Northern Ireland's rock team [CRAVE] have made a big impact in a short time. Tony Cummings reports.
It often takes years of hard gigging and underfinanced recording for a Christian rock band to make an impact on the British scene. But [crave] from Northern Ireland seem to have shot to national notice in the proverbial blink of an eye. Their 'Ways And Means' EP released in 2004 was a serious notice of intent showing the band's tightly played, post grunge rock had huge potential. Their full album debut 'Carve', benefiting from exemplary production from Trevor Michael, expanded their demo debut to the pinnacles of multi-layered rock excellence. And their punk-tinged "Sorry" track swept aside all comers to win Sonya Mac's Locally Grown competition on Northern Ireland's biggest radio station Cool 97.4FM.
[crave] consist of Scott McKeown (vocals, bass guitar), Trevor Brimage (lead guitar, rhythm guitar) and Dave Benson (drums). On his Rock And Hard Place programme on Cross Rhythms radio Greg Sammons asked about the band's origins. Scott KcKeown filled in some background. "We are all from around the Cookstown area although we all live in slightly different places now. We come from County Tyrone, mid Ulster region of Northern Ireland. We originally played in a five piece rock group called Interior Motive. We set up our band about a year ago. The three of us were born out of the ashes of that."
Dave was asked how the band managed to hook up with producer Trevor Michael. "We asked Trevor to do the mastering on the Interior Motive album and it was really through that that we came to have a link with Trevor and from that, when [crave] got together, we thought, 'We're gonna do this, we're gonna do it right, we'll spend the money; we'll get the main men to do the job.' Trev was an absolute gem to work with. Money for every band is quite tight but this guy was really going out for us and it just so happens when we contacted Trev he was able to put together a deal for us on ICC because Spring Harvest was actually going on at that time; so a lot of the gear that was normally in the studio was actually out so we got a good rate on the studio. We just decided to go for it. It was going to cost a bucket load of money but we knew we weren't going to get a better studio.
"Trevor really did add so much to the album in every way. He was such a character. If you listen closely to some of the songs on the album Trevor actually appears on some. He's one of the claps in 'Empty Words' and he's also number four! He's the person who shouts 'four' at the start of 'Twisted'. We took a lot of his ideas on board because they were just great. When you are used to playing your own thing you get used to it; you can get a mindset and you get stuck down on that path. But Trevor could come in and say, 'How about doing this?' or, 'How about trying that?' and it was fantastic to have that kind of input."
Scott spoke about how the band arrived at the [crave] moniker. "We picked the name [crave] because each of us in the band are Christians and that's really the focal point of the band. We really crave for God. On a sort of material level I guess it works too because at the minute I am on a healthy eating regime, I kind of have cravings for Golden Wonder Lites!"
Dave expounded further the God-connection with the name. "Since we all are Christians I think we have an obligation to spread the Christian message and let people know (a) we are Christians and (b) we've got God in our lives. I think it's important since God has given us the gift of being able to play music, which is amazing, it's something that we should be playing for him."
One of the outstanding songs on 'Carve' is "I Fall Down". Scott was asked about the song's origins. "It was really written after a major family situation. I sort of found myself trying to fix things which just didn't work right, it just made the situation worse. I realised it was only when I stopped and sat back and asked the Lord's guidance on it that I really started to make some headway. Relationships can be difficult things at times and definitely speaking from my own experiences I've tended to run into things and not really thought about bringing God into situations. So, the song 'I Fall Down' is about the falling down at the throne of God and asking for guidance, asking for patience in how to deal with situations. That's where that song really came from."
A video for "I Fall Down" has already been shot, partly at The Burnivon, an arts centre in Cookstown and partly at Scott's house. The singer reminisced about the filming: "There's some imagery which is used throughout the video which involves a bit of shooting and that was done at my house here. It was really good fun making the video. We had a really great laugh. But we just hope it portrays what the song's about; this kind of working in a relationship and really asking God for guidance before you move into an awkward or emotional situation and try and sort things out."
Another of the many standouts on 'Carve' is the song "Empty Words". Scott spoke about its theme. "It's really about the empty promises, that sometimes we are just bartering with God. We say, 'God if you help me pass my driving test or if you help me with these exams, you know then I will pray more or I will read my Bible more.' God doesn't really work like that and it's not biblical to barter with God. The Lord will do all these things in his own plan. It's really just about the empty promises we make to God."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.