The Crowleys look set for a bright future with their definition of an L.A. Sunset.
As the countdown to the final few weeks of summer begins and the weather steadfast in its decision to remain in a depressed state, the gloom felt by the elements outside has been lifted somewhat by one band during this seasonal period, and that honour is bestowed to The Crowleys.
By offering a more optimistic disposition by way of their current record ‘L.A. Sunset’, The Crowleys singlehandedly lifted the spirits at Famous Last Words (FLW) headquarters. With suggestion of clues in the title itself, but without stating the obvious of course, the four-piece band from Hamilton, Ontario, managed to conjure up a record of “sun-kissed indie psychedelic pop” as one of our reviewers described it, and one that brought to mind a flurry of colour and blissful sounds once heard by one of the pioneers of shoegaze The Cocteau Twins and, in more recent times, artists such as Empire of the Sun and MGMT. Moreover, ‘L.A. Sunset’ provides an outlet for escape; a portal to another state and/or world where listeners can truly immerse themselves in the aforementioned cocktail of influences where distraction from the daily grind of life is made available.
With plans to include ‘L.A. Sunset’ on a forthcoming EP that The Crowleys is currently working on, and therefore providing the first indication of what’s to come once the band deliver their first full EP, one issue remains regarding the band’s single, and that is in reference to the ‘sunset’ of its title. If The Crowleys is looking to an ‘L.A. Sunset’ when the summer seasons of their homeland are equally of a high temperature and often drenched in sunshine, then why not a Hamilton sunset? FLW suspects, however, that such a suggestion is a little less glamorous than the heights this indie psychedelic outfit is potentially aiming for. There’s only one way to find out.
“The song is named after a pair of sunglasses from Giant Tiger, which are useless for blocking out the sun but make you feel like you are walking around in a Coen Brother’s sepia-toned movie,” replies drummer Stuart Downie from the band with an answer that doesn’t surprise FLW considering their love of indie psychedelic rock. “I think I originally called it Vessel or something, but the guys never like my song titles, so that was quickly scrapped. The lyrics on the surface are about a dude stranded in space, and, to a degree, the feeling of wandering and being aimless and the thoughts you latch onto to keep you functioning.”
Despite the loose feel of the journey The Crowleys find themselves exploring, which all began with their first foray ‘Fane Jonda’; a superb sonic groove incorporating indie pop, psychedelia and elements of math rock that keeps rolling via chunky bass lines, intricate guitars and keyboards, the Hamilton band remain consistent in their approach to their work with follow-up single ‘L.A. Sunset’ by providing a detailed reflection of the creative process the band underwent. In other words, there’s not even a hint of aimless wandering when it comes to The Crowleys and their musical endeavours. Maybe this has had something to do with the local surrounds of their home environment in the sense of providing the band with a grounded approach when it comes to their work?
“Everyone in the band has grown up and lived most of their lives in Hamilton,” answers Cohen Wylie who is responsible for lead vocals, guitars and keys. “I think Hamilton has had a great influence on us and especially because of the people of this city. I truly come across amazing, kind, and passionate people all the time. There has also been a great local art and music scene going on here for a while, long before we were even teenagers. As we’ve entered the music scene here, I’ve always felt a great sense of community and there has always been a lot to admire and inspire to. I’ve also lived in Toronto and that was a great experience and definitely helped me grow as a person. Stuart and Justyn lived in Peterborough during their time at University, which I would say has had a great influence on the band and especially them as well. We got to play a lot of gigs and meet a lot of great musicians up there. But Hamilton is our home and no matter where we move to, we always end up coming back.”
Where exactly did you all meet when looking to start The Crowleys?
“We all met in school, except Justyn [Horlick, guitar and backing vocals] and Kaulin [Horlick, bass], who are brothers, so I think they met before school,” mention the band with a few laughs. “Maybe Cohen and Justyn met when they were 13, around the time Cohen was first picking up guitar. Stuart was last, meeting up in high school after Cohen and Justyn kidnapped him from another band and we started playing music that we actually enjoyed. We didn’t play our first legit bar show until Stu and Justyn moved out to Peterborough for school. Before then, we had only played high school coffee houses, talent shows, and our parents basement.”
What sort of influences do you think have played their part during those initial stages of The Crowleys in order to get to the stage where you are now?
“We bonded due to us all growing up listening to Zep [Led Zeppelin], but I guess what kid into rock didn’t. In high school, we became obsessive over The Strokes, probably to an unhealthy degree. We would just hang out and drink in our parent’s basements and listen to them nonstop. That was basically how we learned to play as a band, at one point we could probably play almost their entire first two albums, so if you ever need a Strokes cover band you know who to call! Radiohead was also pretty big for us in the early stages of the band, but it is a little harder to be a Radiohead cover band. When we recently started writing psychedelic music, bands like Tame Impala, MGMT, Flaming Lips, Bowie and POND were all high up on our radar.”
Do you feel that the psychedelic label attached to your music is a fair description?
“Psychedelic probably gets used a little too much these days, but that’s still probably the best word to describe our music.”
With The Crowleys initial beginnings established ,and a fair description of how they view their own creative workings, it’s time to gain a bit more flesh on the story behind the band’s EP that hopefully will have a release date before the end of the year.
“Everything that will be on the EP was recorded at Threshold Recording Studio. Pretty much 95% of it was recorded in the early summer of 2016, with some over dubs and added vocals being recorded during this past month. Michael Keire (AKA the Mastermind, AKA Sensei, AKA Dungeon Master Mike) at Threshold did all of the production. Cohen, our singer, works there as well and also did a ton of production work under the guidance of Sensei. With Cohen working there this time around, we had a ton of extra time in the studio and we are incredibly fortunate and grateful for that. Mike has been super into the project, which you would think would make it a super quick process, but in reality it’s meant he has wanted to get it perfect. We have been constantly revisiting the mixes, trying to get everything just right. In addition to all this, he has also just upped his gear game to a new API board, which means we’ve had to go back and look at things again.”
