Tim Holden journeyed to Eastbourne to catch Irish rockers [CRAVE] hard at work in the studio, recording their second album.
Northern Ireland's rockers [crave] have been creating waves for some time with a strong live following and an exciting debut album 'Carve' in 2005. I journeyed to Eastbourne, to Britain's best known (and best equipped) Christian recording studio to catch up with [crave] as they worked on their second album. As it turned out, it was one of the hottest April days for years.
As the boys gathered back in Studio 2's control room, having finished their lunch break, I asked them how they had found recording this album compared to 'Carve'. "Similar in terms of fun, it has been a great fun and really refreshing," explained lead singer and bass player Scott McKeown. "It has been a very creative time for us and we have spent a lot more time breaking songs down and trying different things to make the song sound better. With the 'Carve' album we had never really done this, we only had six days and the songs went down pretty much the way we brought them whereas this time we have more time to be able to work on the songs. We have come with songs that are fresh and pretty loose in terms of arrangement and producer Trevor Michael has been able to help much more with the arrangement of the songs and how to build them up and that sort of thing. It has been harder work because of that as we have to think on the spot but it has been great particularly when it's crunch time and we need to do things differently and we've said a wee word of prayer and things have just come together. One song in particular, 'Inview', is going to be completely different on the album to the way it was when we came - which is great actually. With the 'Carve' album it was just 'Let's do it' - there were songs we had been playing live for a year and a half - whereas this time there are songs we are going to have to relearn because they have changed so much, for the better, and half the songs on the album haven't been played live. It's left the door open for us to change things around a bit. And Trevor has put in loads - like working with Trev doubling up a guitar line an octave higher which gives a totally new dimension to the song."
I asked Trevor Brimage, the band's guitarist, what was his favourite song. He replied, "At this stage is hard to pick a favourite as it's all so fresh and just laid down and we have not really had a chance to hear them ourselves. But I would probably say 'Waiting Games'." "You put a lot of work into that one," interjected Scott. "Yes, there is a fair bit put into it and for me I like the concept of it and the arrangement," continued Trevor. "It's a new song - only a month old I guess - and myself and Trevor have put time in to build it up and give it that extra bit of kick - it's quite a rocky song."
Drummer Dave Benson added, "At the moment I like 'Walk Into My Life'. I like it musically but I like the words as well. 'You walked into my life and now I know I will never be the same again.' It's a testimony song really - God has walked into my life and things have changed. But I do like them all."
"I think for me, even before we came to record, it was 'Evermore'," Scott continued. "It was a song that I wrote last year on Good Friday after a dawn service so it was fresh in my mind what Christ did for us. The chords were something I had always sort of played with but it never had a melody. So I came back and I sat down - my wife is a nurse and was on nights so it was just me in the house - cranked the amp up and it just sort of came. It's a very human song - very tactile. It's about God feeling sunshine, rain, excruciating pain but where he is now in heaven he does not have to live through that anymore. Also, it can be taken another way as it is talking about going away. Both my wife and another mate have had to deal with loved ones dying and find this song really touched their situation. Having said that we are putting down vocals for another one, a ballad type song called 'Upward Eyes' and just the way it has come across it is one of the songs that has surpassed what I thought of it and what it could be. That's down to Trevor (Michael) here. He will shrug it off but he has worked really hard for us. When you're sitting at home and messing around on an acoustic or playing it at practices - we have never played it live - you don't really get an idea of how something can sound when it is all put together with all the extra bits and pieces. The stuff that was done here has added a new dimension to it."
I asked about the inspiration behind some of the songs. "I go to a Presbyterian church and one week our minister was talking about the Jewish temple and the series of walls that the further you got through them the more important you were and only once a year was someone allowed to go into the holy of holies and just what Christ did when he died for us all those walls were broken. So 'Break' talks about this, the chorus 'Break down these walls, catch when I fall, I will always be thankful to you.' This is one of the more rockier, fresher songs on the album, it's a bit different for us. Some songs come easier lyrics wise and other ones are really hard - you sit with them for ages, go away and come back - but 'Break' was one that just came really quickly and fitted with chords I had in mind and it is one of the songs that has stayed pretty much as is and Trevor has not had to do much to it."
After a short interruption to discuss paying the studio for the recording, we continue discussing what the best and worst bits of recording the album have been. Explained Scott, "Last time it was the loud listens, when the big speakers get used and we sit on the couch. We have not got to that point yet - well we have had one loud listen for a song called 'Afterthought'. It's just really cool sitting back and listening to things and hearing everything we have put on it coming back in pretty much its completed form. We are really looking forward to getting a good loud listen on the rest of the tracks because up to now it's all been little bits and pieces that we have done or are going to do to the tracks. For me that is really cool just hearing it finished - the fruits of the recording studio - at a loud volume - the way we love to hear it!
"As for the worst, I think re-jigging things on the spot," continued Scott. "We are all creatures of habit - once we have practised it in the shed and nailed it, that's it. So when you come here and listen through to it and Trevor goes "Boys - that's weak" - no he says it nicer than that! - you get on the spot. You can rely on your talent a lot but when it comes down to it and time is against you and Trevor is asking you to rewrite this lyric so it means the same thing but hits harder, then you realise that you can not do it on your own. It's been good to be able to stop in the middle of the noise and bustle and just pray."
As Scott spun around in the squeaky but comfy office chair in the control room I asked whether it has all been serious or have they let their hair down at all. "We have a video camera on hand because we want to put together, like we did on the last album, a short 15 to 20 minute video of stuff that we have been up to whilst recording," answered Scott. "I think for us, because we are away from home it's a holiday for us, it's what we love doing so I think already our minds are in gear to just have fun. Elvis has been the subject of a few jokes and camera shots. It's been good crack all round. I don't want to say anything because I don't want to incriminate ourselves, but there is a light bulb and light shade up in the artist flat that we decided to play a game of headers with and Trev managed to knock it and switch off the whole flat. Bit of masking tape and super glue and its all fine! That was quite funny and we did catch it on camera. We thought it was funny and it's the kind of thing you'd see on You've Been Framed, so we've sent it off there. 250 quid easily made if they show it - that's a day in the studio!"
As Trevor Michael cued up some part finished tracks for us to listen to, I asked Scott what is next for the band. "In terms of release, Dan Boreham from Elevation (the ICC rock subsidiary) has said they want to get behind us in terms of UK distribution - like they did on the 'Carve' album - which is going to be a great help. Our main focus is promoting the release - we have a release gig planned for September 28th at the Burnavon Arts Centre in Cookstown which will be cool. We have been planning something different. We have been talking about some of the songs on the album having strings on them and it would be good to incorporate this in the live show - we might not be able to do it all the time but certainly for the release gig we want to have a go."
Trevor then hit the play button and we listened to a couple of the tracks, finishing with another loud listen to "Afterthought", a pulsing rock track that brings to mind the sound of Queens Of The Stone Age. As Scott commented that Dave would like being compared to Dave Grohl, I left the band to carry on with their last full day in the studio. A day that did not finish till 3am the following morning. [crave] don't mind putting in the hard work, and from the part finished tracks I heard, it will be well worth it.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.