The Crimea

Bill Cummings 09/10/2005

Formed from the ashes of the beloved Crockets: Owen Hopkins(drummer) and Davey Mamanus (frontman) recruited guitarist Andy Norton, keyboardist Andrew Stafford and bassist Joseph Udwin and called themselves the Crimea. Originally their debut saw the light of day as a small independent release last year. But having worked hard to hone, re-record and revisualise, the eleven songs that make up their debut "Tragedy Rocks" it now gains a major label release both here and in the US on the 17th of October. We caught up with Irish front man Davey Macmanus and asked him about his band, his songs, and his clever use of words:

What happened when you first rehearsed together?

---It was probably pretty chaotic, but were probably too $$$$$$$ to notice. I think we had a lot of rehearsals before we got a finished line up. The first rehearsal we had with this seminal line up we have now was such a relief, it had taken two years to find a proper band. It took forever to start improving

What bands influenced your sound?

The sort of Phil Spector sound of the sixties, like his version of river deep mountain high with Tina turner, dusty Springfield, the eels first album, the velvet underground with the black cover, Buffalo Springfield, Broken Arrow, Deus

There seems to be a really timeless quality about your song writing whilst still managing to retain its freshness, how intentional is this?

Its highly intentional. The idea is to bring back the song writing of the sixties with a skewed gritty edge, the only way it sounds contemporary is just cause we are lucky that home recording seems to be quite popular now, so singing into a shit karaoke microphone that distorts is the new rocket science.

Where do you write is it a mixture of studio produced work and on the road or is the process different each time?

The process is all over the place, we keep working and working on things till they come to fruition, like the seven dwarves, its boring most of the time, hence you go insane but its worth it every now and then when you make up something g good that doesn't sound like anybody else, its like gold mining, there isn't very much gold, so you either have to look really hard for nuggets like we do, or steal it off someone else which every other fuckwit does

Did you feel it was important to take your time over your debut album?

I think it was important to get the right line up for the band because then we could actually play the songs and they could come alive. It was very important to have a band; people attach so much more aura to a group.

It took a hellish long time but it was worth it in the end, I wish we could have done it quicker but I mean it's hard to get out of bed before 4

There seems to be a feeling of triumph through adversity and heartbreak on your new album “Tragedy Rocks” are these lyrics a reflection of your life experiences?

I try not to write form a personal perspective; instead I am so vain I like to believe I am writing form the perspective of the entire human race. Like Kofi Annan or Jesus, or G.W.. life is definitely there to be enjoyed you just have to duck every time a turd floats past

In general I like to make observations, pick a topic, e.g. car wrecks and then writes a song about it, using everything I see around me form the media to whatever bits of music are floating around

Baby Boom seems to have been around for a couple of years now as a song is it a pivotal track on the album? I read it was about the “unsparing evocation of male lust” how true is this comment?

Yes baby boom is definitely pivotal. Along with lottery winners it was the first song to have the interwoven piano and guitar lines and harmonies, which became our rough palette for all our music.

I think the song is talking about mans inability to control his lust yes, we are by nature, unfaithful lying bastards, the song attempts to put some light on the grave situation

Your songs seem to have a bitter sweet quality about them, not too dissimilar to some of the work of Bright eyes; do you feel it's important to have light and shade within your music?

I would compare it more to the smiths than bright eyes, where the dark lyrics contrast with the pretty music. The songs can be interpreted in any way, depending on your own personal mood, but ultimately the message is always look on the bright side of death and destruction. Learn from your mistakes and try not be a wanker, sort of religion for druggies and neer-do-wells, we do not deny that life is skewed and often poxy and didn't try to gloss over how evil we all are

John Peel championed your songs didn't he? He described "Lottery Winners On Acid" as "one of the best songs I've heard in years” how did that make you feel? And what important do you think Peel's impact was upon the music world?

