Every Monday we will be bringing you interviews with unsigned UK or Ireland artists for Independent Music Monday. Recently we caught up with Rowan from unsigned Leeds band Crake to find out more…
Who is in the band, how did you meet, where are you from and how did you come up with the band name?
Hey. We are Rowan, Sarah, Rob and Russell, or as a collective – Crake. We also like to think of ourselves as a wider coven and continue to be supported by our friends and familiars including past members and our much-loved Greenmount studios.
We all knew each other from the Leeds/Wakeful DIY music scene, but Crake has an excellent conception story. Three new years back, Rowan was dressed as Princess Leia after being part of an on-stage dance ensemble for a Flaming Lips tribute set. Celebrating the new year, Sarah was witness to a slightly whisky fuelled rant from Rowan/Princess Leia about gender inequality in music, her under-confidence in playing instruments and her notebooks full of unseen lyrics. Sarah took this to heart and a couple of months later Crake was formed, or as the project was briefly known then: ‘The Vulva Underground’. The more permanent band name came from Rowan reading out bird names from the British Trust for Ornithology UK list of birds. It’s surprising how many bird names were already taken.
Who were your musical influences when you were growing up and who are your influences now?
We didn’t know each other growing up, and I guess we all went through various formative phases, some more formative and long lasting than others. Rowan’s longest relationship has been with John K Samson from The Weakerthans after someone gave her a Weakerthans/Alkaline Trio mixed CD. There are several references in our music – some not so subtle (our last EP was titled The Politics of Lonely!).
We’ve just come back from a three week tour around the UK/Europe with Big Thief, who are basically our favourite band. To be asked personally by the band to join them on that tour felt like a dream. We just couldn’t believe what was happening. Getting to spend three weeks with them was so inspiring. Seeing them construct and deconstruct those songs every night in different contexts felt like such a privilege and we learnt so much from the whole experience. Rowan’s song writing also obviously takes a lot of inspiration from various pockets of nature she encounters. Barely a Crake song has gone by without a reference to the local flora and fauna.
How would you describe your sound?
Like an orange tree, with outward reaching branches bearing both blossom and bold, strange fruit.
What is your latest release called and what was the influence behind it?
We released ‘Dear Natalie’ 14th June. The E.P. is described as a love letter to a dear friend of Rowan’s. It’s an attempt to slip romance passed its usual boundaries and mark the importance of unconventional partnerships. The letter itself covers the wide territories of identity, anxiety, falls from grace and the too quick depletion of UK top soil.
What’s your local music scene like?
It’s hard to sum up, because the Leeds musical landscape is so diverse in terms of genre and provision of venues. But there’s definitely a crossover-flow aided by quite a holistic awareness of activity. We’ve always found it to be supportive and encouraging in terms of our relationship to other musicians and constantly inspiring acts coming through the city. Also it’s pretty easy to put on your own event as well as work with a selection of promoters. Crake has benefited from being active in different bands in the past, as well as becoming familiar to people who put on gigs here as friends.
What do you have planned for the next 12 months? Any albums or festivals?
All our energies are currently focused on writing. We have a few different places to rehearse and shape new ideas – so will likely spend most of our time together there over Autumn and Winter. It’s hard to say where we’ll be at this time next year – but we plan to tour, write and record as much as possible.
Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with?
I guess we just can’t keep putting Big Thief as our answer to everything… We were lucky enough to make a lot of beautiful new friends on that tour, which is one of the nicest things about being in a band. In the van we’ve been enjoying listening to Bill Callahan, Aldous Harding and Julia Jacklin so they would be high on our list. There’s also this great band in Leeds made of dear friends called Cruel World and we all really respect what the others are doing - we often joke about performing as ‘Crake World’, but not sure we would all fit on the stage.
Any funny stories surrounding your live performances?
Not sure if it is a funny story, but we missed a gig in Brussels as Rowan fell very sick. We were saved by a lovely stranger from the anarchist library next to our last-minute hotel (that was closed as we got there to check in!) They helped us get Rowan some care. Sarah was sick also the day before however managed to play the gig and hardly make a peep. Rowan commented ‘if I was Sarah I would not be handling this with so much grace’. Fast forward 24 hours and she’s on the back seat of the van returning from A&E talking in riddles about a dragon and a broken tea cup of Russell’s. All was ok, we only missed the one show as we had a few days off in Berlin afterwards. Rowan spent the 15 hour journey sleeping.
What is the one thing that you want readers to know about you?
We love slimemould – a beautiful queer goo that falters what we think we know about nature, science… ourselves. Rowan and Sarah keep it as pets and it featured heavily in our first EP. Come find us at a gig and we could talk about it for hours…