Interview With Sheffield's Craine

Band members – Jordan Osborne, drums
Dan Roberts, bass
Chris Roberts, guitar
Scott Ford, keyboards/piano
Steve Craine, vocals

How did you guys get together?
Scott: Not a very long story, we (Scott, Dan and Chris) were playing together in a band, Steve walked in for an audition for this particular band, I took one look at him, called him five different names – I was quite drunk at the time – then I went and dropped him off for a tram home and told him that one day I’d like to write songs for him, cos I’d been a songwriter for so many years, and it was just sort of put on the backburner. Then I heard some of Chris’ songs on a few occasions, then we just decided to jump ship and go at it full speed. It was a very natural, very organic process and it worked really well.

Clearly, the band is named after Steve’s surname…
Steve: Yeah but I did not think of that name.
Chris: It’s all ego really!
Steve: It was this guy here (Scott).
Scott: I think it’s simple, quite memorable, and it doesn’t mean very much. I went through a number of names – Rain, Refrain – then just suddenly thought ‘Craine’.
Chris: It’s short, snappy…
Scott: I just visualised this elegant bird stood on a pair of long legs. The feathered variety that is…
So you didn’t want a name loaded with ‘stuff’?
Scott: No, no pomp and ceremony, just something you could raise up a flagpole and have people salute. And it looks good artwork wise as well.
Steve: It’s a unique spelling as well, my family name.

So how long have you been together and gigging?
Steve: This band have been together since April this year, and our first gig was July 23rd at the Boardwalk (Sheffield). It was a great night.
Chris: We handed out a lot of demos and stuff, got mailing lists going and that. That’s how we got a lot of votes for The Star Idol thing.
Steve: Yeah we’ve just won a competition run by The Sheffield Star newspaper –16 bands were shortlisted after sending in demos, and you’d go online and listen to the tracks…
Chris: They’d vote online and they wrote about it in The Star. We got 1416 votes – a third of all the votes – so now we’re on at Devonshire Green for this Best of Sheffield Live and Unsigned festival this weekend (Sunday 3rd September).
Steve: That’s the prize. It’s a really good thing for us.
Scott: There’s been 3000 tickets handed over for the event so it should be really good.
Chris: There’ll be an open air stage, marquees, beer tents and that…a mini version of Leeds Festival I think!
So who are your influences as a band and individually?
Steve: I think U2, Chilli Peppers…
Chris: They influence me a lot, I love the the Chilli Peppers, and I’d say that comes out in my guitar playing.
Jordan: I’m a big fan of Muse, and the Chili Peppers as well, although my first main influence was Led Zeppelin, as well as the Police. I love stuff like that.
Dan: I’m sort of Muse, Chilli Peppers, U2, probably the Verve as well. Ours (Dan and Chris) are pretty similar.
Chris: Yeah, cos we’re brothers and only a couple of years apart we’ve grown up sort of listening to the same stuff. It started a life of us jamming together.

What would you say has been the highlight of your (admittedly short) career so far, or do you think it’s going to be the festival at the weekend?
Scott: The highlight for me has been the buzz and the reaction, and how quickly it’s gathered pace, especially these last 2 weeks. It’s been brilliant, the personal satisfaction. I’ve been sat up til 4 in the morning writing songs, and then bringing them to the table and giving them out, and seeing this end result now is brilliant.
Chris: There was a production company at our first gig as well and from that we’ve got a support slot with Rooster at the Forum in Barnsley in October. The woman from the company was really impressed with us, with how Steve went out into the crowd and that. Because they (Rooster) are predominantly aimed at young girls she liked Steve’s showmanship.

That’s pretty good if you’ve only been together since April.
Scott: It’s strange really ‘cos I don’t wanna sound pretentious or stupid, but a lot of it’s very spiritual, especially between me and Chris (the main songwriters), and when we get together it’s just so natural. It’s not like hard work.
Chris: A lot of it is intuition. It’s just so easy when we write.
Is that how you tend to write – you two write together then bring it to the group?
Scott: No, we write on our own…
Chris: We write separately…
Scott: But we’ve had a couple of weekends where we’ve gone about our business, played when required then written so much new material.
Chris: So we write separately then get together and polish it up a bit.
Steve: The arrangements as well are very very natural, very unique. When we bring something to the table or work together in a room, we work very well.
Chris: everyone has a free role, but we tend to put the groundwork down together.
Steve: We don’t have to spend hours getting a song how we want it, it just seems to happen.
Scott: The beauty of that as well is that no one has ever been asked to join this band. You’ve probably heard that cliché before but its true – nobody has ever been asked to join this band. It’s been so much like fate it’s unbelievable. You’re in a room at the side of a railway track and all of a sudden Steve walks in. Then six months later, we’re sat in a steel container with Jordan! It’s really spooky.

