Sitting at Number Three in the Official UK Album Midweek Chart, this is a big weekend for Those Damn Crows. We will find out their final position in just under two hours, but with Islington Academy tonight and Swansea Arena tomorrow, the good news does not just stop there. April finds the band at KK’s Steel Mill before an even larger tour kicks off in June.
Shane was diagnosed with a chest infection this morning, so the Swansea record store signing has been cancelled, and today’s London signing is with the rest of the band.
MetalTalk’s Andy Shaw caught up with drummer Ronnie Huxford earlier this week, and Andy explained how he had been telling his friend over Christmas that 2023 was to be the year of the crow and not the rabbit. “I appreciate that,” Ronnie said. “It’s so funny you just said that because that’s like a running joke, and every year we say this is the year of the Crow. Then something has gone wrong, something sometimes out of our control, especially in the last few years, with what’s happened in the world. But with the CrowCast, the first thing we said was that this is the year. I’m glad it’s catching.”
With everything that’s happened, the Offical Chart Position is a good place to start. “We’re all super stoked,” Ronnie says. “It’s been a real busy start of the campaign, and now it’s the final push. We’ve done the midweeks, and we’re at number three now and then have until [tonight].”
Inhale/Exhale is a phenomenal album. Having seen Those Damn Crows live a number of times, I say that this album, to me, brings the heaviness and the vibrancy of their live material into the recorded zone. “It’s an album that’s really special to us,” Ronnie says. “It’s become very personal to all of us. We are proud of the whole, from the music to the lyrics that Shane has penned, just to everything. As you said, to carry it over live, it’s really transitioning well on stage as well. There’s a nice part of the extended Crow family because it’s a show at the end of the day. A lot of my favourite bands include the room, so you feel that you’re part of the show, and we always do that. I think this album is giving us that.
“And we are into arenas because we’re doing Swansea on this run. Debut headline, an immense first show in an Arena. We can’t wait. The production is going to be different. We want to be an arena band, so we really have to step up, and I think with Inhale/Exhale, it’s really given us that foundation to do that. In our set, it really works well with the other songs as well, from Point Of No Return and Murder And The Motive. But it’s also a complete step up as well.”
Ronnie drumming on the album is some of the best I’ve heard on record for a really long time. “You’re only as good that the band around you and what influences you,” he says modestly. “In all fairness, wherever the tune came from, whether it came from any of the boys or when Shane sent over stuff, riffs, everything, it just inspires you to play better. I always said from Point Of No Return, that I wanted to be a better drummer for this record.
“I feel that the work I’ve been putting in personally and playing with the boys has helped. Having that kind of freedom to just focus on music has helped too. This is probably the first time since I was 15, 16. So it really makes a difference, rather than juggling the everyday life of working or running a business. That’s really made a difference to me personally and being where we are in life.
“I think coming out of Covid-19 and being back with the boys, the excitement when Shane would send stuff over, and I felt really buzzed and wanted to make it the best it could be. We were working with Dan Weller [Producer], and he would watch us play. I would try and throw an idea of my style and kind of keep competing to get it to where we needed to go. I’m super proud of Takedown. It’s just a banger. It’s just so fun to play live as well.
“I love all the tom work and the Copeland type stuff, who is one of my favourite drummers. But honestly, none of that would be possible if there weren’t good foundations, good melodies and things to feed off. I really do feed off a good vocal line. I feed a good guitar riff, so without that, it just falls to the floor.”
Lyrically Inhale/Exhale is a really strong album too. It may be a bit of a cliche, but Shane has nailed the feeling of everybody and everything that’s going on.
“Yeah, lyrically, it’s my favourite record so far. I’m just more invested. With the second record, there was definitely more of a Shane stamp on the band as well, which was cool. Then with this one, his storytelling is fantastic. We just got really invested in the whole.
“I remember when we were doing Wake Up, I was asking him what it’s about, and he was explaining about the world we’re in and how everybody’s attached to their phones. You’re told to live like this, and one minute how food is bad. So it buzzed me up as well as being anthemic. When we play it, it’s almost going to be that kind of rub-off from Queen, where you make the songs big. Big lyrics, big hooks, big, big end.”
Ronnie really embraced the chance to work with Dan Weller. “It’s thanks to Dan yet again for inspiring me,” he says. “There are certain tracks we were trying, just experimental stuff, and there was no ceiling, and I think that’s the cool thing about it. So we were able to try different grooves, different beats, different guitars, and different vocal techniques as well. This period was really the best for us and something that I think we’ll all kick on and be better musicians for the next record.”
Ronnie is buzzing, and he says the whole band were all buzzing too. “Songs like This Time I’m Ready, we’ve all adopted that song,” he says. “To now perform that and just listen to how powerful the lyrics are. The melodies, the dynamics of the song and all the shades of light, shades of dark. Dan Weller really zoomed in on that, and he was quite detailed in what he wanted to make big. It was all about the song. What was important for that part. He’s an incredible guy to work with, a very, very talented guy. Just watching him work could be a show on his own because he’s got multiple things going on. Yeah, man, my hat’s off to him.”
Shane was excited when I spoke to him last year, but then he was unable to talk much about the album. Now, you can understand what that excitement was founded on.
“There’s just a massive process to releasing a record,” Ronnie says. “That’s where we were, really. There was a massive process to it. We were living in a different world. The turnaround on certain things was slower, and you do hit problems. We’ve seen other bands, some incredible bands that have had bigger careers than us, and they were hit badly.
“So we just wanted to make sure we gave it enough time. We were trying to get everything in place. But we were all super proud of the name when Shane suggested Inhale/Exhale. There were lots of names on the table, but that one just popped.”
The first part of the tour is drawing to a close, with some acoustic bits during the day and meeting everybody, which is a nice touch. Swansea arena this weekend, then back in June with some amazing venues. It’s rock cities and academies in Glasgow, Sheffield, Manchester, Brixton, and the Institute in Birmingham, a beautiful, beautiful venue.
“We’re super excited,” Ronnie says. “We haven’t had a day off, and it literally feels like we’ve got two tours running at the same time at the moment. Our schedules are rammed. We wake up is album, album, album, then the boys have been doing some in stores, some acoustic sessions. We’re doing signings constantly. And then, even on the days off, we went to Edinburgh. Even though we weren’t playing, we try and get about as much as we possibly can to meet everybody and thank everybody.
“We’re not stupid. We know there is a hard time going on in the world at the moment. But to have people support us the way they have and that they are invested in us as well, which isn’t easy at the moment.
“The tour is going fantastic, and when we do come off this, we have got a little bit of a respite. Then we start going into the festival season too – Primordial, Wildfire…but Brixton Academy, that’s gonna be our biggest London date so far as a band. So it’s gonna be another first and Goo Goo Dolls, another band with global success. To have a hit of the touring knowledge that they have, it’s just unbelievable.
“So yeah, we’re super excited about that one and then Steelhouse festival to wrap up the summer, which for us has become a favourite and special festival. I can’t wait to get back up the mountain.
“It’s great now. We’re a three-album band. It was great having the two records, but it was a struggle to try and keep everything fresh and keep active. With three albums, now we’re struggling to get everything in the set. So you can start swapping things around, and that’s an exciting place to be as a band.
“We really can’t wait. But there will be more. Watch this space.”