IRREGULAR INTERVIEW: JAMES CLAYTON / CRYWANK.
It’s funny how things work out. When I started this little music blog, James Clayton, AKA Crywank, was one of the first people I thought about talking to. We started this interview way back on the 25th of April, and I’m writing this on the 31st of July – a lot has happened between these two dates, for both of us. I gave up on doing Irregular about a month ago, and James’ desire to not let ten thousand plus words and weeks of effort go to waste was what convinced me to start it up again. And it’s back now, I’ll be updating this site as much as the name suggests I will, but it’s back, and it seems fitting that the conversation James and I had would be the comeback post.
I first met James at what I thought was his first ever show but, as will be revealed later, was actually his second. I was impressed by the rawness of his songs, and the relatively huge reaction he was getting from the crowd for someone so unknown. I can’t remember how we made contact after that. I think it was probably through last.fm – he was messaging everyone who had played his first album.
He played in my then- (and still-) ex girlfriend’s kitchen soon afterwards. I didn’t go, because it would have been awkward, but I remember him sending me a message to say he was sorry I couldn’t be there. I liked that. And he’s been a familiar and welcome presence at shows and on my iPod ever since. I’ve been a big supporter of his music as he’s got better and better, and will defend him from anyone who’s got a bad thing to say about him, because he is genuinely a better guy than most people (and he himself) seem to give him credit for. He also once answered my phone for me when I was in the middle of an intense Pokémon battle after a show. What more can you ask for from a person?
But in the last year or so we’ve not seen each other so much – I got a full time job, and Crywank has kept him busier and busier, so we’ve not crossed paths all that often. So I guess this is as much a catching up session as it is an interview between a blogger and a folk punk singer. I hope you get to know both of us a little better.
I: There’s so much I want to talk to you about and I’m not sure what to ask that would set us off the best. We’ll start out a bit lighter I guess. Crywank has always been a bit of a slow-moving project - not in popularity, because you’ve always had an impressive amount of people interested in what you do right from the very start - but you’re really starting to get moving on a lot of things in recent months. What’s brought all this on?
JC: You know I haven’t really thought about how much has gone on in the last half of a year. Now you’ve specifically said that I’m starting to get moving on things, I’ve only just really noticed that a lot has happened. We released our third album online, did a tour with one of Dan’s other bands (Old Skin), we released an EP online, finally got some merch made, started a pretty dumb video series, and I started a Simpsons-themed side project. It sounds like a lot when put together in a list, but to be honest I’ve been feeling more inactive as a musician than I ever have.
I guess what brought on the productivity was for the first time since starting we had some money to play with, thanks to the Bandcamp sales of Tomorrow Is Nearly Yesterday And Everyday Is Stupid. It did a lot better than I could have hoped (especially considering the pretty poor job I did of promoting it) so the £1 we asked for added up. We had enough to pay for recording again, a tour, and also t-shirts. Now the moneys all gone and we have too much stock of dinosaur dick t-shirts. Hopefully they’ll be ‘in’ next season.
I’ve got one more tour booked at this point and nothing planned afterwards so I’m feeling pretty directionless. I left my job in Feburary after an anxiety attack/cockroach infestation/electric shock combo and haven’t found work since. I told myself I could put all my time into Crywank, but all that’s really stemmed into is a downward spiral of self-analysis. It’s pretty easy to feel like any sort of creative output your doing is a waste of time when you’re unemployed, and that you should be exclusively focused on job hunting.
I get a surprising amount of emails and messages asking me to release my music on record or to tour America or Australia. This used to encourage me to continue and make me believe I could do these things people wanted me to do. Now they just serve as reminders that I haven’t done it yet, and I’m starting to believe I never will. I see lesser known bands over and over again achieve this, and I wonder why I haven’t managed it. Do they just have more money? Is it my stupid band name ruining it for me? Have they just got ‘in’ with the right people? Have they all just gotten lucky? I know why it is though. They’ll all be more driven. I don’t put enough effort in, I don’t have enough faith in my music anymore. I’m very lucky in regards to the fanbase I have. Not many artists know they can put work out and people will respond to it. It’s shameful that I so often ignore my good fortune in favour of my own jealousy fuelled pity party.
I: I sort of feel like all of this is just intrinsically part of what makes ‘Crywank’ what it is. It always makes me sad to see you so down on yourself about your music and what you do with it, because I think your achievements are bigger than you realise. You’ve put out three proper albums, a bunch of EPs and demo collections, and you’ve had this amazing response to them. I remember seeing you at what I think must have been your first show and people were already singing along! But the thing is, if you were a music industry gameplayer who did all these things, who toured America and had a ton of slick shirt designs, then you probably wouldn’t write the songs you do. And that’s what people react to, I think they relate to your songs, and also you as a person, because although your songs and experiences are unique to you, they speak pretty universally. You have one of the smallest egos of any musician I know in regards to your own music!
You’ve improved a lot too, which you should be given some credit for - I feel like your first album is always going to be a ‘fan favourite’, but both of the ones that have come after it have been big steps up in terms of both the playing and the songwriting, and it’s all happened in the space of a few years - plenty of bands have much longer spaces between releases, do a fraction of the shows you do. Plenty of bands can’t afford vinyl releases or to tour abroad either.
JC: I guess thats the problem, my failings do in a way define what Crywank is. Through making myself the focus of my music I think all I’ve managed to do is make myself feel a lot more anxious about the whole thing. I take every negative comment too personally, I fear people who don’t know me making judgements on my character based entirely on a song, or an interview, or how I acted one night at a show, and I’ve grown to resent nearly everything I’ve written. Sometimes I wish I’d made ‘Crywank’ a cartoon character and been more private online. Sometimes I wish I’d not even put Crywank online and just focused my efforts on getting a good job. I’m aware of how what I’ve done with Crywank can be seen as achievements but when I can’t pay my rent, buy food or tobacco and end up relying on the people who love me to keep me alive it feels like spending all day trying to write songs and practice guitar is a waste of time and is just disrespectful.
I think people have faith in me when they see the reaction I’ve had online, how some fans act at shows and some of the lovely messages I’ve received, but I’m not sure I’m ever going to go anywhere. I’ll likely just fizzle out and be forgotten. It sort of terrifies me because for the past five years ‘Crywank’ as a project has exclusively felt like the only thing I have going for me. It’s frustrating that through my own laziness and anxiety I’ve made so little of the opportunities I’ve had. A lot of this mindset may have stemmed from my current unemployment. When I’ve got a job (even if it’s crappy), I’m a guy who works the job who has a fun music project on the side. When I’m unemployed, careerwise all I have is the music project and I dwell on how little I’ve done with it when I compare myself to others.
I: It’s interesting to me that you said the response to your newest album has paid for a lot of stuff - why has it taken you this long to start giving people the option to pay for your music?
