The Weekly interview: George Waite, frontman for The Crookes

George Waite, far left, performs with Sheffield band The Crookes on July 19 at the Container Park.
James Dodd

It seems natural that you would have a larger following in the U.K. What has it been like playing the U.S., where The Crookes are relatively unknown? In the U.K. and Europe, we’ve worked really long and hard to gather up the fans that we have. It really feels like we’ve formed a really nice community. Whenever we go on tour over there, we consider a lot of the people who come to our shows—even as far away as Italy and Germany and Holland—friends of ours now. That’s what we’re trying to do over here. We’ve been touring back home for the past five years fairly constantly, so we’re not afraid to begin again. Which is kind of what we’re doing, I suppose.

It’s kind of like starting all over. Yeah … but it’s exciting to be coming to all these brand new towns. I mean, I just sat in the back of the van in the middle of Ohio. And wherever we go, the last few nights at least—and fingers crossed it’ll continue—there’s always a hard core of people that have been with us since 2010 and have been waiting for us to come over. That’s really encouraging and really heartening. If we can pick up a few people in every town, then hopefully the next time we come back it will build and build.

You’re signed to an American label called Modern Outsider. When did that happen? Last year, after the 2013 South by Southwest. Chip and Erin [Adams], they’re the wonderful people behind Modern Outsider and they’re based in Austin, Texas. [Our manager] dragged them along to our very last show at SXSW last year, and we were sort of running on pure adrenaline at that point. [Our manager], unbeknownst to us, had invited Chip and Erin along to see us. They must have liked what they saw and shortly afterwards they asked us if we wanted to be part of the label. We jumped at the chance. Since then it’s been a really good relationship. It’s so nice to have someone back in our corner in America, because we’re such a tiny fish over here.

Is it true the band received a grant to come to the U.S. and play? That was a government grant that was released via the British Phonographic Industry. We were dead surprised that such a thing existed, especially since it’s a time when there’s basically no money. So when we heard that we’d been awarded this grant, along with other bands like Drenge and Catfish and the Bottlemen, we were gobsmacked. We went on BBC Breakfast in Manchester, which is the biggest breakfast program in the U.K. and spoke about it in front of 7 million people on the television. It’s a wonderful thing. We couldn’t quite believe it, but it’s the reason why we’re over here and why I’m talking to you now. We’re incredibly grateful for it.

Your latest albumSoapbox came out in April. How did you approach it differently from your previous two LPs? We wanted to remove ourselves from the studio in Leeds that we’ve always done things in. So we put a question out there on Twitter and Facebook saying if anybody has any space at all that they could lend us to record a record, get in touch. Our friends, The Charlestones, who are a brilliant band from Italy, told us of an old chapel that their drummer’s grandfather built after World War II. He said it’s a big space, if you want to use it then feel free, you can come down. We basically decided on the spot that it sounded like it would be a great adventure, not really basing it in any prior knowledge of how this chapel would sound or whether or not we could even record in it. But we sort of tend to do things on a whim. [Drummer] Russell [Bates] bravely drove down to Italy from Sheffield, which took about three and a half days. We were just holed up there, us four and Matt Peel, our producer, for a month in the rainy hillside of Northern Italy, making Soapbox. It was a wonderful experience. We were pretty much the closest we’d ever been, sharing beds and eating every meal together. It sort of fostered that whole outsider spirit that I think comes through the lyrics in the record.

You’ve been compared to The Smiths a bit. Are they a big influence? Yeah, I think so. Myself and our lead guitarist, Tom [Dakin], are massive fans of The Smiths and pretty much anything Morrissey’s done. When I first started singing, straight away people said, “Your voice has got a bit of Smiths about it.” I’ve only ever taken it as a massive compliment, really. There’s not an awful lot I can do about it anyway—my voice is my voice. I don’t put it on; it’s just the way I sing. Although we like The Smiths as a band, we also love all of the influences that made The Smiths what they are. All the Motown bands—The Shirelles, The Crystals, The Ronettes—all that stuff is all the stuff we love, and it happens to be what they loved as well, so there’s a bit of serendipity about it.

Have you ever been to Vegas? No, we’ve never ever been, but we were actually talking about it over breakfast this morning, about the places we’re most looking forward to, and Vegas definitely came up.

You’re probably only in for one night, but is there anything you plan to do while you’re here? We don’t know, to be quite honest. I know Russell is very keen on checking out as many casinos as he possibly can. He’s a bit of a gambling man, he fancies himself on the poker, I think. [Vegas] seems to be that kind of place where you could just walk up and down the street all night and just be entertained by all the characters and things. We never try to plan too far ahead. We’ve got the evening in Las Vegas, which is more than we have in most places. Usually we start driving straight away after the show to the next town. We’re definitely going to go out and try our hardest not to end up in a chapel at four in the morning—try and not get arrested is our main goal.

The Crookes with The Soft White Sixties, Caught a Ghost. July 19, 9 p.m., free. Downtown Container Park, 702-637-4244.

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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