Leaving Crackout’s tour bus at the Manchester MDH date of their December tour, supporting the Alkaline Trio, their music and the whole point of their existence as a band made a hell of a lot more sense to me. This is a band that should not be taken for face value! Listening to their debut album, This Is Really Neat prior to the meeting, I heard 12 happy, bouncy songs that were made to be jumped around to, but at the end of the day, not taken very seriously as musical or emotional compositions. Having met them, not so much the actual interview itself, as the interaction between them and their whole personas gave me a whole new light on these three young, aspiring rock stars. Less of the effervescent yet really-quite-pointless album that I had first perceived, I now see the album is really quite an in-depth reflection of themselves, their opinions and emotions, and all that they have learnt during their past 4 years together as a rock group.
The honest, enthusiastic and sincere tone of the album I mentioned in my review is merely an echo of the three friendly, appreciative and, I suppose, almost humble characters I was greeted by. The three band members seemingly have quite varied personalities and musical tastes, but they blend together as a fantastic team – not only musically. Steven Eagles, lead singer, guitarist and primary song writer of the band (who is a self confessed fan of DiS) is so eager to please. He answers every question as fully and thoughtfully as he possibly can, taking a distinct lead in answering the majority of the questions. Drummer, Nick Millard, comes across as… well to be honest he comes across as being completely exhausted. Although he doesn’t speak excessively, when he does; his words are of passion tinged, well rounded, interesting thoughts and opinions. Jack Dunkley - bassist extraordinaire – without coming over as being arrogant, he is certainly the most outgoing of the three. Sprawled out on the two seats facing me, scratching his belly and making comical remarks here and there, Jack rightly completes this modest trio and adds the finishing touches to everything the music stands for.
Seeing them perform later that evening, I recognised prominent aspects of the characters I had just discovered in an interview that went something like this…
What’s the story behind the name ‘Crackout’? Why did you decide to name the band that?
Steven: There was a TV show about 5 years ago called ‘My So Called Life’ and there was a guy in it I liked called ‘Brian Crackout’. That got morphed into Crackout. It was at a time when we were struggling to think of names and we chose that one for a gig that started us off, so we thought, “oh shit, we’d better stick with it”. I’m not that fond of it but we don’t hate it so we’re happy to keep it.
The press and music critics have been very hasty to categorise your music as punk-rock, which is a genre of music that is potentially quite bland. What do you think makes Crackout stand out against other punk-rock acts?
Jack: Sex appeal - we’re such good looking lads haha… hmm I think that’s the last thing.
Steven: Bit of depth… I don’t know if we’re that punk-rocky
DiS: What would you categorise your music as? Or do you not like to be pigeon-holed?
Steven: It’s hard to categorise your own band
Jack: We’re also a changing band really… a work in progress
Steven: (To Jack) Especially yourself
Jack: Yeah, I’m still taking bass lessons from an old lady that goes to the church in my village, she teaches me piano and organ…(becoming serious) I just hate the punk-pop fucking phrase though. It reminds me of those two girls… ‘Shampoo’!
Do you remember the first time you were asked for an autograph?
Nick: The first time I was asked was in Manchester in 1998. Someone asked me to sign ‘Chuck/Volume’.
Steven: The first time you do it, you do it like you sign a cheque - it’s your signature
Jack: With capitals underneath as well
DiS: (to Steven) Why do you sign your name ‘Steven Crackout’ instead of Steven Eagles?
Steven: I like the way with Crackout you can do a curl on the end of the ‘t’. You cant do that with…er what’s the last letter of Eagles?
Jack: ’S’… change it to a ‘t’ and have Eaglet
Steven: I dunno, I’ve never been fond of my surname. People often ask if it’s a stage name.
Jack: Also, a lot of people ask us to sign merchandise of the other band. So, just to underline that we’re *not* that band… it comes in useful.
Steven: It associates us with this band.