JC: It took me so long to let people pay for it because I wanted to be a ‘free musician’ so bad. It made me feel more real, I guess. I imagined how I’d want a musician to be and I wanted to try and be that. I liked the idea of people knowing that it wasn’t about the money and that I didn’t want anything from them as it was so humbling that they where giving my music their time. I’ve lost money on shows though, I’ve paid for later recordings and I couldn’t afford to keep making a loss on Crywank. I put my music on Bandcamp, then when the download credits ran out I raised the price to £1. When people give more, especially right now, it’s crazy appreciated, but I don’t think I do the best job of showing that to them though.
I: That’s interesting to me, that you say you wanted to be a free musician, where do you think that has come from? As you’re an artist that would be easily classified as folk punk, I can’t help but think of Plan-It-X and their ethos of “If It Ain’t Cheap, It Ain’t Punk” - they never said it had to be free! Quote Unquote have always given the option to donate too, and they’re sort of the pioneers of free punk. I think people have an expectation that music should be free and that, in many ways, strips it of value. But giving people the option to give money in exchange for it allows them to place a greater value on it. I can’t help but think if you’d had the option to pay for your music from the beginning and people had always paid for it, you might see more personal value in what you’re doing, along with a financial one. What do you think to that?
JC: I think it came from a lot of places. Firstly me being anxious and attaching no worth to the project. Secondly me preferring exposure to money, I mean, I just wanted people to hear my songs, I didn’t think anybody in the right mind would pay for it. More than anything I think guilt was a major player in this decision. I don’t think I’ve paid for music since I was about thirteen. Occasionally I’ll get records or CDs from charity shops if they look good/funny, but I’ve been downloading music for quite a while (although now I just tend to stream stuff on Youtube). When I started listening to music and buying CDs I was really into Brand New, Modest Mouse, The White Stripes, System of a Down and, embarrassingly, I felt ‘so damn alternative’. It wasn’t until I started downloading music that I stopped getting my recommendations from big magazines and music videos played on the ‘rock channel’. I started listening to other people’s opinions, listening to a lot of older music and unsigned bands, and really felt like I’d started to develop my own taste in music. Downloading music allowed me to explore these areas that financially I never could have, and that was a very positive experience for me. I guess as a musician, I wanted to be a positive experience for other people doing the same. I find it funny when you see a well dressed, rich musician claim they’re not in it for the money despite overwhelming evidence that money is a major factor in the decisions they made. I guess I just wanted to be seen as someone who genuinely wasn’t in it for the money, worked a minimum wage job, would play your house and only ask for the petrol and put everything online for free. When people told me they wanted to help or donate money I’d tell them it’d mean more if they just shared my music with their friends, or posted it somewhere public online. I look back and it seems quite contrived. I think it says more about how I wanted to be perceived rather than what I actually believed. I was treating myself as a concept and not as someone who was also trying to survive.
If people had been able to pay from the start, even just as an option, I think I would have been able to do more with my music. Friends have told me about the money I’ve probably missed out on for my decisions so I try not to think about it too much. I wish money wasn’t as important to me right now. I sometimes wonder if my nineteen year old self would see me now and be proud of me or just disappointed. When I think of value as something monetary rather than subjective I struggle to view myself as anything but a failure.
I: The idea of I guess essentially staying D.I.Y. and giving things away for free being a ‘concept’ is an interesting one - do you think D.I.Y. in general has a tendency to become… I dunno… almost fetishised as an ideal, with some going to extreme lengths to show off how D.I.Y. they are rather than it just being a natural way of doing things borne out of circumstance? I remember when TWIABP mentioned they were booking their tour through Avocado and everyone went off on one about how they were being stupid and should just let people they’d never met and had no personal references for book their tour for them. Especially odd when they’ve never really claimed to be a D.I.Y. band and are probably too big to gamble on it anymore. Do you think of yourself/Crywank as being “D.I.Y.”?
JC: This probably sounds silly considering I’ve written all over the internet that we’re a D.I.Y. folk band and people have even interviewed me for their Uni dissertations on D.I.Y. ethics, but it’s not something I feel like I have the best understanding of. I don’t really listen to too many D.I.Y. punk bands anymore and I’ve never felt too knowledgeable about the history of D.I.Y. punk. People take what they want from the ideas tied into D.I.Y. culture though and some utilise them with more integrity than others; two self proclaimed D.I.Y. bands are often quite different in how they function despite subscribing to the same label. I can be quite the cynic about things though and an awareness of my own pretensions can result in me (sometimes unfairly) projecting that on others. I certainly think I’ve thoughtlessly made decisions in the past based on how I’ll be perceived, and feigning D.I.Y. ethics rather than admitting to shortcomings. For example I’ve rambled to people in the past about how I don’t really want magazines that advertise writing about us. This is true, but it’s also true that I’m too lazy to write and send off a press release anyway. Then I question if my ‘moral conclusion’ is in fact just a contrived excuse for my laziness. A defence mechanism that projects an idea of my music somehow being precious and of my character being moral to disguise my shameful inactivity.
I think of Crywank as a D.I.Y. band. I’m also aware that at the moment D.I.Y. is seen as pretty cool and the unpopular thirteen year old who still lives inside my head would also like to be perceived that way. I don’t really see much of a difference between a D.I.Y. band and an unsigned band though, I just enjoy the term D.I.Y. a lot more. I don’t like it when a bands status with a record label becomes a defining term for them. It makes bands who aren’t signed to a label seem less legitimate and that getting signed would be the expected logical step to take next. D.I.Y. has more of a focus on what has been accomplished already, it’s a lot nicer and it is a good step towards a new music terminology being created that isn’t defined by industry expectations.
I: With all that in mind I also want to ask how your attitude to Crywank as a project has changed since you began it - what is your goal now as compared to when you started out?
JC: When Crywank started it was just a cathartic exercise. I sort of viewed it as self-abasing due to how embarrassed I felt by some of the songs, but that’s likely stemmed from me reading a lot into humiliation and denying the universal embarrassment and fear that comes from sharing creative output publicly in favour of the self-absorbed ownership of these feelings. James Is Going To Die Soon and Narcissist On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown where both written whilst I was reading a lot into self-worth, social anxiety and abasement, and I soon came to realize how these universal aspects for all human beings where also subjective emotions. They are a response to expectations or a lack of understanding of those expectations, and I guess that affected me lyrically in a way where I wanted to focus on what made these emotions universal. I guess that’s why both albums don’t tell many stories, I read back on my lyrics and the majority is written in a blunt stream of consciousness style. I think people are more likely to listen to a Crywank song and relate in a way which is “I think like that” rather than “I’ve been through that”. My thought processes can beat myself up, and a lot of my creativity is wasted on different ways of wording the mantra of ‘you suck’ that’s been stuck in my head for years. My lyrics are the consequence of me trying to make something productive with my materials being different criticisms I have with myself, I guess.
