INTERVIEW: Crooked Hands
By Linsey Teggert on October 24, 2012 in Music
In this fickle environment we refer to as the local music ‘scene’, where it can often seem like singer-songwriters are ten a penny, it’s increasingly difficult for an artist to get their audience to sit up and take notice. Our poor internet addled brains are fried, our attention-spans short; we’re a cynical bunch ready to write off anyone with an acoustic guitar.
So for an artist to create a song that gives us goosebumps and leaves us lost for words from the first listen is a rare feat, something which Newcastle’s Crooked Hands, AKA Chris Brown, managed from the get-go with his first demo recording, the sublime Under. It weaves together haunting harmonies, spaciously arranged around Brown’s soulful, arresting vocal: shadowy but soothing and reminiscent of Bon Iver with its spooky quality.
The attention garnered from that one demo just over a year ago led to a support slot with the hotly-tipped Let’s Buy Happiness and Brown decided that Crooked Hands would take the form of a full band rather than a solo, singer-songwriter project. “Things kind of happened back to front with Crooked Hands. I did intend for it to end up as a band, but after being asked to play with Let’s Buy Happiness I realised I didn’t have much to play and not much time to get a band together. We hastily knocked the whole thing together for that show, and then after that spent months putting ourselves together as a band properly. We haven’t played many gigs or released much material but I didn’t really feel like we were a ‘proper’ band until Tom [Booth, guitarist] joined in May. When we played Evolution Emerging, that kicked us into gear.”
As a band, Crooked Hands are still finding their feet, but anyone who has witnessed one of their few live performances to date would find it hard to dispute their raw talent. The ‘full-band’ experience has created a sound that is more rootsy than Brown’s first demo hinted at, with the release of the band’s debut self-titled EP earlier this year showcasing a more folk-driven sound, especially the Americana finger-picking of Elliott. Waldridge Fells has a similar earthy vibe, though both songs brim with the same sense of heartbreak demonstrated by Under and that same brooding darkness still lurks behind each track. And of course, Brown’s exceptional voice still leads, both velvety and gravely at the same time. “We try to avoid being pinned down to one style. We want to shy away from the ‘folk’ tag though it’s obviously an element of our sound. If you see us live, we try to go between quite soft and delicate to loud and noisy. Obviously, we know there’s never anything new in music, but we want to have elements from all the music we like in there, be it rootsy and Americana or spaced-out and trippy. We’re still getting there and finding our sound in many respects.”
A year on, Crooked Hands have come full circle and have just recorded a new version of Under, that first track that got everyone talking about Brown. Due to be released at the end of October as their first proper single, it was recorded with Let’s Buy Happiness’ James Hall along with other new songs, and though they’re keeping it under wraps at the time of writing, if live performances of the track are anything to go by it’ll be an absolutely spine-tingling effort, those haunting harmonies heightened by the full band presence. “We’re really excited for everyone to hear these new tracks as it’ll give everyone who hasn’t seen us live a chance to hear us properly.” Says Brown. “We want to take Crooked Hands as far as possible. I know that really, there isn’t anything else I’d rather do with my life, so as long as we keep playing and evolving and trying to be as ‘us’ as possible, I can’t see when we’ll ever stop.”
- VIDEO: Crooked Hands – Under