Cranebuilders hail from Liverpool, but, described by Guy Garvey from Elbow as "somewhere between the Velvet Underground, Leonard Cohen and Smog" and "the most important unsigned band in Britain", sound unlike any other group that has come from that great Northern city.

The band consists of Tommy Roberts on vocals and guitar ; Simon Reynolds on guitar ; Helen Turner on keyboards ; Matt McPartin on bass and Steve Keast on drums.

Cranebuilders have released 3 EPs to date, 'Bitch', 'Your Song' and 'Just Idleness'. More information can be found about them at www.cranebuilders.net

Pennyblackmusic met with the band in early August, just before they were due to play a show at the London I.C.A.

PB : There's a lot of myths about the band on the net, so this interview is to put the record straight. First of all how did you evolve into Cranebuilders because there's a story you all live together in a house.

TR : No.

(The rest of the band laughs)

PB : The story was that you live in like a Monkees TV show style house.

TR : No. We don't know where that story came from. We rehearse at my house, so that might be where that story came from. I knew Simon and Steve before I knew Matt and Helen, and I worked in a music store which is now closed with Simon so we used to play our early stuff and rehearse in the basement there and then we decided we wanted to take it a bit further.

PB : What was the name of the music store ?

TR : It was Cranes music store in Liverpool.

PB : So that's where you got the name ?

TR : Yeah !It was a guitar shop. It used to sell records, but not when we were there. John Peel always says that's the first place he brought records from.

PB : So how long has the band been going then because there's been 3 releases to date and a U.S. limited to 500 copies demos mini album ?

TR : Is it 3 years ?

SR : 3 years

TR : 3 years last May.

PB : The first EP, 'Bitch', came out about a year ago.

TR : June

SR : June last year.

PB : So you all live in Liverpool. How has the reaction to the band been locally because you don't have a predictable Liverpool sound.

TR : Right ! It's been quite strange really because when we first started we found it difficult to get gigs, so we used to play in a coffee shop/pub in Berry Street, in which you could only get 50 people in. We used to go in there with our rehearsal PA and let people in for free and hand them demo tapes. We did that for a couple of months and then we started to get proper gigs.

SR : We played the Lomax in Liverpool a few times and the Picket.

SK : We got our best reaction outside of Liverpool though.

TR : We played Manchester and Glasgow. It's like when we play Liverpool you get another Liverpool band come up and say you're good and all that but after a while that gets a bit boring. You think maybe we don't sound like that.

PB : Why Cranebuilders ? I can see why you called yourself the first part, 'Crane', because of the shop, but why 'Builders'.

SR : The shop was in the Crane Building, so Cranebuilders seemed right.

TR : I wanted something that sounded a lot different from everything else and I wanted something like the Palace Brothers, but there seems to be a lot of 'Brothers' in band names of late.

PB : Your record sleeves don't give much away. Is that on purpose ?

TR : I felt very uncomfortable about the second one, 'Your Song'.

PB : The one with your picture on.

TR : I didn't really like that. It was nothing against the photographer. I just felt uncomfortable doing the whole photo shoot, and afterwards I felt uncomfortable as well.

PB : You do something noone else does these days. You put 4 tracks on a single.

TR : There's no reason for that.

SR : It just seemed the best way to get the stuff out.

PB : Can you still get in the charts because of that ?

SK : No, but we never really saw them as singles. We saw them as releases.

SR : We put 4 songs on there to give you a taste of what we do.

TR : We had 8 songs that we were playing regularly. We kind of had that as our demo batch and we were supposed to be releasing that on a label that was being set up in Liverpool, but we decided in the end not to sign to them. We then started talking to Mike at Devil in the Woods. He has been fantastic, absolutely brilliant with us and he just loved eveything he heard. I was sending CDs over to him and he was saying "Can I release them ?" and he now wants to release an album, but we don't know how that is going to work out at the moment.

PB : You have done 2 Peel sessions. How do you feel that they went ?

TR : The first one for me was a bit too tense. It was the first time we had been down there. I wanted it to be really enjoyable and it was good, but we had a different manager there and we knew that we were going to release it as the B sides of the first EP and I just wanted it to be a bit more relaxed. The second one was absolutely fantastic though.

PB : You're currently on a label called Ten People Tell. Is that a Liverpool label ?

TR : No, it's our own label. It's kind of funny because every time we release something someone else comes along and gets involved. The last one, 'Just Idleness' was a Ten People Tell release. The first one, 'Bitch' was an imprint of someone else's thing and 'Your Song', the second one, was with Skinny Dog.

PB : On the whole I have liked all your recordings, but with 'Just Idleness' I felt that you had really nailed it on the head. Do you feel more comfortable now ?

SR : It was probably the best recording we have ever done. It was hard work. The first EP was made up of demos. The second EP was mostly the Peel Sessions and on the third one we went into the studio and recorded 4 songs for a record.

PB : I originally came to the band because a lot of my Bunnymen friends like the band, but I have listened to Cranebuilders and I can't hear it.

TR : I have never listened to them. I was talking to a friend of mine about that because I like David Bowie and Leonard Cohen and he was saying Ian McCulloch is really into them so maybe that's the thing.

PB : How would you decribe to the band to someone who doesn't know the group ?

SR : You tell us !

PB : Your music's slow and moody, but it doesn't sit with the slow and moody that I normally listen to.

SR : Other people have done it for us as well. Other people say we sound like such and such.

TR : It was like I was a massive Velvet Underground fan and it never occured to me that we would sound like the Velvet Underground.

PB : I think that is because you're slow and of the way your music progresses amd grooves along.

TR : It's strange because it's only me and Helen that are big Velvet Underground fans. Simon listens to them a bit.

MM : People say we sound like the Velvet Underground and then you go and buy it and it's like "No, we don't"

TR : I love the Velvet Underground and they have influenced a lot of other bands I like like the Silver Jews, so there's nothing wrong with being compared to them.

PB : With the music do you write your own parts ?

TR : Yeah basically.

SR : Tom writes the lyrics or most of them. Sometimes the song comes from someone else and it gets jammed up. It's normally Tom's songs and I put my guitar part on and Matt will come up with a bass line. We try to be flexible.

PB : How's the album coming along ?

TR : What album ?

PB : Are you starting to record it ?

TR : We were supposed to be recording it in July, but the financing went.

PB : I would imagine that you're financing it yourself.

TR : Not the album ! We were going to, but someone else has come along.

PB : Thanks for your time.

TR : Thanks for having us.















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