I think I’m smarter than I am, I talk a lot of crap and maybe I just wrote some twee songs that I have over-analysed after playing them all too much. I wonder what sort of influence I am on people. I am bored of writing about myself but I find it difficult to do much else. I’d like to be a good influence on peoples lives, and write songs that reflect on universal aspects without them all being related back to myself. I go around the country asking for money for people to listen to my creative output which is all about myself, mostly written so I can shroud myself in some illusion of identity. I’ve analysed my own intentions and output so much that I struggle to enjoy it. Tomorrow Is Nearly Yesterday And Everyday Is Stupid has some songs I like a lot more than my earlier stuff. “Crywank are Posers” and “I am Shit” are two of the songs I still feel proud of, usually by this point I’ve grown to resent every song I’ve written and only enjoy newer stuff I’ve been writing. I want to experiment more, specifically with narrative. I’ve been slowly working on two concept albums over the past three years, but I’ve probably spoken about them more than I’ve done work towards them. I’m thirteen tracks into one album, but a lot more work needs to be done. Me and Dan have been writing some songs for a full band called ‘The Shape of Punk Right Now’. I’ve spent too much time thinking “what the fuck have I done?/am I doing?/am I trying to do?”, so I have a lot of muddled and conflicting thoughts. I struggle to pinpoint an intent without then analysing the contrived desire to be perceived in a certain way, thus draining all of the selflessness I thought I was projecting. I’m a silly man who needs to listen to other people more.
I: The addition of a percussionist has definitely done pretty great things for both your sound and your live performances, though you have improved a lot both as a singer and guitarist since the first album, so the fact that you’ve been writing full-band songs is really exciting.
The fact that you get hung up on only writing about yourself seems a bit unfair - although it’s a two piece band now, Crywank was originally just a solo project and I think people (me included) saw ‘Crywank’ as an identity/stage name rather than as a band name, you ‘were’ Crywank, rather than being ‘in’ Crywank, so obviously you would be writing about yourself and yourself only - that’s obviously to be expected and you’re certainly not the only person who does it. But now that’s obviously changed (Yoni Wolf/Why? is the better known example that comes to mind) - has it been hard to let someone else in to something so personal and sort of relinquish that identity a little bit?
This also seems as good a place as any to bring up one of your other concept projects, the Landon Alger EP, which contains songs written from the perspective of an incredibly minor Simpsons character - so obviously you can write songs about things other than yourself. Or did you choose that character because you could relate?
JC: I can be pretty unfair to myself. I project standards onto myself that I wouldn’t expect of others, and I speak about it to the degree that its probably my most annoying trait. I think the mindset stems from a mixture of arrogance, over-analysis, and a fear of being criticised, and my blabbing on about it is just a poorly thought out defence mechanism essentially saying “hey, in the event you thought of this judgement of me, I just wanted you to know I thought it as well”. I think being defined by ‘Crywank’ is one of the things that made my headspace pretty difficult for a while. All criticism seemed personal, a fear of people making assumptions of me based entirely on a number of songs I wrote which don’t really reflect too well on me took it’s toll and treating Crywank conceptually as something sad but always in relation to myself has made writing a wholly self-involved experience that relies on me admitting to my misery to continue. I’ll want to break out of this and try and reveal a deep-ingrained silliness I feel though my often poor choice of song titles, social media updates or poorly made guitar lessons, but I’ll eventually conclude with thoughts that I’ve just made a fool out of myself publicly regardless of how I put myself across.
I’m glad you say you’re excited by the full band prospect. It’s something I’ve considered for a long time but I’ve always imagined the songs would end up sounding more generic with more instrumentation. I’ve been jamming recently with my friend Tom and the re-workings of older songs are a lot more interesting than I’d expected. I hope people enjoy them when they get recorded. As well as expanding on the sound as I’m really not too sure how many more acoustic Crywank albums people could tolerate, going full band will hopefully separate me personally from Crywank. Crywank can be a band and I can just be a guy in that band. Although I’m probably optimistic considering I’m the founding member and all I’ll likely do is wrongly overshadow far more talented musicians than myself who have foolishly chosen to associate with me. I consider changing the name a lot but I can’t imagine that going down well. To answer your question, It’s been easy bringing people in. They’re all really talented musicians and I’m really excited to write music with them. I’m sure some people would prefer it if everyone I loved died and I wrote an album in tears on a webcam microphone, but I’m tired of sad songs about break-ups I’m pretty embarrassed by, and personal difficulties I’ve impulsively decided to share with the world. I want to experiment and develop and I think this is the start of that.
Langdon Alger was just a silly gift to my partner. A silly weird gift, It was initially meant to be love songs but eventually I realised it’d be a lot more interesting if Langdon was a stalker. Lyrically nothing is fresh though. Nearly everything is taken from plentiful rewatches of episodes and research into the series. It felt more like doing a nerdy Simpsons mashup to give the idea of a plot rather than songwriting. I have lots of ‘concept band’ ideas though that I end up speaking too much about. For years I’ve wanted to do an emo band called ‘The Tommy Sherman Memorial Tree’ where every song is about an episode of Daria, I’ve also recently been rambling about a skate punk band based on the Wizard of Oz where the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion all die in accidents relating to their brains, hearts and courage. I wrote loads of lyrics for a self-hating beatdown band who only sung about how bad they were and how much they hated their fans for liking them (my favourite line was “second song, same riff, fuck you”). I was about to go into detail on more ideas but I would end up going on for paragraphs. All I meant to say then was that it was nice to have had a conceptual band idea and for me to actually go ahead and do it. It’s really rare I follow through on ideas. Most of my time is spent just having ideas and then criticizing myself (far too vocally and annoyingly) until I’ve decided I won’t be able to achieve it.
I: I love stupid concept bands, I’m always coming up with them myself too. Though they’re mostly just pun cover band ideas like Queens Of The Drone Age and so on. But yeah, I guess this just means, whether you see it that way yourself or not, that the stuff you actually do release must pass some sort of ‘quality control’ that goes on in your head - there’s obviously a reason why you finish some things and not others. I mean, you’ve sent me the odd demo in the past and it’s never really been as good as the stuff that makes it on to the albums.
You’ve reminded me of two people in your last answer - Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra, who says on a bootleg recording I have of him that he writes and makes records for his partner every year, and the songs are generally more personal and very few of them become Manchester songs, and Toby Hayes of Shoes and Socks Off, who had to stop doing SASO because it relied on sad songs and he just wasn’t sad enough to write them anymore. Although Crywank has gained a lot of momentum it seems like you’re worrying a bit too much about moving away from it - I think if you started a new project, or a new band, people would be excited to hear it because it’s the new thing from James Clayton. I know I would be.
