Interview: Shane Greenhall – Those Damn Crows

The continued rise of people’s-champions Those Damn Crows has been one of the most heart-warming stories of the last few years. The Welsh five-piece has really struck a chord on so many fronts and the self-proclaimed Crowfamily grows stronger every day. Album number three ‘Inhale/Exhale’ is set to gatecrash the National Album charts on Friday, and Crows vocalist Shane Greenhall took some time out before the recent Newcastle show to have a chat about the album, and all things Crows-related. Check-in with Shane, below.

As an interviewer, it’s very seldom that you get the chance to speak to a vocalist so close to a show, so I was just curious, what are you like in the run-up to showtime? Do you need time to get into “the zone”; do you have a routine; or is it just a case of “It’s showtime, let’s do it”

That’s a great question, man. It does change because sometimes you don’t have the time to do this. But tonight we got the soundcheck over with really early, we’ve had a little bit of food, and now we have some downtime before the show. I do like to warm up, but with the album just out there is so much to do promo-wise, and I think that today is the first time that we’ve had an hour or so before the show to relax.

Do the other guys in the band leave you alone before a show, or are they winding you up as you are trying to get into your headspace?

[Laughs] We like to have at least 45 minutes where it is just the band. No crew, no press…just so we can get into that headspace. We have a show to put on and we are talking about that and how we are going to do it, we all have our own routines I guess.

On the subject of shows, it must be an incredible feeling knowing that most of the tour was sold-out well in advance.

It is incredible, yes. To be sold out as early as it did really relieved a lot of pressure. Sometimes you need to get support acts in that can bump up the numbers, but this time around it was a case of getting bands in that we love [James & The Cold Gun, and Valhalla Awaits] rather than how many tickets they can sell, and that’s a wonderful feeling. There are still a few tickets left for the Swansea Arena show on February 25th, that one is slightly different with it being an arena obviously, but we are over the moon that people are coming out to see us. We’ve also got all these instore appearances in record stores in the afternoon before a gig, and we do a little acoustic set and get to hang out with the fans which is brilliant. It’s all guns blazing…and we are thrilled!

The Swansea Arena show…how big is the guest list on this one?

[Laughs] Yes, you wouldn’t believe how many people have come out of the woodwork for this one! “Can you get me on the list?”…I think that I have 16 people coming? The boys are also pretty much into double figures with family and friends. It’s incredible for us to headline an arena show, so yes, why not. Just being in a band is so difficult these days, so it is rewarding to bring the family along and say “Look where we are…look at what we have done”.

It’s going to be an emotional night, tears will be shed for certain.

100%. Our music, especially this new album, is incredibly poignant and we’ve all been through some pretty dark shit, as everybody has, and to bring it home – well, Wales – and some of these people have been there since day one. People are travelling from all over the UK to witness our first headline arena show so absolutely it will be emotional, and we can’t wait. We do have something a little bit special worked out for it obviously because of the size of the arena, we are going to try a few things…so if you can’t get a ticket for any of the other shows…then travel down to Wales to see us! I can guarantee that it will be worth it.

You must have experienced the setlist dilemma by now. Three albums under your belts, what do you leave out? But in a strange way, having people moan about the setlist is a good thing, it’s really a good sign that you have made it.

It is, yes. This is our third show on this tour, and on the back of the dates last year with Monster Truck people are saying that the new songs feel like they have been there for months. And that’s always a good sign. With every album cycle, there is a new evolution of the band and we are fortunate that people have taken to the new album, they are already singing the lyrics back to us…which is helping me because – I’ll tell you right now – I’m not the best at remembering lyrics, even my own ones. You never really know how the songs will connect with people until you play them live…and the last two shows it’s like “Holy shit, how do they even know when to come in” and they are almost dictating how we play the song. It’s incredible.

Earlier you touched on the in-store appearances where the band is performing acoustically, and you are playing acoustic guitar, is this the way that the songs were created?

I’ve played guitar since I was 6 or 7, my Dad played the guitar, so I’ve always picked up the guitar when I’ve written songs…I wrote my first song when I was 13. I obviously play a bit of piano, so either of those instruments is what I use to get the foundations of a song. I then take it to rehearsal and jam it with the boys. From the start I guess, we’ve always had this idea of what we wanted the band to be…and I think that just me focusing on the vocals and stuff early doors really helped, and kind of…I don’t know…put my stamp on what the band is and it lets me do all the stuff like jump off balconies because I can’t do that if I have a guitar on! But it’s the third album now and we are evolving so we can pick the guitar up for a bit, and then put it back down, it’s just something different for the show.

You’ve talked a few times now about the band evolving, in what ways do you feel that the band – and yourself – has evolved since the debut album?

Just life, man. You grow as an individual, and the minute that you do – and I’ve said this before – some of the best songs on the planet come from grief. From pain, from trauma. We are not that old by any stretch of the imagination, but we are getting to that age where people around us, family members, are [sadly, several members of the Crows have lost a parent over the last year or so]. And it’s not taken for granted anymore. So I think that we have evolved as people and as musicians, you translate that into music, and I think that’s what ‘Inhale/Exhale’ is all about. I guess it’s about telling our story.

That all ties in with the staggering artwork for ‘Inhale/Exhale’; the decaying ribcage on one side, and the other side flourishing, simply stops you in your tracks. You must have been blown away when you saw it for the first time…especially on vinyl.