A lot of the magazine reviews of ‘This Is Really Neat’ state that you have potential and that you’re going to improve. Do you think that ‘This Is Really Neat’ is the best album you could have made?
Steven: It was definitely the best album we could have made at the time. It took us 4 years to grow into what we were at that time, but in the time between now and then, we’ve probably grown that amount again, because we can see how people are responding to it. I’m dead happy with ‘This Is Really Neat’ but I know the next record will be much better.
DiS: So you’re still progressing and learning?
Steven: Yeah! And that’s much better. I’d rather it be like that, than having made the best album we could ever make - because that’s the goal. We’ve been trying to do this for a long time. I’m dead happy with ‘This Is Really Neat’ and I wouldn’t change it, but there are definitely better things to come.
At this point, Steven discovers that he’s “covered in glittery shit” and seems genuinely quite puzzled as to its origin (although I must comment on Nicks guilty silence hehe)… Jack obligingly suggests that “maybe someone’s done a glittery poo, and you trod in it…” Closing the question, Steven retorts “I WOULD change the bass player” On with the interview then!
On the album, you haven’t really used any computer effects, it’s all recorded live. Why did you decide to take this approach?
Nick: Because everyone’s doing it at the moment. We’re human beings, not computers, so we thought ‘lets make a record like Led Zeppelin did, or Jimmy Hendrix’. It takes a lot longer and it costs more, but it sounds a lot more human. On records now there are no mistakes; everything’s perfect. If you listen to the old records, they’ve got lots of depth and soul, but you can hear if they hit a wrong note, or the drummer hits his stick on the rim – that just shows that it’s a human playing. If a computer rectifies that, it takes all the life and soul out of it. We used computers to a certain extent, but that was just to get certain effects.
Jack: We used a Playstation 2!
Steven: We didn’t want to use the computer as another member of the band, we just used it to record us more accurately. We didn’t change anything we played.
Do you have any favourite tracks on the album? Or any with sentimental value?
Steven: I like ‘Barricaded’. It’s my favourite musically and lyrically. I also really like Edit and Fairytale Nothing.
DiS: Ohh Fairytale Nothing is my favourite!
Steven: (In a jokey, but really quite smug manner)I know. I’ve read your review!
Here, I get all flustered and blush and everyone laughs at me. So, with a swift change of subject we quickly move on…
What do you consider to be the weakest tracks? Or ones that you didn’t personally want on the album?
Nick: If there was one album track I wouldn’t have on, it would be ‘Guillotine’. That’s the only one that if I’m listening to the album, I’ll flick past.
DiS: Do you listen to your own album a lot?
Nick: I haven’t listened to it for ages. You go through a stage when you’ve finished your recordings that you’re so excited, you listen to it and listen to it. By the time it’s all mixed, about a month later, you aren’t really into it anymore. You just hear all your mistakes and wonder why you did *that* drum roll and you think it’s all really rubbish. Then you leave it for a while and when you go back to it and you’re pleased with it again. I don’t listen to it that much.
Where did the ideas for the album sleeve and the website come from? And how do they tie in with the album?
Nick: I went to a museum in Bath, and they had these paintings up by Jane Wooster Scott. A few years later I saw a huge book - ‘The Complete Works of Jane Wooster Scott’ for about £2.50. When we came to sorting out the album artwork, I got loads of art books out because we thought it’d be really good to have a painting - instead of a picture of ourselves. We thought we’d be really hands-on with it. Out of all the artists, we thought she was the most appropriate. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, because everyone says we sound American, or that we’re trying to be American – so we thought ‘lets use the most American painting we can possibly find’ as a ‘Fuck You’ to them. Then we used the title ‘This Is Really Neat’ which seemed to be quite American as well...so yeah, we’re trying to be American!
You’ve toured quite a few times with Vex Red, who play quite a different style of music to you – theirs is much more metal/hard rock orientated. Have you found that they’re a hard act to follow or that the audience is more geared towards their music?