JC: Most of my concept band ideas that never go somewhere usually start with a dumb name or idea then trying to imagine how that’d sound. I was joking about the genre ‘post drone’ and what it’d sound like. I imagine a drone band with loads of tiny gaps in between the sound creating a weird throb. I guess ‘post drone’ could also be called ‘ambient gabber’, but I’ve definitely been thinking about it too much for how bad of an idea it is. I’m not too sure about the mental ‘quality control’, I go ahead with some pretty bad ideas. I think resources and ability comes into it a lot. A lot of my ideas seem above my capacity. My ideal job would be an ‘ideas person’, as I rarely have the motivation or self-belief to actually follow through with ideas, regardless of how good I consider them to be. I relate to what you’ve said about Andy Hull, I have some songs that are both too silly or too personal to ever feel comfortable sharing. I think it’s also worth mentioning how much of an influence Tobias Hayes has been on my music. “From the muddy banks…” was for a long long time my most played album. I think Crywank would sound very different (or perhaps not even exist) if it wasn’t for his influence. I do worry a lot about moving away from Crywank, along with feeling like it’s the only thing I’ve got going for me right now it’d also feel weirdly like a defeat if I did. I don’t know why though, I can’t explain it.
I: I did wanna change tack a bit unless you’ve got nothing else to say along those lines. Something that you’re getting a reputation for is not being afraid to call people out, particularly if you see examples of the sexism or misogyny that are rife in the UK punk community. The Bangers zine is the most notable one, and it made you fairly unpopular in some corners amongst people who couldn’t differentiate between a critique of someone’s work, and an attack on the person themselves. I don’t want to dwell too much on it because it’s been hashed out and rehashed endlessly, but I am interested to know what it was that made you want to start calling people out for shitty behaviour. The glass-shattering moment for me was the Ben Weasel incident, and seeing the reactions to it - I had always been more aware than most, I think, of issues with sexism within the scene, but it was that incident that made me sit up and see just how much it was going on, and that it needed speaking out about. Did you have a similar moment or was it more of a gradual thing?
JC: I didn’t know I’d gotten such a reputation until the past year, it has caused me loads of anxiety and doubt. If I see something I disagree with that’s been unchallenged, I’ll end up feeling some sort of obligation to challenge it. I’m pathetic though, I hide behind my keyboard. Real world confrontation makes me panic and I too often keep my mouth shut, that reputation you speak of just furthers my feelings of fakeness because I have to live with my own hypocrisy. The other day I was having a conversation about how it’s better to explain to someone how what they’ve said is intolerant rather than keeping quiet and thus reinforcing to that person that what they’ve said is acceptable. This was followed shortly by someone saying “racism is retarded” and ashamedly I said nothing to them because I was staying at their house and didn’t want to appear rude. I look back with my paranoia goggles and wonder if I was having my authenticity tested, and how miserably I failed. They perhaps thought nothing of it; everyone was drunk, but I ended up thinking about that for days. I feel tainted a lot of the time, like I don’t even have the right to call something out because I’m such a hypocrite myself.
If anything I’m trying to be quieter within the UK Punk community. This stems entirely from my own weakness over anything else though. I’m a pretty paranoid person and everyone seeming to know each other within the scene can really exacerbate my anxieties. Since writing my blog post on the Bangers zine I’ve had people start conversations just to argue with me and start conversations with me just to badmouth Bangers, neither of which I’d really want. There was a period where I was having to discuss this with someone at every show I was going to. I’ve had people tell me I was a bully and then others tell me I was too ‘soft’ and forgiving. The whole experience just seemed to reinforce reasons why I should keep my mouth shut, which I’m aware isn’t the most progressive of attitudes. In arguments and discussions people have challenged me before saying that I’m only speaking out for ‘punk points’ or cred. Now, these points make no comment on what I have said being right or wrong, they just dismiss the whole thing as a furthering of how I want to be perceived. This caused a lot of doubt and made me question why and how I speak out. I’m aware it’s a tactic that’s irrelevant to the main point which is used to play on someones anxieties to silence them, but I can’t help but find self-hating strands of truth within it. Perhaps I did just say this for cred. Perhaps I did just do that to impress someone. Perhaps I do this like that to be perceived a certain way. I hope this is a mindset I can eventually get over, but I find it hard not to impulsively analyse every intention of every seemingly worthwhile action I make until it descends in me beating myself up for being contrived. The song “I Am Shit” pretty much stemmed from a lot of thoughts like these. I do try and make my voice heard when I disagree with something, but I’d feel like a phony if I didn’t also admit that a lot of the time my anxieties win out.
In regards to your question, it was a gradual thing. I remember being in a sociology class at sixteen and arguing against feminism, and holding pretty questionable ideas about sexuality, gender and race. I guess my interest in music, comics and film is what slowly smashed the glass for me. Feminist film theory, documentaries like ‘Beyond Beats and Rhymes’, ‘The Celluloid Closet’ and ‘Southern Comfort’, comics by Alison Bechdel and Ken Dahl, writing on comics by Trina Robbins, and bands like ONSIND and Sleater-Kinney all had an effect on encouraging me to read further. I really like some of the talks I’ve seen with Allen G Johnson, he’s pretty great at explaining quite complex ideas very simply. He helped me a lot on understanding issues that wouldn’t affect me as a white cismale, on understanding privilege and on how to be a better ally.
I: See, in conversations I’ve had with others about you, I’ve seen a lot of people defend you for calling people out about stuff and there’s definitely people who think your voice is an important one, and I really hope you don’t lose the confidence to be able to do these things. You definitely encourage people to think about things, see things in a different light they maybe hadn’t considered before. I mean, you have the ear of a fair few people, and quite a lot of younger kids are listening to you - remember that Leeds show with Garrett from Texas Is The Reason and Karl Larrsson? You had the biggest crowd of the night and the kids there were hanging off your every word, man. I’m not trying to say you are, or need to be, a role model or anything, but for people to see someone calling out shitty behaviour, in any small way, is a really positive thing. It’s also good to see it from musicians that aren’t themselves overtly political musically. So y’know. Good going!
Anyway, to change tack again, you’ve mentioned a few influences now and I’m just curious to know any others you have that you want to mention?
JC: Challenging intolerant attitudes is important and I’m very flattered some people think my voice is an important one, I just don’t want to be portrayed as righteous because of a few public actions when ethically my days are punctuated with weakness and hypocrisy. Sometimes when people speak about ethics, they can in a way which appears like a reflection on the speaker rather than on society (although I think this isn’t always intentional). I consciously try not to do this and find that it’s more relatable for a reader if people stand by their ethics whilst still being able to admit their own ethical shortcomings. I remember in Roo from Bangers’ response to my critique, he made a point about how “we (people) are not always perfect snowflakes, and I think it’s really fucked up to act like we are” and I completely agree, although I don’t see how this point related to my critique at all and seemed to misunderstand and twist what I was saying; as if through writing about sexist and homophobic attitudes in his bandmate’s zine I was trying to purport that everyone should deny their ethical and personal flaws to give the impression that being ethical is easy? I think it’s pretty negative especially within the punk scene when a discussion of the effects of language and words is twisted into an attempt to silence expression through accusations of lazy moralism, but I also think it’s a pretty normal defence mechanism for people who feel challenged. I don’t want to censor or silence anyone, I just want to discuss. It’s easier to call someone the ‘punk police’ than to consider another point of view. There’s evidence that this isn’t what I was trying to do within the critique, I did try to explain how intolerant/oppressive language can be used in a satirical, subversive or even a poetic way, I just I didn’t believe their zine managed to do that at all and just reinforced a lot of bullshit.