Yeah, we knew straight away. We’ve worked with the artist Alex Tillbrook before, and Alex just got what idea and the concept of ‘Inhale/Exhale’ was all about…about life and death…and it just kept coming back to the ribcage and how we should split it in half; one half dying, and the other full of life. And that’s exactly what life is; that pendulum swinging between, good, bad, love, loss…and it was the perfect imagery. We’ve been doing all these record stores and signing the vinyl, and it’s really a proud moment because you are signing a piece of art, it’s not just a record.

There is quite a modern feel to the album, and it is perfect for the massive North American market, are there any plans to get the Crows over the water?

That’s the dream, man. Since the band started, everyone has said that we have that American vibe, and there was an American influence when we were growing up so there is bound to be that influence in the Crow’s DNA. We were talking about America before Covid happened, and Brexit happened as well, which has made it that much more difficult to get over the borders. But that is definitely the dream and I’m hoping that we can if not at the end of this year, then maybe next year.

Those Damn Crows opening for an act like Shinedown in America makes so much sense.

Oh, man, that would be incredible.

The Goo Goo Dolls this Summer is a great match.

They are phenomenal, and when you have been doing it as long as they have and are still producing killer albums…they are the bands that you learn the most from. We cannot wait to get out with them and see how they do things. It’s a new market for us, maybe not one that we are used to, and that’s got to be a good thing. Really looking forward to it.

Looking at the photos from the various instores, is it fair to say that you guys are having the time of your lives right now?

We are so blessed to have a fanbase that gets us as people, and not just because we are in a band. When they turn up and spend their money…the record store appearances aren’t just about selling records, I swear to God, that wasn’t the case for us – it might have been for the record label – but I can guarantee now that they are an opportunity for us to touch base with the fans and thank them because we haven’t been able to do that on other tours. Just being able to say “thank you” and sign their copy of the album and make it an original for them is an incredible feeling. We genuinely love taking time to do that because we are nothing without them and we don’t want to stop. We will keep going and hopefully, they will join us for the ride.

There is a fantastic community spirit surrounding the band, your videocast Crowcast is extremely popular, and then you also have Crowfitness; where did the idea for that come from?

Again, man, it’s one of our Crowfamily members, Annie Joyce, she is into her fitness and just contacted us one day to say that she was thinking about doing a fitness membership thing like an offshoot of the Crowfamily. The idea was to get people moving, whether it be walking, running, or doing workouts and even yoga, and she asked if she could put the Crowfamily stamp on it and we thought it was an incredible idea because it was during covid and people couldn’t get out of the house so it was things that they could do in the house to keep fit. We got fully behind it and that again just blew up, it’s unbelievable, mate. We created a band because we loved music, but the community that has come after it… no one saw that coming. We are so thankful, and so honoured that we are a part of this.

How was your Download Festival experience last year? It must have been special playing the mainstage…was it (ahem) gone in a blink of an eye?

It was surreal, to say the least. We have all been to Download as punters on numerous occasions, and we played the reduced-capacity pilot just after the lockdown was lifted, we also played it a few years before that on the Dogtooth Stage. But to be back, and play the mainstage, was truly special. To be honest, we should have had a few more gigs under our belts before playing the mainstage, I mean, that is a huge stage, but it is what it is. I had hurt my back before, and this was kind of my first gig back after I had hurt myself, and I was conscious of that. But as soon as the boys started playing on the first song, it was like…bang, straight back into it…I was jumping off the stage and down into the crowd. I had to sign a waiver that I wouldn’t jump on the monitors and stuff…they had seen our shows, so it was a £10,000 fine if I did, but about halfway through the set I suddenly found myself on the monitors that they said that I couldn’t go on and it was just instinct, so I was like “Oh, shit…” but they didn’t fine me. It’s every band’s dream to play that stage and we were honoured to play our part.

Finally, Crowcast, it’s great fun and everyone loves it, so, in an old-fashioned Michael Parkinson kind of way, who would be your ideal three guests to appear on Crowcast, from any period of time and from any walk of life, not just music?

Ah, man! [brief pause] I would probably pick Freddie Mercury…John Lennon…and my Dad. Three absolute legends in my world, yeah, that would be awesome.

 

Interview – Dave

All live images – Dave Jamieson

Portrait image – Dean Chalkley

‘Inhale/Exhale’ is available now via Earache Records, more information here.

Catch Those Damn Crows on one of their remaining live dates listed below:

Fri 24th Feb – LONDON Islington Assembly Hall SOLD OUT

Sat 25th Feb – SWANSEA Arena LOW TICKETS

Tickets for Swansea Arena are available here.

Instore appearances:

Thu 23rd Feb – Rough Trade, Nottingham at 6pm SOLD OUT

Fri 24th Feb (London show day) – Flashback, London (Islington) at 1pm SOLD OUT

Sat 25th Feb – HMV, Swansea at 2pm NEW DATE ADDED

Tue 28th Feb – Rough Trade, Bristol at 6:30pm LOW TICKETS

Wed 1st Mar – Phase One, Liverpool at 7pm NEW DATE ADDED

Thu 2nd Mar – HMV, Cardiff at 6pm NEW DATE ADDED

Fri 3rd Mar – Pryzm, Kingston at 7pm (Banquet Records Outstore – Full Band Electric Show)

More information on instore appearances here.

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