Evolution Emerging returns to the Ouseburn Valley on the 1st June and once again promises to be a fantastic day of live music, showcasing the very best in emerging north east talent. This year’s event will see 25 bands/solo artists play across the Ouseburn’s best drinking holes including The Cluny, The Cumberland Arms, The Tyne, The Star & Shadow and The Tanners. I recently caught up with Crooked Hand’s (who will play The Cumberland Arms) front man Chris Brown to talk about out how the band are preparing for the big day and also their first E.P, released today and available to download online.
The Crooked Hands story to date has moved quite quickly really. Chris only finished school in 2010 (leaving that talent hotbed that is Park View School in Chester le Street – Bison Hunting, The Last Spectacular, The Catweasles/Holy Mammoth…and errrr me 😉 to study at University. He soon tired of his course and set about writing tunes in his flat instead. Joined by band members Nick Blaszczyszyn and Liam Smith, they began writing and recording music together which eventually resulted in the release of the track ‘Under’ in early 2011. Under, was quickly circulated by local bloggers and North East music influencers and finally got played on Tom Robinson’s BBC 6 Music show. A drummer was hired (Robbie Houston) and following their first gig at Newcastle’s O2 Academy the band were asked to support Let’s Buy Happiness as part of The Month of Friday’s shows at Cluny 2 in September….
….That’s when people started to talk about ‘the voice’ – KYEO.tv describing it as ‘one of the most exceptional I personally have ever heard live’. Perhaps cleverly though, Crooked Hand’s hasn’t done much since. A show in January for The Outsider and confirmation that they will be part of this year’s Evolution Emerging line-up has been followed largely by silence. That was until last week anyway when the band announced the release of two new tracks to form part of an E.P. and also the news that they have been joined by a new fifth member – Tom Booth.
According to Chris “I think he’s really completed our sound. Nick used to handle guitars live but his main instrument is keys. We started working piano parts into stuff early on and Nick decided he wanted to do that full time and drop the guitar. With both guitar and keys live it gives us a chance to sound more like what we want to sound like on record. Tom’s a great addition because he knows how to be subtle and still have a massive impact on a song. He was the missing piece, really.”
Since then, the band has been writing new songs and perfecting their sound, rehearsing solidly every week. It’s interesting if you listen to ‘Under’ or ‘Elliot’ and ‘Waldridge’ Fells from the new E.P. – all quite melancholic and acoustic driven – you don’t expect to discover a band that, when it plays live, appears much louder and dirtier. As Chris explains, although he himself as a singer enjoys soul artists such as Donny Hathaway he has also previously tried to mimic the style of Metallica’s James Hetfield and Chino Moreno from Deftones and these ‘heavier influences’ have become gradually intrinsic to the bands overall sound. “We are a lot louder. We try to put on a bit of a show and live… Our friend Russell [Poad] who does the-outsider gigs described us as The Lake Poets’ slutty sister, which I guess could be pretty accurate!”
Crooked Hand’s new E.P. is free to download but the band are also currently recording a full 4-5 track E.P. due for commercial release in August, with James Hall from Let’s Buy Happiness. These sessions as well as regular rehearsals, according to Chris, are moving along very well and they are confident that those that come to The Cumberland Arms on June 1st won’t be disappointed.
In the build up to Evolution Emerging, Chris pointed out that, regardless of who’s on during the one day festival, there are generally some amazing bands in Newcastle and Sunderland at the moment. “We love Let’s Buy Happiness and The Lake Poets obviously, but personally I’ve been listening to Natasha Haws and Chased by Wolves non-stop recently. Morris Ford’s Dark Roads EP is amazing and I can’t wait for Amy Holford to put out some new music because her voice is phenomenal. We saw Reckoner at the Head of Steam a while back and he blew our heads off as well. It’s exciting to be part of the North East music scene right now.”
Crooked Hands are also thankful to some of the local promoters for helping small acts like themselves get gigs and attention from around the region “I think Russell from the-outsider is doing really good things for live music in the North East because he’s doing it for the love of music, and that always shines through. Alex from Lone Wolf Promotions as well, for the same reason – they consistently put on good bands and they aren’t afraid to take a risk.”
AND… Only yesterday it was announced that Chris Brown will play a solo Acoustic set at the next the-outsider event at The Head of Steam on Saturday 19th May, supporting The Railway Club and Just Handshakes. This will be the first chance to hear new Crooked Hands material prior to Evolution Emerging and a rare chance to catch Chris play on his own.
Dream gig would be?
Us supporting Radiohead, Bon Iver, Thrice and James Vincent McMorrow… and maybe City and Colour AND Death Cab For Cutie… It’d have to be a festival stage line-up because there are too many bands to choose from!
Favourite North East venue?
Definitely the Cluny 2 – it’s got really nice acoustics and a really personal vibe. Halls 1 and 2 at the Sage are really cool as well. I caught Imogen Heap there a few months ago and it was haunting.
Favourite current North East band(s)
Let’s Buy Happiness, Natasha Haws, Lilliput, Reckoner, Amy Holford, Ajimal, Morris Ford, Chased by Wolves.
Who are you planning NOT TO MISS at this year’s Evo Emerging festival?
Definitely Natasha Haws. And We Are Knuckle Dragger, because their music will smash our faces!
Download the new Crooked Hands E.P. today here: http://crookedhands.bandcamp.com/album/crooked-hands