I told myself I wouldn’t write loads about Bangers and their zine in this interview as I’m pretty tired of discussing it and it’d be way more productive to speak broadly, but it’s something that’s affected me a lot and I did just re-read the whole thing recently and it’s all pretty fresh in my head, so I hope you don’t mind if I use this opportunity to vent. With hindsight I wish I’d put more effort in to separate ‘Hamish’ as a person with ‘Hamish’ as a narrator, although I think there is evidence that I did try to do that I don’t think I was consistent with this. He seems like a genuinely nice guy from my brief experiences speaking to him (online), and about him with his acquaintances. I hate the idea that I hurt him with what I wrote. Sure, I think he should be embarrassed by the zine, and I stand by what I said, but it makes me resent myself when I think about how it was me who embarrassed him. I don’t want to have a negative effect on someone else’s life and even though I felt like I’d done and said the right thing, I couldn’t shake feelings of guilt. A buddy briefly spoke to me about it and made me feel a lot better in regards to how I should perceive the situation. I was aware of a lot of people who where offended by it, who didn’t want to say anything because of the inevitable shitstorm that comes from ‘calling out’, so I did, and she explained to me that I had given Bangers a platform to apologize to the people they’d offended. Hamish used the platform well, although I sort of think Roo’s response twisted a lot of what I’d said and had a fair few contradictions within it. One of the main criticisms I received was for not challenging Roo’s response and for just thanking him for just responding to my critique. I sort of wanted to be done with it though, I’d started getting hate mail, read jokes made about me, people kept inviting me on Facebook to say I’d attended all girls schools for some reason, it was all really annoying and also pretty surprising. I don’t even think Roo had read what I’d written properly, unless he consciously wanted to skew what I was about. He made the point “I think it’s incredibly isolating to only read books and listen to songs where people are morally correct heroes” as if this in any way reflects on me or has any relevance to what I wrote. I mean within the critique, I recommend Ivan Brunetti one of the most morally incorrect comic writers in the business. I should shut up now, I’ll just get pissed off and go on forever if I allow myself to start dissecting his response. I’ll change gears and just lay down some sweet influences!
I’d like to think my draw of influences stretches further than just musicians. The comic artist Chris Ware has had a definite influence on my lyricism; the song 18 from James Is Going To Die Soon is about one of his comics. The philosophy writers Julian Bagginni and Alain de Boton have both had a profound influence in regards to how they influenced my approach to both writing and thinking about emotions, the same would probably apply to Roger Ebert who I’ve gone so far as to quote in one of my songs (Now I’m Sad). Musically it was mostly ‘anti-folk’ and ‘outsider’ musicians who influenced me to pick up a guitar. Shoes And Socks Off, Larry Fischer, Paul Baribeau, Daniel Johnston, Hop Along Queen Anslais, Andrew Jackson Jihad, and also a musician who played under the name Talons’, who people always mistake for the British post-rock band whenever I speak about it. The Talons’ album ‘Rustic Bullshit’ really soothed me in a time when I was quite frantic and confused. I’m very grateful it exists.
For later releases I must admit Roy Harper’s early albums where a big influence, although his song ‘The Black Cloud of Islam’ makes me very uncomfortable, and I’ve not been able to listen to him since the child sex allegations. I viewed him as a hero for quite some time so I found the allegations difficult to take, I won’t blindly defend him though just because I like his music and especially not after reading the lyrics of ‘Forbidden Fruit’. It was pretty awful going on his Facebook page and reading comments excusing paedophilia in the event that he is guilty. I also listened a lot to the Charles Manson album ‘LIE’ which Dan put me on to, and when I listen back I can definitely see how it influenced our sound, we even did a homage at the end of ‘Only Everyone Can Judge Me”. Dan has actually put me on to a fair few bands that have had an influence on Crywanks sound since he joined, ‘Exuma’, ‘Incredible String Band’ and Manchester’s ‘Oh Howl’. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of early Labi Siffre albums and really enjoying them. He seems like a really nice guy! I can see some of his more peculiar deliveries of vocals having an effect on what I’ve been writing recently.
I could go on a lot longer simply describing ‘stuff I like’ and ways in which they could be influence (and I’d probably enjoy that loads), but I’ll avoid the temptation to turn this interview into a MySpace interests list.
I: See I wanted to avoid the Bangers thing because I assumed you’d be sick of talking about it. And also because I’ve written about it in the past as well. And it was ages ago now and I really like Bangers, they’re one of my favourite bands going in the UK at the moment. And maybe we’re projecting more importance on to the whole incident than is really necessary, but to me it did seem like a really divisive moment in the scene and I saw a few ‘true colours’ get flashed, if you know what I mean. Although everyone directly involved was fairly cool about the whole thing - I get what you’re saying about Roo’s response being a little off-point, but he could have said any number of worse things I guess - and managed to discuss it in a fairly mature manner, it definitely showed that the ‘scene’ isn’t as enlightened as a lot of people like to think it is, and will all too willingly give their friends a free pass.
The most important thing I saw, that makes me feel like you did the right thing in kicking the whole thing off, was seeing a female musician say she was pestered by a male friend in to reading this ‘brilliant zine’, and when she finally did it made her feel really uncomfortable about the idea of her peers seeing her and referring to her in that way, and that her friends didn’t pick up on it. We all do shit we regret as we grow up and the important thing is we recognise when it’s been something fucked up, and learn from it.
In the grand scheme of things, writing a zine with some sexist language in it is pretty minor so it’s hardly going to mark Hamish for life as an awful person that we shouldn’t listen to anymore. And, y’know, he did come out and respond to the whole thing really well, so it’s pretty safe to say that he’s a good dude. People generally deserve second chances and I think people all too readily see critiques as outright condemnations, when they really aren’t. Save the ostracism for people who deserve it like, as you mentioned, Roy Harper. And I would argue Charles Manson too, personally - I’ve always found it a bit creepy when people really love his music when there’s no critical thought involved. It’s like being really in to Burzum. I just don’t get it.
On a sort of related note, I was really put off Modest Mouse when I heard Isaac Brock had been accused of rape, but after I read around a bit I saw that all of the charges had been totally withdrawn. I’m still in two minds about Conor Oberst too, though reading around about that sort of puts my mind at ease a bit too in regards to him being innocent. But then I feel guilty about assuming that allegations are false because I want them to be. [Note: since this part of the interview, all of the allegations against Conor Oberst, and the corresponding lawsuit against the accuser, were dropped.]