Would you say you’re quite prolific when it comes to songwriting?
Scott: Yes.
Chris: We always keep writing though cos we’re never satisfied with our set. We always challenge songs to get a ‘best of’ set if you like, so we always keep moving forward with what we’re doing. I write on impulse, and if I do write something and it’s just so impulsive I don’t even have to try with it it tends to be really good.
Scott: Chris is a very impulsive writer. He’s played me things privately that he’s written and I remember saying to him “how does someone of your years write a song like that?” That for me speaks volumes about his songwriting. I tend to go on almost a menstrual songwriting cycle. I don’t write every day, I feel like I have to write every sort of six weeks, and then I have seven days of constant writing.
Chris: That does explain his mood swings.
Scott: That’s how I write. I get songs coming to me at 4 in a morning, 3 in a morning or 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
Chris: He’ll lose sleep with it.
Scott: Yeah, that’s it. It’s unbelievable how it happens.
Dan: The songs are sort of different though with two writers, so I think we’re appealing to a wider audience because of the differences in songs.
Steve: Looking at the current ‘scene’ at the moment, if you look at a lot of the younger bands, they’re all very similar sounding. They’re all trying to be alternative and loud and ‘let’s get angry’, you know.
Chris: He means up and coming bands.
Steve: Up and coming bands, yeah – there’s a real alternative feel. Whereas if you look at ourselves and our songs, we’re putting some colour back into music, some heart and soul. We’ve got the thumping songs, the rousing songs, we’ve got big choruses, big melodies…
A lot like U2?
Steve: Yeah.
Scott: I think, with influences, I grew up with a lot of Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd’s early stuff – middle of the road stuff. I was drip fed these bands, and it’s not done me any harm at all. And then I’ve come to this union here, and you’ve got these Chili Peppers lads and Muse lads and it’s brilliant to throw everything in the boiling pot and roll with it.

So how would you describe your sound?
Steve: I’d say rock music with heart and soul. Big hooks, choruses and feeling, but we can pump it up when we need to.
Chris: It’s difficult isn’t it, you can be general or you can go into a niche thing, saying we’re lo-fi indie or whatever…but no, we’re like upbeat melodic rock with a lot of feeling.
Scott: I just think we’re very honest. For me, they’re very honest songs and very pure songs but also they’re very organic. They grow on you. People come up to us saying “what was this song” and “what was that song”, and that’s how it is.
Steve: We’re not trying to fit in with anything. We play what we do, and however uncool a song might be or however cool it might be, it’s what we play and that’s it. Whether people like us or not, that’s what we are and we’re very honest in our lyrics.
Scott: I’ve always stuck to a few things in life – one’s not to marry a girl with the same name as a capital city, and the other is that I raise everything up the flagpole and at the end of the day some fucker’ll salute it. Whether it’s ten people or ten thousand people I don’t really care, so long as we get one salute.
Chris: With tonight (the gig) you’ll see there’s a really alternative scene with a lot of bands who’re here, and we’ll probably stand out as being different. We just do what comes naturally instead of trying to find some sort of niche sound.
Scott: I was fearing for my life because very few bands have keys or piano players any more, you know? So it’s my ambition to make it cool again.
Well you’ve got people like the Killers with keyboards…
Steve: I think that’s great, I’m glad they’ve come along.

So what do you think of the current local music scene?
Scott: It’s very different, very diverse.
Steve: If I’m totally honest it’s not to my taste. The current, new stuff – it’s not my taste. That alternative sort of sound is not what I listen to. I like to listen to the kind of songs that we like to play. I want to hear something that grabs me in a deep way.
Chris: It’s not a bad scene, like this festival we’re playing. There’s always opportunities in Sheffield. It’s better that we come from Sheffield than some smaller town but I still think it’s behind Leeds and Manchester, and definitely London for opportunities and how they showcase unsigned bands. There are opportunities here but not on as big a scale.

If you could steal the career of any band, whose career would you steal?
Steve: U2.
Scott: Pink Floyd. Or Duran Duran, especially since they’ve come back. They’ve blown me away.
Chris: Chilis for me, definitely.
Dan: Same here.
Scott: Jordan likes Norwegian folk bands!
Jordan: I know they’ll probably all laugh at me, but I don’t practice to rock music. When I stick a CD on, I put R’n’B music on. I love the Black Eyed Peas, and I just think the drummers are bloody amazing. It’d be more cool to say Red Hot Chili Peppers, but I would like to play for Black Eyes Peas as well. But Craine is, you know, amazing.
Chris: You (Jordan) have played with a lot of bands haven’t you?
Jordan: I’ve done stuff that you have to do to get experience, but I’d never do them again, like pub bands. Last year I spent all year in a pub band and we toured all around the UK doing 4 or 5 gigs a week and it was great earning a living playing drums but we played some really shit songs.
Scott: Well it’s the only chance you get to play ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’!
Jordan: Playing to tracks and that you soon realise that you’re not going to get anywhere doing that. I came out of that and I knew I wanted to do original music, that was it. With original music you’ve not got that money there, that cash flow coming, but it shouldn’t be about that at the end of the day. It should be because you’re devoted and you love it. If you do get money coming in it’s fantastic so fingers crossed. We had that Boardwalk gig and we were all really nervous…
Scott: Speak for yourself!
Jordan: Well I was! I usually don’t get nervous at all but I got really nervous at the Boardwalk gig, I really wanted it to go really well.
When it’s your own music it’s like giving over a bit of yourself.
Chris: You’re putting yourself on the line aren’t you.
Scott: I was joking about not being nervous, it was the most nervous night of my life because you think to yourself “this is it”. You’re not giving it to five friends, you’re giving it to the general public and the proof’s in the pudding, isn’t it.
Jordan: The Boardwalk gig, the first gig that we did, was the first gig that I’d ever done where I came off stage buzzing from head to toe, cos it was just so good. I realised then that’s why I’m doing it. It’s just a fantastic feeling that I got with this band, and I’m just completely happy with where I am now.

