Crawlers: “We want people to feel heard and liberated”

HUNGER catches up with the Liverpool quartet following the release of the eclectic and poignant ‘The Mess We Seem To Make’.

The Crawlers’ debut album, The Mess We Seem To Make, has been a long time in the making. The Liverpool band first formed back in 2018 with original members Amy Woodall, Liv May and Holly Minto, who were all attending Liverpool University at the time. After a period of gigging around the Liverpool underground scene, the trio would become a quartet following the recruitment of drummer Harry Breen. Eventually, their unique brand of grunge-rock would see them slowly pick up a loyal fanbase who clamoured for a raw, unapologetic and unfiltered band to take the UK music scene by storm. And after getting to grips with a tumultuous period during the pandemic, the band finally got their big break in the form of ‘Come Over (Again)’ – their massively viral 2021 track, which has now racked up over 50 million streams on Spotify alone. A series of EPs and support slots with the likes of Yungblud and My Chemical Romance followed – creating some rather fervent expectations for The Mess We Seem To Make.

‘Meaningless Sex’, the album’s intro track, is a particularly potent introduction. A grandiose guitar anthem, full of crashing drums and grungy guitars, with some typically attention-grabbing lyrics from Minto (“You called me heroin, but heroin is never this sweet”), but it’s just a taster for things to come. The urgent, driving ‘Would You Come To My Funeral’ is another highlight, a track that builds up a furious head of steam while Minto sings of mortality and regret (“There’s a seat laid out for you, I couldn’t pass without telling you that I miss you”). Meanwhile, ‘Golden Bridge’ shows off the band’s quieter side, a beautiful piano ballad which builds steadily into an epic, heart-wrenching song about looking across the River Mersey while struggling with mental health issues. “I paid the doctor so I could live happily, now I feel nothing at all,” is just one example of the poignant, tear-jerking lyricism displayed throughout the project’s runtime. With The Mess We Seem To Make, Crawlers sound very much like a band on the cusp of some very big things. 

Here, we sit down with Crawlers to discuss the creation of their debut album, why genre conventions are nothing more than an inconvenience and finding comfort through vulnerability.

HUNGER: Your debut album, The Mess We Seem To Make, just released – congrats! How would you say this project differs from your previous releases?

Harry Breen: With it being our debut album, there’s definitely a lot more pressure on this project compared to the last two. With the EPs, we could get away with testing the water with every different genre and style we wanted to. Of course, we wanted to keep that sort of versatility for the album, but we had to think more about how we could make these different styles work together sonically so it still feels like the same project. I think we pulled it off!

How long have you been working on the project? Could you describe the creative process behind it all?

HB: Well, obviously, with ‘Come Over (Again)’ being on the album, you could argue we’ve been working on it for over two years! But it was about this time last year when we sat down together and started thinking about how we were going to create the album and how we wanted it to sound. We agreed we wanted to keep our versatility for the project but needed to figure out a way to make it all work together. That came down to the production. We made sure we had a consistent drum sound and overall mix for the album so we could make grunge songs blend into piano ballads.

In regards to the creative process, it can differ. Sometimes, we jam it out as a band and gradually create the arrangements by reacting to each other playing. Other times, we will track our parts to a rough mix of Holly’s vocals and a metronome. In those cases, we’ll just press record and adlib whatever parts come naturally to us and just react to what the song wants itself to be. Then, in between takes, we’ll discuss which parts worked and which parts didn’t. I think that the second approach is our usual one.

Where did the inspiration for the title, The Mess We Seem To Make, come from?

HB: That came from a lyric in ‘That Time of Year Always’. It doesn’t feature on the album, but it was definitely a prelude to it. That was the song where we were figuring out what sounds and sonics we were going to end up using for the album. I think the phrase itself sums up our body of work in the past and sort of demonstrates that this debut album is what it has led up to.

Did you feel more pressure creating this project with the title of a “debut album” hanging over your head in comparison to when you were working on your mixtapes?