Anyway. I’m glad you mentioned Andrew Jackson Jihad because I wanted to talk about them, and here seems as good a place as any. You played your first show opening for them, is that right? It’s definitely the first time I saw you and I’ve been telling people it was your first show for ages. I think that was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, literally in my entire life, because AJJ can be so perfect live. But they’re one of those bands where I’ve had to reconcile their lyrics with my own views. There’s some really fucked up stuff in there, and I feel bad for giving them a free pass just because I like them. Though I also feel like it’s quite obvious that there’s a lot storytelling irony involved and it’s just me overanalysing things, like I often do. And although the lyrics to Bad Bad Things are fairly awful in terms of content which I guess could actually be triggering to people, it’s hardly gonna make people feel like it’s ok to go out and kill people, because of the way it’s framed. Kids who listen to Real Friends, or The Story So Far or whatever, on the other hand, are much more likely to internalise shit about treating women with contempt just because they don’t let you get away with your entitled bullshit. Sorry, I’ve gone on for pretty long and there’s not really a question here. I guess just respond with your thoughts. Yeah, that’ll do.
JC: I should probably keep my trap shut about the whole Bangers thing considering it makes me feel pretty anxious and stupid and I’m probably just foolishly throwing more logs into the fire. I’m often guilty of the same thing of what we’re criticizing though, the idea of giving your friends a free pass. It can be hard to dissociate affection for others when confronted with something problematic. On a side note, I actually quite enjoyed Roo’s home recordings, they reminded me of The Hold Steady. I was going to go to the Manchester date of the Survival Tour but ended up feeling too awkward about everything that went down.
I’d agree that in the grand scheme of things it is pretty minor and I’d echo parts of your sentiment. It really brought me down that people thought of it as an attempt by me to condemn Hamish as in individual, I just thought his zine was pretty horrible. With hindsight I wish I’d written more, and about more, within the post. My critique focused entirely on one zine by one band member, despite the fact that the issues addressed are common within the punk scene, and there are bands getting gigs at the moment who are arguably far worse (The Liabilities or TRC for example). There’s also loads of promoters who, show after show, just have bills of straight white males and, although I recognize that sometimes this happens, the repeat offenders make me feel like they don’t understand the importance of representation. I think if I’d taken this approach the discussion would have revolved a lot more around the issues raised rather than ‘Crywank vs. Bangers’.
In regards to Charles Manson, I don’t actually know the greatest detail about his life beyond a quick skim of a Wikipedia page, and I’ve not listened to any of his material after the first release. I know he was charged with conspiracy for murder, was the leader of the Manson Family and was involved in the writing of some Beach Boys songs but that’s about it. It wasn’t any sort of mystique around his character that drew me to his music though and his actions after writing those songs don’t put me off his music, I was just played his songs and enjoyed them a lot. If a lyricist is found to be a rapist or peadophile, a knowledge of this can really change the dynamic of their songs especially if the songs are lyrically focused on another person. Lines in love songs that previously echoed true quickly become very difficult to listen to and are turned sordid by the context. Even if whatever has transpired in truth holds no relevance to the songs content, as a listener it is hard to turn off these connections. Charles Manson’s actions haven’t had this effect on how I interpret his music. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I’ve always taken his music to be about perception, and difficulties in understanding the human condition - his actions that followed these songs don’t really change any of the songs sentiments for me. I may just be revealing myself as a total hypocrite apologist here though…
This is actually something I’m quite interested in. How the life and intentions of a writer affects how their work is related to. It’s interesting to see a change in perception for a piece that has stemmed entirely from the creators actions after the work has been released. Deplorable behaviour from the author of a piece can result in something once much loved now being regarded as sinister. It can also result in art that would previously have been forgotten over the years being cemented into music history, linking back to your mention of Burzum, who although I recognize their relevance within black metal history I believe are far more recognized because of their actions separate to making music. Musicians being remembered as musicians mostly for their actions other than making music. It’s all quite bizarre, but I don’t want to deny the importance of creative output in shaping how an individual is remembered, just highlight that in regards to recorded music history more of an emphasis is usually put on biography than output. Sometimes I consider how one action would affect different musicians based on how they’re currently perceived. It’s horrible to recognize that there could be truth in this, but considering the self-depreciating nature of my songs I wonder if me doing something deplorable like a mass killing spree would serve as a catalyst for my music being remembered as relevant, whereas if a currently popular singer songwriter like Ed Sheeran or Paolo Nutini did this I’d imagine it would be responded with a mass boycott. Hopefully that won’t set off any alarm bells, I’m not very interested on going on a killing spree, or being part of some biography focused ‘music history’ alongside Sid Vicious and Pete Townshend.
I relate to your sentiment about feeling guilt for assuming allegations are false because you want them to be. For a period of time I found it pretty hard to accept the concept that Roy Harper may be guilty. I don’t know if he is or isn’t, but I wouldn’t want to defend someone based entirely on my enjoyment of their music. I never really know how to feel when someone is accused of something horrible. I imagine if it was me accused of something I hadn’t done and having all of the effort I’ve put into promoting myself suddenly become me broadening the scale for people to believe something slanderous. Then I imagine how I’d feel being a victim of an attack by someone in the public eye and watching their fans defend my attacker and dismiss my experience as false and a furthering of some manipulative agenda. I see how some high-profile trials are written about and feel very sad, victims who’ve already been through a lot are often blamed and shamed, and have to deal with their integrity being brought into question publicly.
The show you mentioned was actually my second show, I supported RVIVR in Derby the night before but I don’t think I played very well and I couldn’t even stay to watch RVIVR due to birthday commitments (although I finally got to see them in Sheffield last year). AJJ was meant to be my first show but I ended up getting a last minute booking that I didn’t want to say no to. I remember being super intimidated at both shows. I’ve never really had much qualms with AJJ’s lyrics, a lot of the songs focus on the worst and most desperate parts of the human psyche and I think they approach it in a very honest but tactful way. They’re a band I both admire and envy greatly and I look forward to them touring without Frank Turner. On that note I do recognize a lot of bands who have no tact with songwriting and so are left with songs completely lacking in empathy, songs filled with buzzwords and lazy references to authors, bands and drinks, and songs with very unfortunate double meanings. I have similar issues with some of my own lyrics though, when it comes to rerecording some songs in the future there are a few lines I intend on changing that I’ve grown uncomfortable with.
I: I see what you’re saying about Manson, and I’m not sure I agree - I seem to remember there being some stuff in his lyrics that is very creepy when viewed in context of his actions and his beliefs, though I’ll admit that I haven’t listened to his music for years. I guess everyone draws their own lines with problematic content, and the important thing is to be able to view things critically.