Steven: It’s hard to please audiences who like Slipknot or Papa Roach because we don’t please that sort of people at all. So, in that respect, it’s hard. When people read about us in Kerrang, we’re perceived as a rock band and if they’re into hard rock, they don’t really understand what we’re going to sound like, and sometimes people who are into mainstream rock are a bit confused by us.
Steven: Yeah, that’s probably a better word. But in terms of Vex Red in particular, I don’t think they’re a hard act to follow.
Jack: The thing is, they’re more in keeping with the current trends in rock. It’s not that we’re more complicated than they are, but as you said earlier, it’s harder to pigeon-hole us.
Nick: And they’re better than us – that’s the main thing.
Jack: Skinnier and better looking
Nick: And older! God knows what we’re going to look like when we get to their age.
Jack: Saggy old men
Do you get nervous before your shows?
DiS: Did you use to?
Steven: No, if anything, I’ve grown into getting nervous. I don’t really get mega nervous, but sometimes a little bit about 5 minutes before a show. If it’s guaranteed to be diabolical then I get nervous.
Jack: A mixture of nerves and dread… usually at Leeds.
Steven: We never go down well in Leeds.
Do you ever get bored or frustrated playing the same songs over and over again? Especially songs such as ‘Breakout’, that you’ve been playing for a long time.
Steven: No, we try to have a break from songs that we’ve been playing for a long time. We just play the ones that we like playing. We’ve just released our album and we play about 8 songs in our set, and 3 of them aren’t even on the album. I don’t know if that’s just bad PR…
Jack: …It’s good to rotate tunes
Steven: (joking) and our songs are fucking awesome so…
Jack: Yeah, you never get bored of our songs! Mmm-mmm, they’re so good.
Nick: When we play a headline tour, we’ll play stuff like Volume, Fairytale Nothing and Barricaded – it’ll be fun to do those.
How do you manage to keep up the tour diaries on the website? Do they take up a lot of time?
Nick: Yeah. I’ve decided not to do anymore on this tour. I cant be bothered.
DiS: Do you think you’ll be able to keep that up in the future?
Nick: Yeah. I think I will. If I really don’t want to do an interview or something, I just say I’ve got to do the tour diaries.
What do you think of everything that’s happening in Afghanistan?
Nick: I think the Americans are probably taking it a bit too far. I’m not sure if this is true, but I heard somewhere that more Afghan civilians have been killed by the bombing than were killed in the World Trade Centre and Pentagon attacks. It’s a bit like when the Germans blitzed London and then we turned round, with the Americans, and bombed the shit out of the German civilians and we killed far more of them than the Germans killed us. It all swings in roundabouts.
Jack: Luckily we live in the world of ‘ring-a-ring-o-roses’.
Nick: Haha, yeah, we’re in a rock band – we’re in our own world so nothing seems to affect us.
And what do you think of the legalisation of cannabis?
Steven: I find that very, very amusing. It’s like a law for something that’s lawless.
Jack: I think I stopped smoking shit about a year ago so it’s just bad timing.
Nick: It makes you stupid.
Steven: It makes you *damn* stupid. It melts your brain. I don’t smoke anyway because I’m a singer.
Jack: We’ve seen people smoke far too much grass and they just turn into idiots.
Crackout are self-admittedly not the three prettiest men in the music scene right now (although, they’re by no means the least attractive!) and they’ve still got a way to go musically, but you see, it doesn’t matter. They’re not about image, they’re not trying come across as deep, tortured souls, and they don’t look like “they've just been down to the rock star shop to get fancy hair and cool belts etc” (Nick). They’re about honesty, reality, emotion, producing the best music they can and then learning more to improve that “best”.
The members of this band have a fantastic attitude and the tunes to back it up and I for one (in case you hadn’t noticed) have been won over by their charms. If you haven’t already, I strongly recommend that you invest in a copy of the aptly titled – ‘This Is Really Neat’.