by: Thomas D. Mooney
Of the last few years, I feel like Crooks have probably been the biggest victim of circumstance when it comes to playing rough shows in Lubbock. Easter weekends and winter snow advisories have effected the band’s ability to bring a crowd around.
One show in particular, the band played on an icy and snowy Saturday night at The Blue Light a few Decembers back. Maybe–maybe 10 or 15 people were in attendance. A lot of times, a band will just call a spade a spade and pack up early, cancel, or mail in a show while getting plastered at the bar. Crooks didn’t end up doing that. They played on just as though the house was packed at capacity.
That attitude–along with their brand of fine songwriting–it’s made friends out of fans and fans out of strangers. Instead of leaving Lubbock that night without any more traction, they left with about 10 diehard fans. I’m not even trying to play this up either. But I think that night specifically, you could say cemented their cult status in Lubbock. It’s been growing in numbers ever since.
Of course though, being personable and likable only goes so far. This doesn’t happen if Crooks isn’t making great music. That’s the key to all this. Musically, they’re as Texas as you can get–not Texas Country–but Texas to its’ core. The blending of cinematic Spaghetti Western themes, ’70s outlaw country style, classic country vibes, honky-tonk attitudes, and Tex-Mex accents have made them one of the most unique bands in Texas.
We caught up with lead vocalist/guitarist Josh Mazour earlier this week to talk about the band’s continuing evolution. They’ll be playing at The Blue Light tonight (Saturday, April 18) along with the trio of Lubbock bands William Clark Green, No Dry County, and Dalton Domino.
For presale tickets, click here.
New Slang: This next record from you guys, it’s called Wildfire. I’ve read here and there about how you feel this album is a more focused effort than your previous work. Was that something you guys planned on or was it something, looking back, you realized that it seemed like a more focused planned album?
Josh Mazour: Yeah, it was something we discussed before going in and recording. We’re really proud of our last record, but hopefully as an artist or as a group of artists, you evolve as you move forward. With that said, after playing so many shows out on the road, we started seeing several directions that we wanted to go in as well as things that we didn’t want to do again on this album. I think, ideally, you become better songwriters with the more songs you write. We kind of found certain areas that we wanted to focus on for this album. The last one, I think there’s a lot of different sounds. There were a lot of different types of songs that we did. We still have that since it’s something that we do, but decided to hone in on a handful for this record.
NS: Yeah. You guys have a different sound going than many bands from the region. Mainly, because the ingredients involved within your band are much different from what other bands are working with. Call it what you want, Country, Outlaw Country, Folk–you guys have a distinct set of instruments that rarely are part of other bands’ formula–horns, upright bass, accordion.
JM: Oh yeah. Our goal as a band, has been not to fulfill a certain criteria to be part of a certain genre. Our goal isn’t to become a Texas Country band or an Outlaw Country band or anything like that. It’s to write the best possible songs we can. We think we have for this album. The next record, it could be completely different because we’re not motivated to sound a certain way.
NS: Yeah. For Wildfire, what’s about the oldest song written?
JM: Probably the song “New Mexico.” A lot of these songs, the cities and towns that we’ve played for the last year or so, they’ve been hearing these songs. We’ve done a lot of testing them out as we go.
NS: I guess the last five or six times you’ve played here in Lubbock, you’ve really seen a growth with each show when it comes to a following. I think right now, you could say that there’s a hardcore group of Crooks fans in Lubbock that have become friends with you guys. But lately, I think that’s been growing past that. Course, we both remember a show where there was like 12 people out because the roads were icy and it was snowing nonstop.
JM: Oh yeah [laughs].
NS: Do you kind of feel like you’re starting to see more traction in various towns and cities that were once pretty vacant? Seeing both ends of the spectrum.
JM: Well, first of all, Lubbock is an awesome town. We’ve had people supporting us there for a long time now. The shows are getting better. A good example of long-term listeners is our new drummer Joey Bybee, who is from Lubbock.
NS: Definitely. Yeah, I’m glad that he’s found a great spot since moving back down there.
JM: Yeah. He was a fan who became a friend who gave us a couch to crash on. Now he’s in the band, which is pretty cool. But yeah, things are growing. You know, we’re also a band who’s never had any radio play. We’ve been more of a boots on the ground kind of band. Go and play and come back and see what happens by word of mouth. It’s worked out well, but we’re actually going to have a new radio single coming out in May. That’ll kind of help things grow.
NS: Oh yeah? What’s the radio single called?
JM: It’s going to be “Fork in the Road.”
NS: What’s the story behind that song?
JM: I wrote it a while back. I had a full-time job a while back that I had for a long time. I was getting to the point where I was needing to make a decision. Was I going to stay with this full-time job that I had for a long time or quit and pursue music full-time. My fiancée at the time, I was talking with her dad about it. She was never really a fan of the music part. But I was talking with him about it and he said, “Well, if you come to a fork in the road, take it.” I thought it was clever and of course, you can interpret that whatever way you want. Ultimately, it’s about when you come to a point in your life where you need to make a life decision. Do you kind of settle on where you’re at or do you take a risk on your dream–hopefully, it’s a dream of yours. You should never wait too long on making that decision.
NS: When you’re in the beginning stages of writing a song, most of the time are you already envisioning the final product–what you want where–or are you really bringing just the rough idea to the rest of the guys and going from there? I’m sure it’s different every time, but for the most part, what ends up happening?
JM: I’d say that lately, I’ve been doing a lot of songwriting with Joey [McGill], our bass player. He’s been writing a lot of good songs lately. Before, it was typically me bringing something to the band, but what we’ve seemed to do lately is, if I’m working on a song, I’ll talk to Joey about how I see the song. Lately, I’ve been working on some stuff that’s like late ’70s truck driving songs–like eighteen-wheeler kind of trucking songs. I’ll go to him and say something like, “I’m thinking late ’70s, diner cafe, country, Marlboro Reds, and a disco beat.” Then we’ll go from there. I’ll come up with the basic structure of the song and then Joey loves taking that kind of stuff and running with it. We’ll kind of create the foundation, then show the band, and then let them kind of go crazy with it.
NS: How quick are you to showing a song to an audience?
JM: I guess there’s like two approaches to this. There are bands who will come up with a song idea, one they barely have–a rough idea–and they’ll go and play in front of an audience. They work through it and that’s just the kind of band they are. They improvise. We’re not one of those kinds at all. We’re kind of the opposite. And we’re so busy playing shows, trying to make some money while at home to pay bills, and everything, that we’re not able to practice three times a week like we’d like to. So it does take longer for us to get it out there. But we’re a band who like to talk about it a ton. We’re wanting to work it out as much as possible. We talk about the imagery of the song. What we see when we’re playing and what we want to get across. Really coming to terms with a song.