Do you have a name for the EP yet, and how many tracks will be on it?
“The EP name has not been determined yet, we are still working on that,” the band reply. “Nothing has jumped out at us that we can all agree on, and we kind of want it to just happen naturally. It will contain six songs, so it is a pretty long EP, but we have commitment issues and didn’t want to stick around for a full length [album]. Maybe you can help us pick it? We’ve been looking at “Bingo, Bango, Bongo” or “Live and let live to Die Harder another day Part II the Prequel” or perhaps “Paul Blart’s Organic Fart Mart (We agree that you should just let it happen naturally. Sorry. FLW).
Apart from struggling to agree on a title for the upcoming EP, did you experience any other difficulties when writing and recording?
“Recording was amazing! I think we can safely say it was one of the best experiences of our lives, and we are hoping it only goes up from here (yeah, our lives aren’t much!). Being in the studio and using the studio to our advantage for actual song writing was great. We know it will incorporate into our work a great deal in the near future. We also love each other very much, which means we have no problem telling the other that they’re dead wrong and should feel bad about it.”
FLW really likes the artwork for the single ‘L.A. Sunset’. Will the EP have similar artwork when it’s ready for its official release?
“The artwork was done by Chloe Moss, a wizard of graphic design who creates awesome collages using pictures taken while travelling to look ethereal and dreamlike. She also did the artwork of our ‘Fane Jonda’ single. The EP artwork will be different but in a similar style, also done by Chloe. For our single release show, she designed artwork for all six songs and we had those hung up around the venue. We have all since stolen our favourites and have hung them up in our apartments. We find artwork really important and it is great to have a friend to collaborate with who consistently produces work that perfectly encapsulates what we had in mind.”
Do you have a favourite track from the forthcoming EP, and what are your reasons for this?
“We probably all have different favourites but the upcoming singles are a pretty sure bet. For example, ‘Pink Rainbows’ was completely written by Cohen and fully recorded in the studio before we even played it as a band. That gave us the chance to listen to one of our songs with fresh ears, an entirely foreign concept to us. ‘Midnight Blue’ has some exciting touches on it that I think will intrigue some fans.”
With the band taking time out of the recording studio in order to promote current single ‘L.A. Sunset’ with numerous live dates in their local surrounds, FLW is curious to learn of anything out of the ordinary happening to The Crowleys considering the previously mentioned psychedelic label their music seems to attract.
“There have definitely been a lot of wild things that have happened to us at gigs, but I would have to say one of the most amusing and strangest things that has happened during a show would be when we played an unforgettable house party above the Smiling Buddha in Toronto,” recollects Cohen from the band. “The crowd consisted of people full of love and enthusiasm for the all the tunes and bands that night. But the reason that gig stands out for me is that the last band to go on was not only great and playing great tunes, but also very naked, which was definitely a first for us at one of our gigs. That was an absolute blast that lasted until the sun came up the next day. We’ve been fortunate enough to have made a lot of great friends in Toronto who’ve helped us out with getting gigs there and accepting us into the Toronto psych community. That show was one of our first gigs in Toronto and wouldn’t have happened without that community there. We’ve had many people jump up on stage mid-song to start dancing, grab a tambourine, or even sing the words to a song they’ve never heard before, but we love it! It makes the performance more fun and memorable. However, just don’t break our shit [laughing]!”
Speaking of material possessions, what three items are The Crowleys never without?
“An old Milwaukee Ice 6-pack, a Shawn Michaels t-shirt, and a Gameboy colour.”
With no official release date established for The Crowleys’ EP, what’s next in store for the band?
“We have a lot of music that is going to be released in the coming months. We have another single that’s going to be released called ‘Midnight Blue’, and the EP should be released sometime after that. We also have a few great gigs coming up; Supercrawl in Hamilton on September 9th, and Night Owl Festival in Toronto on September 17th, and then out to Hollowfest at the end of the month. We also have a bunch of new material that we are working on and will be getting back into the studio as soon as possible. So the train keeps on rolling, and we keep on going.”
Just before FLW embarks on a reminder of The Crowleys definition of an ‘L.A. Sunset’, followed by a chaser consisting of the sublime ‘Fane Jonda’ single and the starting point of the band’s journey, is there anything this four-piece outfit would like to get off their chest with a final few words of the day?
“Usually goodnight,” they collectively respond before finishing, “but today, spread love, and thanks!”
The ‘L.A. Sunset’ is there for all to experience, providing it is the one being touted by The Crowleys.
(Photography courtesy of The Crowleys)
(L.A. Sunset cover by Chloe Moss http://www.chloemosss.com/)
"Psychedelic probably gets used a little too much these days, but that’s still probably the best word to describe our music."
FLW - From the Tapes
Is it true that you won a Battle of the Bands contest? If so, how did you become involved in such a contest, and what was the whole experience like?
“We did! We won the Battle of the Bands that was run by Trent, the school Justyn and Stuart attended. Peterborough has a small, but awesome music scene, so it is not hard to find out about things like that. The whole experience was strange to be honest. It was a real confidence boost and we got some money, but it is weird to overtly compete with local bands, many of whom are friends. It is also kind of nerve-wracking to have people judge your music that blatantly. All in all, art should not be [a] competition, but it’s hard to make money as a musician these days, so we hope we don’t get a lot of hate for that. People romanticize the starving artist, but are not really sure why artists should be so hungry. Also, people love to call bands sell-outs as they talk around the water cooler at their office jobs.”