Anyway, to move away from all of that stuff, because as you said we’ll just be in danger of fuelling a fire if we bang on about it too much - I think I know the exact band you’re referring to in regards to lazy references to pop culture stuff in lyrics, and I’m really not a fan of them either. I won’t mention their name because it feels tacky but, like, listen to A Praise Chorus by Jimmy Eat World - that’s an example of a song about other songs, and what they mean to the writer, being done well. Superficial name drops just make me hate that such shitty songwriters are influenced by bands I love so much, hah. Okay. I will mention their name - it’s totally Moose Blood. They’re not the only culprits – Real Friends in particular do it well – but they’re one who seem to be defined by it sometimes Musically I think they’re alright, but lyrically they just make me cringe so hard and think “is this what we’ve come to?” It feels like the Tumblr-style approach to culture - taking things and displaying them as your own without any thought or comment to construct an identity that is just a collage of other things rather than anything unique - has had a really negative effect on creativity in a lot of ways. I’d also be interested to know which lines you want to change, if you’re willing to share that?
JC: I really enjoy songs about how art influences you. I tried to do something along the lines of that with ‘Obsessive Muso With No Friends’ which is about foolishly using your music taste as a defining personality trait only to feel undeserving when the context of the songs you’ve been relating to are to an emotional degree you’ve never experienced. Dan used to be in a band called ‘Brown Orange Blue’ who sounded about five years ahead of their time and would probably have gotten a lot more attention if they’d been involved in a scene outside of Blackburn, and had formed a year ago. I used to sing the chorus to the opening track to their second album to myself a tonne. When Dan explained to me what the song was about, I was floored. Brown Orange Blue are such a fun band, they sound like summer and yet they’d written songs I’d consider to be sadder and more personal and more thought provoking than anything I felt I’d ever achieved with my own lyrics, me who defines myself as a ‘sad songwriter’. It made me feel very fake, and very humbled.
I have similar views on Moose Blood to yourself and their lyricism seems closer to that of bands like Falling In Reverse or Lower Than Atlantis than the influences they’ve mentioned in their songs, which I find interesting. It’s to a degree where I question if Moose Blood are in fact trolls, pushing to see how far people will accept lazy and trope-filled lyrics.
I felt really mean writing that down. I’m really critical of a lot of bands if people ask me, but I tend to keep my mouth shut. I’d rather avoid beef. I notice a lot of tropes within songwriting though, especially within the D.I.Y. scene and my statement wasn’t specifically about Moose Blood, I think Moose Blood are just one of the more popular examples of bands doing this. I’d love to see a website like TV Tropes specifically for band lyrics. I’d also love to try and form the most trite band possible just to see how people respond, the songs could have the structure of “lazy sea metaphor - missing friends on tour - still feel like a kid - namedrop band I liked as a kid - hometown was shit - you don’t know what this scene means 2 me”. If it was UK folk punk or ‘gruff’ punk I’d be sure to add in a tonne of “woooaaaa-oooaaaa-oooohhh“‘s in as well. Then we can print t-shirts before we’ve even recorded, preferably ones with a current pop-culture reference on it that has nothing to do with the music, like the Game of Thrones cast skateboarding or the Breaking Bad guy smashing a guitar. Then we can spend more time making sure people know we are in a band and networking than actually practicing and writing songs. Don’t get me wrong, everything I’ve mentioned above isn’t necessarily ideas that I hate or think can’t work, but they are ideas I’m quite tired of after seeing them rehashed in so many ways.
In regards to song lyrics I’m changing they’re all pretty minor, and just so I feel a bit more comfortable singing the songs. In ‘Care Not For Your Clubnights’ “Dollies and Peacocks” has been changed to “Posers and Peacocks”. In ‘GB Eating GB…’, “If you don’t want me, well that’s just tough luck”, has been changed to “If you don’t want me, well that’s my tough luck”. This was probably the most important change for me, I struggle with narrative modes and with everything I write I’ll just jump from first to third person all to often. Although nobody has mentioned it to me and I think most people understand the intent, I didn’t like how the line could have been interpreted. In ‘Welcome to Castle Irwell’, “I know that I would always forgive her” is changed to “I know that I can let go and forgive her”. None are huge changes, I just fear people mis-reading the intent of a line so I’ve tried to make them more clear. I don’t think it’ll bother people that much that I’ve made a few changes, it’s just remembering the changes live that I need to get into the habit of.
I: Yeah see I feel bad about trashing Moose Blood too because I think we have friends in common and they’re well-regarded by people I like, and they haven’t done anything bad per-se, they’ve just made music that I kinda think is pretty trash, so that isn’t me calling people out for their behaviour, it’s just me being a dickhead music critic. This is what I get paranoid and anxious about! Writing negative reviews of bands who are really nice but make shit music, I feel so harsh. Or trashing someone’s band and then seeing them around at shows - that’s something that got me in to a lot of trouble as a teenager when scene kids wanted to start fights because I slated their fashionxcore bands on my MySpace blog. Fortunately everyone’s, y’know, more mature now, me included, but do you know what I mean? When I express something negative about a band, especially a band that people I perceive as being ‘credible’ like or are friends with (I don’t feel guilty about trashing Neck Deep for example)… Because I don’t make music or put on shows, I feel like I don’t contribute and know that the scene would continue just fine without me and people would probably be happier without me around. Feels embarrassing to admit it but the bit in Almost Famous where Lester Bangs tells the kid he’s not there to be the band’s friend is one of the most important things I’ve learned as a music writer. And I guess it feels good to know that people will be able to look back in the years to come on the documents of the scene that I’ve created. But that’s my stuff.
Despite everything I just said, though, I agree with everything you’re saying about Moose Blood and if you played me them and they had more over-the-top twinkly bits or popcore breakdowns I would legitimately think they were actually a joke band. But yeah. We’re being mean, aha.
This interview’s been going on so long now that I’ve not only forgotten what we’ve talked about, but a fair bit has been happening while it’s been going on. I saw you talking recently on Facebook about finally getting a Crywank vinyl release out, and were asking people what album they’d like to see. How far is that concept from becoming a reality? And regardless of what other people think, what would you most like to do with it?
JC: I doubt the vinyl will happen soon. I’ve been encouraged by people to do pre-orders to raise money, but that just makes me feel anxious incase it all falls through and selling something before it even exists makes me feel sleazy. I tried to do an investment thing so that people putting money in could make money through Crywank as well, but some people backed out, and then a friend told me some people where badmouthing the idea online in a private Facebook group and saying how they wouldn’t sell anyway, and it was a terrible idea, and I just felt pretty defeated by it to be honest. I should’ve continued and tried to get more investors as people did seem interested, but I just feel weird and gross asking for money and chasing up money from people. Some of my friends where pretty annoyed at me for just letting it all fall through. I’m not good with money so I struggle to accept it when people offer to help as I just see myself in debt, letting a load of people down. I’ve messaged a few labels but all are yet to reply. Maybe in ten years some fan will have gotten rich and they’ll help me put out a short run of James Is Going To Die Soon for the few people who still care, if there are any.
