Crows, fuelled by their relentless DIY ethos, and despite the pandemic adversely affecting their plans, they managed to survive. Their new album Beware Believers was a long time coming, and the world is a dramatically different place from where it was when they began working on it, yet the overarching themes of the album still cut through.
The London group don’t have the luxury afforded to those who have lucrative record contracts to fall back on, and they’ve had to fight tooth and nail to get to the point of realising this album. Despite enjoying moderate success with a headline date at the Scala on the horizon, Crows still hold down day jobs which speaks volumes about the current unbalanced state of the music industry.
Streaming is weighted to the advantage of a select few artists and leaves behind those like Crows. Many understandably give up because of the impossible obstacles they face, but that’s never been an option for the post-punk outfit that depend on a creative outlet to survive.
Even though it’s not their full-time occupation, the band is a necessary vessel of escapism for the group, and they do it for the love of their craft rather than fostering dreams of smashing through into the mainstream.
Their close relationship with their fanbase will allow Crows to head out to SXSW thanks to an online fundraiser from merch and handwritten lyric sheets that shows some positive aspects of the internet for musicians.
Their trip to the States was originally planned for 2020, but SXSW was the first event to cancel because of the pandemic, and Crows were forced to put their American dream on ice.
They also to play material from Beware Believers while in Texas as they’d already finished the new record. It seemed farcical that they’d have to wait a further two years before releasing the project, but that’s the position they found themselves in.
“We wrote it towards the end of 2019, recorded it in January 2020,” guitarist Stephen Goddard explains. “I think with the original idea that would come out April. Then, everything just went to shit. It’s been annoying to sit on it for so long, but it allowed us to go back and add extra bits to stuff like that and think it through a little more rather than rush it.”
As much as Crows wanted Beware Believers to be in the world in 2020, they couldn’t afford to make it work without the cushion of live shows to compensate for the costs of making the album.
Although it was a hard decision, it’s one that drummer Sam Lister believes was the correct one. “I felt bad for a lot of bands who released records in the lockdown, who weren’t able to tour around it, and then it just disappeared. They were really sick records, but it’s hard to build on them if you can’t play and don’t have massive support,” he comments.
He adds: “I think we had £17 in the bank account at one point because we didn’t have any shows. We were worried that we wouldn’t be able to print merch and had to do that on a credit card and then put the money back in. It’s tough, but it’s getting better.”
Many bands and venues didn’t manage to survive the pandemic, but Crows were determined to make sure this album was released. “I don’t think any of us would have consented to let that happen,” Lister says when asked if the band contemplated their future. “It’s fucking hard to write 11 songs. If they just sat there and nothing was ever done with them, it would have been really shit.”
In hindsight, Crows are thankful they decided to take their time rather than rush the release, even though it has been painful to sit on it for so long. “It definitely makes more sense giving it more time and not rushing it now that things are getting a bit more properly back to normal. It’s a bit of a safer bet, I guess, in that sense,” frontman James Cox says.
As the album has been part of their lives since being recorded in 2019, Crows have developed a somewhat strange relationship with Beware Believers. Most of all, they are underpinned by a sense of relief that it’s finally dropping, and they are relishing every moment of it.
Getting back to doing what they love is something Cox doesn’t take for granted, and performing is what he lives for. “We’ve always worked full-time jobs on top of being a band, and I think we’ve always used those other jobs to push the creativity. If you work a job you don’t particularly like, to be able to go and play music with your best friends and play a raucous live show, it gets all that energy pent up energy out.”
Crows have found a way to strike a balance that allows them to live a double life and fulfil their dreams in the evenings, which offers them an escape from the real world.
While in an ideal world, an album as triumphant as Beware Believers should mean they don’t have to work a full-time job alongside being in a band. However, if you’re in music for anything other than the sheer love of it, then you’re in the wrong business, and Crows creating an album of this magnitude with the odds stacked against them is a true success story.
Beware Believers is out now, which you can stream below.