Crows release their second album ‘Beware Believers’ and Joel Amey (Wolf Alice) remix of ‘Slowly Separate’
London four-piece Crows are today releasing their highly anticipated second album, ‘Beware Believers’! This record is the first release on the new Fuzz Club imprint Bad Vibrations Records and we’re mega excited to be kicking things off with a record as killer as this. Equal parts ferocious and hedonistic, ‘Beware Believers’perfectly captures the raucous, anarchic energy that Crows have become notorious for on the stage since they formed back in 2015. You can stream the album in full below and pick up a copy here. Alongside the album the band are also today sharing a remix of ‘Slowly Separate’ by Wolf Alice’s Joel Amey, also available to stream below.
Following the release of their long-awaited debut album ‘Silver Tongues’ on the IDLES-run Balley Records back in 2019 (a sold-out UK tour with the Bristol heavyweights also followed the album’s release), Crows immediately set to work on its follow-up. “We started writing the album in the downtime between tours just after releasing Silver Tongues in the Spring of 2019”, frontman James Cox recalls: “We were really determined to follow up the album as quickly as possible and keep that ball rolling and we were creatively in a really good place.”
By January 2020 they were already back in London’s Fish Factory Studios (the same studio and team with which they made ‘Silver Tongues’) tracking what would become the ‘Beware Believers’ LP. Their debut was a long time coming but this time around Crows had no intention of taking things slow and patiently. The new album was quickly coming along, they were playing to busier and busier crowds and were gearing up for their first trip to the US for SXSW – and then Covid hit.
Not only did the arrival of the pandemic cancel their upcoming shows, including the US run they had planned around SXSW, but it also put the recording of the new album to a sudden halt. For a band known first and foremost for their live shows, who were also right in the middle of a creative and critical surge, the lockdown-enforced break was initially hard to stomach. However, Cox admits that the album Crows came out with on the other side of lockdown was all the better for it.
“Once we knew Covid was here to stay, we took the first break we’ve taken since we released our first single ‘Pray’ in 2015. Being locked down for three months unable to finish the last bits of the record was very frustrating but it did mean we could come back to the album with fresh ears and make sure it sounded like it should: a true representation of Crows.” Loud, cathartic and abrasive – a quintessential Crows record it certainly is. Steve Goddard’s guitars are typically bludgeoning, the rhythm section of Jith Amarasinghe (bass) and Sam Lister (drums) utterly primal and Cox’s deep, cavernous vocals as commanding as ever.
Wasting no time, album-opener ‘Closer Still’ kicks off proceedings with an exercise in pummeling noise-rock. One of several unapologetically political songs on the album, Cox says: “‘Closer Still’ was written about the fit-for-work scandals that kept happening where the Department for Work & Pensions were deeming people fit for work when they obviously weren’t able to, taking away what little support they received from the state in an attempt to save on expenditure. It really highlighted our government’s contemporary for the vulnerable. People whose daily lives were incredibly difficult.”
With lyrics like ‘So take me back, give me walls, make me feel like it's more like the old days!’ and ‘I don’t have to hide anymore / I can say what I please and be famous’, Cox describes the snarling ‘Garden of England’ as Crows’ Brexit anthem. A rallying track that says more than most in barely two minutes of music, he says that ‘Garden of England’ is “a comment on the divisiveness Brexit caused - splitting families and friends, widening the north-south divide and empowering nationalism.” Lead single ‘Slowly Separate’ also revels in both sonic and societal discord; tapping into the dog-eat-dog reality of life in London and the often-relatable plight of “working a job you hate and going through the mundane routine of hand to mouth living”.
When Crows were writing the album amongst growing socio-political unrest, Cox says he found both solace and creative inspiration in dystopian novels: “The majority of the themes on the album came from what was going on in the world around in summer 2019, Covid wasn't in our lives and the biggest impact was Brexit and the madness our government were putting us through. I was reading a lot of J.G. Ballard and Kurt Vonnegut whilst all this craziness was going on around us and it was a weird headspace to get into.” Getting into such a headspace is paramount to the band’s creative approach. Where ‘Silver Tongues’ was recorded in near-total darkness to build atmosphere, for the ‘Beware Believers’ sessions Cox recalls playing hide and seek in the studio, only the seeker would chase the others with a section of knives (“It kept us on all edge and kept the intensity up”).
Crows’ lyrics have long been known to pull from Cox’s bizarre and borderline-obsessive research wormholes and ‘Beware Believers’ is no different. Never ones to shy away from the unsettling and sinister, the towering ‘Room 156’ took inspiration from the American serial killer H.H. Holmes who would murder the unfortunate patrons of his World’s Fair Hotel (informally called ‘The Murder Castle’) as well as transcripts of sermons from a 1900s faith healer called Reverend Major Jealous Divine. “I used to be quite obsessed with true crime for a long time, and this song was kind of born out of that”, Cox says: “It’s basically just an amalgamation of all the mad shit I read about.”
Elsewhere, the lyrics atop ‘Wild Eyed and Loathsome’s menacing groove are adapted from a poem Cox’s father wrote called ‘Circles of the Moon’ (“I remember him showing it to me and I just immediately thought it could work as a Crows song”) and the brooding ‘Healing’ was written after reading Rupi Kaur’s ‘Milk And Honey’: “I’d been going through some pretty intense personal stuff at the time so this is the song I’m most attached to on the album. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to either going through healing or being with someone’s who’s struggling with it and all I can say is all power to you, time is the healer and it will get better.”
Similarly personal is ‘Sad Lad’, which brings the album to a close in a slow-burning wall of noise. “This is pure and simple my ode to Daniel Johnston”, Cox says: “He was always a massive influence on me and when he passed it hit me really hard, but out of that came some beautiful creativity.” Similar to the themes that ran through Johnston’s own offbeat lo-fi poetics, the lyrics on ‘Sad Lad’ view the protagonist’s mental anguish through the eyes of devils and demons (‘Does the devil know your name? / Did he hear your thoughts? / Did he feed your demons full?’).
“Beware Believers has felt like a marathon, a real endurance test that’s been a long, winding road filled with highs and lows and plenty of twists and turns”, Cox reflects on an album that doesn’t just perfectly capture the incendiary, bolt-from-the-blue energy we’ve come to expect from Crows but also the chaos of the times it was forged in the midst of. Rather than wallow in the face of the challenges faced, whether they be personal, political or global, ‘Beware Believers’ takes it all in and offers a much-needed shot of adrenaline instead. It’s the sound of a band that has used adversity to master their craft and come out the other side with their best work yet.