Do you find that being an unsigned band and always struggling to make it puts a strain on your relationships with each other?
Chris: I think it beings us more together really cos we’ve got a task in hand if you like, to keep building a name up. We’ve got promoters showing an interest in playing places like this but it’s like we’ve got a goal to achieve. It’s probably brought us more together as we keep thinking we’re getting closer to it, as we play these festivals and competitions and stuff.
Scott: At the end of the day it’s all exposure. We’re certainly all bolstering each other and every time the phone rings we’re laughing cos we’re excited.
Steve: A major part of this band is how we get on with each other. It’s been very fluid and pure, there’s a lot of humour. Scott’s the funny guy, we have a good laugh. If there’s any tension you’ve got Scott who just cools things with his humour.

If you got signed would you prefer to start on a smaller label and work your way up or go straight to the top?
Scott: Myself, straight to a big label, purely to have that vehicle straight away to get the right marketing people and everything else. We can only do so much ourselves as a collective, and that will become apparent I think in the next two or three months. We’re gonna need a producer, we’re gonna need a manager, we’re gonna need someone who can market the package. I want world domination and nothing less. I set myself these goals – in twelve months I want to be playing Sheffield City Hall, in 18 months Sheffield Arena. Then in two year’s time I want to be playing five sold out nights at Madison Square Garden.
Steve: If you don’t have these goals you’ll never achieve them.
Scott: Exactly. Why not be a bit cocky, a bit arrogant and a bit confident, and get in there and get the right people behind you?
Chris: I’d like to think we’d be doing that, and I’m confident that if we got the right deal straight away through a bigger label it could just be instant. We’ve only been playing these songs for a few months but I’m ready to get them out there on a real public scale, and I think that we could do that with a bigger label straight away.

So is that where you see yourselves in 18 months or 2 years time?
Scott: Absolutely, yeah.
Chris: I think you’ve got to have these sort of goals.
Scott: The evolution of music is turning, and there’s a resurgence of proper songwriting bands, moving away from all this X-factor shite. It just doesn’t exist in my world, and not being derogatory towards these people but it takes a damn sight more to start doing it like this…
Chris: It’s entertainment isn’t it, not a passion.
Scott: …instead of for someone to say “Here’s a million pound deal cos you can hold a middle C for five seconds”. For me that’s nothing. There’s nothing for anyone to associate with. In this band there’s five individual characters, and that’s what I want to bring back to music – a band where everybody knows each member.
You’ve got to take consolation from the fact that if these people do get famous it’ll be for six months.
Scott: Exactly. I think the last big proper band for me were Oasis, that had identifiable characters. You had your Bonehead, and Liam and Noel, and people can relate to each one. But the bands now…I couldn’t tell you hardly any of Franz Ferdinand.
Steve: There’s no rock stars.
Scott: No. And I don’t mean rock stars that shove cucumbers down their pants. Where’s your Jim Morrisons?
Chris: Even the Arctic Monkeys – how long are they going to be about? It just seems like a current trend, and we’re just trying to stay away from that, to have some sort of staying power.
Scott: Not being totally out there and totally different…
Steve: Not being different for the sake of it.
Chris: Arctic Monkeys would have to really change what they were doing, and it’s just such a limited style for me. While I don’t disrespect what they’re doing, they’ve brought this whole Sheffield thing, and brought urban lyrics into an indie setting, but they’re gonna get slated for doing it on a second album. It’s just really difficult, where they’re going to move onto next.
Scott: You’ve only got to look at the Darkness, for example. I find it really interesting – you switch the Brit Awards on, and they’re there winning every single award, and they have their second album which is like 30 minutes long, then suddenly he’s in rehab and that’s the end of the Darkness. You could see that was a very gimmicky thing. But I don’t think there’s any harm in taking a bit of this and a bit of that and making a five piece pizza.
Chris: But at the same time we’ve not really thought about it. We’ve just sort of blended what each other’s brought and been really happy with the end result.

To wrap up, have you got any plans for the near future apart from the Unsigned Festival?
Scott: We’ve got the support slot with Rooster, that’s coming up.
Steve: We’re playing here (Bar Matrix) on the tenth of October.
Scott: Then we’re going to be in the studio recording.
Chris: If we win this thing tonight (Battle of the Bands) we get a grand’s worth of studio time with Alan Smythe, who did the Arctic’s album, so fingers crossed for that.
Scott: But if not we’ve got other studio contacts.

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