Any mixing references?

We all listen to different stuff but I think we always come back to some artists. 'Falling' had a reference to Queens Of The Stone Age with that lead. Everyone who gives us feedback says it’s so instant; the chorus is so simple but so anthemic at the same time. But studio session references that come up when we do guitars are The Strokes and when we’re mixing, Kings Of Leon.

TM: You mention The Strokes after talking about capturing stuff in a radio-friendly way but persevering the aura of a live band. The Strokes' first record feels like five blokes in a room even though it sounds polished - I can see where those things marry up.

Yeah, they always get brought up - early The Killers stuff too. They’re the main bands as references when we come to guitars and getting a bass tone and just they’re obviously stadium bands. They're heroes of ours anyway. They’re massive bands so they obviously know what they're doing!

TM: This is going to be your first major release on your own label. How are you finding that process so far and do you see benefits going forward of having that control and getting things under your own umbrella?

It is a lot harder doing it your own in terms of the graft you put in - the hard work - but we’re used to grafting anyway, only more so on the live scene. Because we haven’t been able to gig it’s actually worked hand in hand with getting everything ready for this release. It’s more rewarding doing it yourself.

We’ve brought a whole team around us. We only like working with people who are really dedicated and are going to put some passion into the band rather than someone who just works for a big corporate company, who comes and picks a cheque and goes home and forgets about it. We’ve got some really driven people on our team and it’s refreshing. I prefer it doing it like we’re doing it now because it reminds me back in the day - I sound old! - but before we had a record deal we were doing the same thing on our own. Now we’re a bit more established it’s great having that control.

TM: You can see from the fans' responses that you guys have a great relationship with them. Fan feedback has its ups and downs; you don’t ever want to be jumping to the crack of their whip but it’s great to have that dialogue with them.

We know what works for us and our fans. We know what our fans want because we’ve grown with them the years we’ve been doing it. It’s easier to please our fans and bring our own ideas forward and put them into place.

I think the indepenent way of doing it will be more rewarding when the records’ out there in the world and it’s doing its own thing.

TM: Just before we wrap this up, a question from Carl Henry (@carlLUFChenry) off Twitter: "When are you coming to the states lads?"

2022! Were just booking a tour at the minute.

TM: Have you got European dates lined up as well?

Yeah, we’ve got a German tour later this year in November - I think that’s already out there. It’s only a week but we do pretty well in Germany.

TM: Brexit hasn’t stopped you then?

No! We’re buzzing for the tour in Germany, and we're also going back to basics in 100-200 capacity venues in the UK to help them out. TM: The ‘Keep Our Independent Venues Alive’ UK tour.

Yeah, we just wanted to help the venues. We said "let’s go back and play these smaller venues and promote that they are still here and they need to be supported because there’s gonna be no venues for up and coming bands to play". You can’t jump from playing your local working man’s club into an Academy - you’ve gotta progress slowly. The charity we've partnered with is Independent Venue Week. We just wanted to get involved and just thought that this is the perfect time to do it. If we’re ever gonna do it it’s going to be before we get back on our album campaigns and we’ve got a nice bit of time to go and give them a hand when things re-open.

The Sherlocks have BIG news tomorrow. Keep an eye on their social media accounts and The Sherlocks Official Store to be first in the queue.

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