We were so happy when john peel started playing all our home recordings. It was a miracle. I was doing bins at the time, and sometimes I'd have to take the rubbish from outside radio 1. He had hated our first band and not played it at all in seven years, even when we threatened to go on hunger strike. Also in America everybody is impressed by john peel and respectful of what he played; his impact on the music world was huge in that he showed music lover everywhere the delights of German happy hardcore, he was a legend. We played a tribute show on peel day, and it was immense, we covered alone now by tiffany and deelshannon wonder

You have been compared to American groups like the Kinks, the Flaming Lips, Low and solo artists like Elliot Smith and Leonard Cohen how justified do you feel these comparisons are?

Its good to be compared to artists that have soul and passion but I think that is where the similarities end, we share ethics and mindset and really in fact I can't deny we share a musical thing, I thought I was stealing from the big band sound of the 60s but this is where bands like flaming lips and mercury rev have also been pilfering

What did you learn from supporting bands like Travis, Billy Corgan and Ash?

I suppose we learnt that the live show had to grow into a unique experience, that people had to leave feeling blown away

That everything had to be planned down to the last detail, yet each night the show had to be different, and we had to say different things between the songs and act instinctively, we learnt that we were not cool and had to earn our crust through prowess and giving it everything

You were “discovered” after a show at SXSW how exciting was it to be picked out by Warner music where you expecting it?

It was the last thing we expected, we had been courted by various labels in the UK with disastrous effect, usually the like the demos and didn't like the live show, bringing a lead guitarist in the shape of Andy Norton into the band really changed our live show and meant that south by south west was kind of our second ever proper gig, up till then we had been struggling to bring the sound across live.

Frankly we were shocked when Warners got interested, plans don't usually work, especially far flung ones on foreign lands, so excited, yes, you can say the words Warner brothers to anyone in the world and it gives you credence.

What do you make of the current UK music scene? Do you feel slightly apart from any scenes or bandwagons currently in motion?

We haven't really been here all year so I am reluctantly to give opinion, basically I am an old boring scrooge who doesn't take much delight in listening to music. So many scenes have passed by through the years from nu metal to the summer of ska, I hate scenes. We are 40 years too late for our scene, We are not aligned with any scene, haircut, fashion

How did Adrian Petty get involved in producing the artwork for your album?

She did a Regina Spector video which we really liked, as she is an artwork director, Warner brothers decided to get her in as our artwork director, so the idea is she oversees all aspects of our art, videos, covers etc

This is what happens in America

We made an epk with her and she directed the artwork, she has a great house on the east village and great rock and roll stories about her childhood.

Davey I noticed you released a book of short stories and poems. How does writing music and lyrics differ from the process of creating works of literature?

Its so much harder to fit words over music that are clever than to just write clever words. The rhyming thing is pretty restrictive, I write a blog on the internet “always look on the bright side of death” on our myspace and that is easy, because I'm just saying everything I want to say at the time but can't remember, I find it impossible writing lyrics. How do you for example get a new twist on the angle of discussing love in a song, there are a million fucking love songs

What do you enjoy more the thrill of playing live, or recording your music in the studio?

I love both, the studio tends to drive me insane because I work at home, and it goes on forever. It's impossible to stop; the live thing feels like more of a holiday, driving round on the bus, stopping off for an ice cream. Playing for 30 minutes a night, and complaining for a living

Do the songs change in a live setting?

Live they are certainly better, mainly because they were sort of written in the studio, we would put the drums down and then try and find parts, so once we played the songs live with all the parts we made up on the recordings they sound ten times better, we are obsessed with improving our live show, and spend a lot of time mulling over ways to make it more interesting, not like fire breathing, more like fire putting out

What was your worst live experience?

There have been many, the worst are usually linked to playing on front of someone important, when we have a mare, and everyone's in a flutter. Lately we have had a few really poor shows in the secondary markets of America. It was weird, because there was no-one there, well obviously, we were playing the American equivalent of Milton Keynes.

What are your future plans?

The plan is to keep on existing, do not return to our day jobs at all costs, its Madison square garden or the Mississippi river

Many thanks for your time, good luck with the album and tour.