HB: don’t think so. Obviously, you only get one debut album, and everybody wants to make sure they do it right. But there’s no value in figuring out what you think a debut album is supposed to be before you can even consider what it will sound like when it’s finished. Yeah, you should have a vision. But that vision can and should be susceptible to change. No one knows what perfection is, and I don’t think we should want to know, as it will only harm the gratification you get for finishing an amazing project.

The project covers a lot of very real and difficult topics like trauma, sexual politics and mental health – how important was it for you not to shy away from those topics?

HB: Those topics have always been at the forefront of every song we do. Like with every work of art, it needs to come from a real place for it to thrive. We’re lucky enough that we have such a tight community of fans that allow us to express these opinions and topics because we know that we will all support each other when doing so.

What was the most difficult song to write from an emotional standpoint?

HB: I think Holly would probably say ‘Golden Bridge’. It’s definitely the most emotive track on the album, and it tackles all the emotions that come with being away from home so often with what we do. Fans already wail whenever we play that one live, so there’s clearly some potent enough emotions that are being translated!

How much closer has this whole process of creating your album brought you?

HB: The four of us have always been the best of friends, and so it’s hard for any career or project to bring us any closer. But I do think it’s helped us see ourselves and each other as actual professional musicians. This seems like a weird thing to say, but we’ve only been doing this full-time for two years now, and so before then, Crawlers was only our passion project. Now, it’s our passion project and our job. Because of that, we’ve been in the studio together and forced to push our limits as individual musicians. Watching each other learn new tricks to record a verse, and then applying those same tricks at a later point and nailing it first try because of the progress we’ve made. We’ve been able to inspire ourselves and each other by creating this album, which feels amazing.

What do you hope listeners will take away from the project?

HB: We want people to feel heard and liberated because of it. Even the hard-hitting topics on this album should provide some sort of liberation through validation. Realising you’re not the only one going through something can be really healing. Not only that, but we want people to realise that we’re a band that aren’t afraid to play whatever the fuck feels good to us. Some people might not like the fact that this album has such a wide array of sounds because they want an album to be consistent. Well, it turns out that if you play what feels right for a song, regardless of which song it’s sat next to, then the end result is strong enough that people will care less about the fact that they just heard a piano ballad coming out of a TOOL inspired bass line. We all listen to different genres of music, so why can’t we, as artists, make whatever the fuck we want without worrying about whatever predispositions people have on what a Crawlers track should sound like. 

You’ve been doing an intimate show crawl in support of the album’s release. What’s it been like connecting with your fans in those much more intimate moments?

HB: It feels amazing to play these songs stripped back and have all these fans singing along with us. We can’t wait to play the album with a full band set up, but for the time being, these acoustic sets are wholesome and are hitting the right spot.

How would you describe a Crawlers show?

HB: Chaotic, but in the best way possible.

Where would be your dream venue for you to perform?

HB: The Echo Arena in Liverpool (I know it’s called the M&S Bank Arena now, but it will always be The Echo). What band doesn’t want to play in an arena in their hometown? A hometown show will always be the best show any artist will play, and so, in my head, the best possible way to amplify that is to play at the biggest venue there.

Do you ever have time to sit back and reflect on all that you’ve achieved?

HB: Sometimes it can be difficult when you’re travelling everywhere all the time. Obviously, we’re very fortunate to be signed to a major label, but that means many people’s jobs depend on working with you, so your schedule gets booked up a lot. But every now and then, we’ll find ourselves playing a festival overseas where the label can’t reach us, and we can just enjoy the very fact that playing music has gotten us an overnight stay in Switzerland or Portugal.

What’s the goal for you in your career? Has it changed now that this album is finally out?

HB: Obviously, we want to grow as a band and a community so we can keep doing our dream jobs for as long as possible, but for us, the music and the fans will always come first. We will keep making the best music we can and continue to adopt people into our Crawlers family. The fact that doing that will result in our growth makes us the luckiest people in the world.

WriterChris Saunders