A lot of this is probably just me having a pretty poor self-defeating attitude, but a part of me feels like I’ve missed all my opportunities with this now. The American tour fell through, the vinyl just fell through, and I’ve been getting e-mails about an Australian tour but I’m already telling myself it won’t happen. Money is always the issue, I just need to sell everything I own I think and get a job.
We started this e-mail interview on the 25th of April, it’s nearly three months later and not much has changed in regards to my situation. No job, no savings, no plans I’ve been able to execute. When I started Crywank five years ago, I just wanted it to be some rad project where everything was free. If I recorded a song, it’d go online straight away, no thought about ‘promotion’. I’d want to speak to everyone who listened to it as well, know what they thought and let them know I appreciated them giving my music their time. Now I feel like I’ve just let it grow into some shitty monster. I took on board every expectation and didn’t meet them. I feel pretty embarrassed to be myself a lot of the time. I feel pretty embarrassed to express myself. I imagine my friends or family or my partner reading this interview, or my old blog, or my lyrics and I just want to cringe from my shame because I’m aware of how pathetic I sound.
Sorry if this is all pretty terrible interview material. I’ve just spent this past month sewing ‘Brown Orange Blue’ CD cases that my partner did original paintings for, writing and recording an EP, and learning how to put together a website with the plan of starting a label of handmade releases, and it hasn’t really gone to plan. The EP hasn’t done half as well as any of my other releases so I still can’t afford the CDs or Tapes, so I’m just sat here with the packaging and nothing to fill them with, feeling like a failure. I think I expect too much though, I’m either stupidly optimistic or stupidly defeatist. Either way of looking at it, I’m just stupid.
In regards to some fantasy future where I do release physical copies on record of my music, and I could do what I wanted with them, I’d want the sleeve to just be a book where the record can slot into the back. I’d want the book to be filled with lyrics, and notes and stories and drawings and every detail I could put in, a rad 12” hardback book. The most I’ve connected with music was in my teenage years, I’d just sit at the end of my bed with lyric booklets in my hand and read through the whole thing as I listened to the songs and just feel completely absorbed in every line. It wasn’t until my late teens that I started getting interested in instrumental music, but prior to this lyrics where everything. I’d want to facilitate that feeling in someone else, have a release someone could be absorbed in. Something someone pedantic would see and be excited to listen to and read alone, and they’d know it had to be listened to alone.
I: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again man, you’re just too hard on yourself when it comes to Crywank. I can understand where you’re coming from when you say you feel like you’ve let it grow in to a monster and it must seem hard to keep control over it all - like, when I first saw you play and heard that first record I thought it was decent but never imagined that people would be so in to it and there’d be so much demand for more and more Crywank - records, shows, tours. It is a little bit wild, though the further you take it the more I feel like you deserve it. But I really think you overthink stuff sometimes! I mean, I can barely read back over stuff I wrote a few years ago either - I think that feeling is pretty universal. It just means you’re growing and improving. We are our own worst critics.
The funding for the records is a pretty good example of all this I guess - I saw some of the conversations on Facebook groups you were referring to and, although the rumblings of the various UK ___ groups aren’t really worth dissecting at length as we’ve probably both learned by now, I think the issue mostly was that people just didn’t really understand it, didn’t understand your motives or your intent. Like, I know you well enough to know that you’re not looking to rip anyone off and know your music and the support it has well enough to know that if you managed to put out a run of records they’d eventually all sell, but part of the problem with your music spreading further and further is that it becomes kind of public property, and people who don’t know you obviously don’t know this stuff, and aren’t going to get it. And what you were asking for is a little bit different to what people are used to, and things that are a bit different when it comes to money aren’t always welcome in D.I.Y. cliques.
Personally I still think you should try a simple Kickstarter - £10-£15 down for a preorder of the record, little bit extra for some handrawn stuff/handwritten lyrics/whatever, and people only have to pay if they want to. You’re not forcing anyone to do it, they’re doing it because they believe in what you’re doing. If you don’t reach the goal, they get their money back, no big deal - if RVIVR can get away with doing a Kickstarter then so can you. I guess it’s OK to play “the game” sometimes and see how it goes. As for the EP that you couldn’t get finished, too, you can get small runs done for not a whole lot of money if you just know where to look. You just need to not give up on it man.
You talk about not meeting people’s expectations but I guess at the end of the day, who cares? You’re making music that people connect with. That’s important, that’s valuable, and you shouldn’t downplay it! Don’t you think?
JC: I was having a rough night when I responded to your last question. I can be a real drama king at points. It’s very easy to lose motivation and rationalize reasons why my creative endeavours are a waste of time. My main goal with the investment idea was to allow fans who’ve supported Crywank to make money back, rather than doing a Kickstarter and getting similar amounts of money in return for overpriced empty gestures (a thank you e-mail £5, your name in the record £50, a Skype gig £250). I’ll probably regret saying all this in a years time when a desperate crowdfunding plea emerges. Since all this, I sort of stopped caring about getting a big vinyl release though. What happens happens, but I’m no businessman and I’m just trying to focus on writing songs and making art at the moment. The new solo project (JC and the Nobodies) actually did pretty well a few days after I messaged you last, so it looks like things will start happening now. I’m trying to get some small runs of CDs/tapes for acts I consider to be a lot more interesting than my own with a ‘label/art collective’ I’ve started with my friends (PSGSummers, Dan Watson and Tom Connolly). I guess that all reads like me ignoring your Kickstarter advice, but I expect too much all the time and set myself up for falls all too often. I just want to do something fun and creative, having anxiety attacks about private Facebook groups I can’t read and worrying about reaching targets with money isn’t that.
In regards to your last question I’d say that most musicians shouldn’t downplay how valuable or important the connections people have with their music is. I think this because of how important and valuable so much music is to me. At the end of the day I’m Crywank though, my main schtick is downplaying all my achievements whilst picking apart my flaws… and, y’know, you don’t want to disappoint the fans!
I: Well in regards to the Kickstarter, the gestures are only overpriced and meaningless if you make them so - I’m sure you’d never allow yourself to do that. But, see, that’s great that things are suddenly getting moving and you don’t need to worry about it. I guess it goes to show that, like I was saying, you shouldn’t give up on it, ‘cause it might turn around tomorrow. You’ve got loads of options, never seems like you’re short on ideas, and most importantly, you really seem to care. Like, way more than you should, and completely honestly. Which is something that can be unfortunately absent in “the scene”. Case in point: I’d basically given up on running this website part of the way through this interview, but you pushed me to make sure we got this interview done (it’s only taken three months, goddamn), and have inspired me to start it back up again. How can I tell you not to give up if I’m giving up myself?
So thank you, James, for a lot of things. You’re one of the good guys, please don’t forget it.
here’s an interview I did for Irregular Zine!