Interview – Crazy Arm

Crazy Arm have been away for a while, with the band taking a much needed 7 year break in between album releases. We’re pleased to announce that their latest album, Dark Hands, Thunderbolts, will be released very shortly – find out more below!

By Jane Howkins

You have a new album coming out this year titled Dark Hands, Thunderbolts. That’s an interesting title, where did it come from?

It was lifted from a book I was reading in 2015 but I can’t for the life of me remember which one! To me, it conveys a sense of foreboding and of some imminent paradigm shift, whether through a revolutionary act or an act of nature. I guess, unintentionally, that’s quite timely. We do actually have a song called Dark Hands, Thunderbolts. It’s not on the record as it didn’t really fit, but it’ll see the light of day at some point.

What can you tell us about the album?

It’s another sprawling, overreaching mess of Americana, punk, roots and rock. This time round we’ve let our love of Ennio Morricone run amok, which means lots of cinematic affectations amongst all the duelling guitars and epic, harmony-saturated choruses. Having conductor/composer, Simon Dobson, guest on trumpet for a few songs was the icing on the cake. I’d say that, it’s our heaviest and most expansive record, full of neurosis, anxiety, loss, self-doubt and hope. And it’s out on 29th January through our long-time label, Xtra Mile Recordings.

This is your first release in seven years – what have you been up to during that time? Have things changed much as a band since then?

We were still touring and writing the whole time, we just didn’t get round to recording until 2016. This band likes to take its time! Once we did start recording it took us four years to complete even though we only spent 21 days in the studio. Life, lethargy and poverty got in the way. In the meantime, Jon [Dailey – guitarist] got married, had a baby, and became a pro tattooist; I started playing solo as Warshy and played/travelled the US for the first time; Matt [Wise – drummer) moved to Bournemouth; Luke [Yates – violin) settled in Leeds and got married; we got a new bassist, Dan James, new harmony singers, Tia Kalmaru and Becky Saxton, and another violinist, Samantha Spake.

Needless to say, the band has changed beyond all recognition. We’re now a loose collective of 15 people including five drummers, three bassists, two harmony singers, two violinists, a trumpet player and a keyboardist. Every tour is a different line-up depending on availability and whether we’re playing rock or acoustic. All the main members are spread out across the country, in Bournemouth, Leeds, Bradford, Swansea and Plymouth, where Jon and I live. The logistics are never easy!

How has the writing and recording process changed for you over the years?

I’ve always been a control freak so it hasn’t changed much really! I compose the vast majority of songs but the arrangements and embellishments are made as a band. For this album, we had two drummers on board, Matt Wise and Tim Langsford. Matt is our long-time touring drummer and Tim is a good friend who we could spend more time working with as he lives in our hometown. I love the contrast of drum styles on the album. Matt is unrestrained punk rock energy while Tim is all about precision and groove. All the guitars and bass were written and played by Jon and me which made things a lot easier, especially as I prefer to have less people around in the studio. The trumpet player, violinist and harmony vocalists came in on separate days. We’ve worked with studio owner/engineer, Peter Miles, on all of our albums so we have a very good understanding of each other’s ways. And we recorded in Middle Farm Studios, deep in the Devon countryside, again. It’s the perfect setting.

We hear that you almost ended the band for good at one point, we’re glad you didn’t! Are you all in a more positive place now?

There was a point at the end of 2014, after a shaky year, when I started wondering if it was worth carrying on with the band. I had a conversation with Jon and he convinced me that we should do another album, at least. So we did! Now, with the band being this kind of collective, and with the passing of time, the dynamic has changed drastically and it’s all good. The unpredictability keeps things fresh and keeps us on our toes. And after 15 years of being a relatively small band, there doesn’t feel like there’s a need to put any pressure on ourselves any more. We can enjoy our slow slide into retirement.

Has the current pandemic affected the workings of the band at all?

It’s fucked everything up! I try not to think about it too much or my anxiety levels rocket. We only lost about five booked shows in March but not being able to arrange any UK or European tours in support of the album has been very frustrating, and that’s without the additional shitshow that is Brexit. Releasing the album, making videos, doing promotion, etc has been a ball-ache but we’re muddling through, and we just couldn’t delay the release any longer. Thankfully, our label agreed.

You have released a new single titled Brave Starts Here. What can you tell us about that?

The title came from an inspiring TED Talk by Lizzie Velasquez but, lyrically, it straddles a few different themes: heartbreak, resignation, courage and change. It’s also a bluegrass punk rock tribute to our good tour buddies and label-mates, Larry & His Flask. I miss that band so much.

Do you have any more singles planned for release? If so, when can we expect them to be released?

We put out The Golden Hind, a punk rock rager, in mid-December, and Fear Up, the final single from the album, came out on the 15th January. It’s our attempt to sound like Morricone conducting the Constantines. I’d love to be releasing proper singles on 7″ vinyl but that’s pretty unfeasible right now. We’ve done a couple homegrown videos too, which has been a lot of fun, and a good distraction from all the madness.

Do you have any tour dates planned for once the pandemic has ended?

We only have two dates booked at the moment, 2000 Trees festival and a London gig in October. I don’t feel very optimistic about festivals happening this year so that leaves us with the one date! If things pick up, we’ll book a whole tour around the London show. I don’t think there’s any point in booking shows before summer but I can understand why some bands are still doing so. Hope springs eternal.

Any last words for the fans?

Hello fans. Very sorry it took us so long to finish the album. We hope it lives up to your expectations. If we don’t manage to play your town this year, due to the twin troughs of Brexit and Covid, we’ll do our best next year. Also, we’re hoping to release a second record this year, featuring unused material from the album sessions plus some other new songs. Watch this space!