It’s only been a couple of months since MetalTalk’s Paul Hutchings last spoke with Shane Greenhall, frontman for Those Damn Crows, but as the band were in Bristol, it was a nice opportunity to catch up with the Bridgend singer to find out how things were going on the Takedown tour.
He’s a genuinely incredible person, warm, gregarious, and utterly engaging. As I climb aboard the Nightliner parked up outside the O2 Academy Bristol and the queue of eager fans already in line for the doors to open, the rest of the band are hanging out in the main downstairs area.
They may look glamorous, but there’s not a lot of space on these buses. Shane greets me like a longtime friend, and we cram into the front part of the upstairs section and get down to our interview.
It seems opportune to start by asking Shane how the tour is going. “Not bad, not bad at all,” he says. “Excited for this show. Bristol is the closest one to home on this tour, so it should be a good night.” Judging by the size of the crowd gathered outside the bus, it looked close to a sellout. “I tend not to be bothered by the actual sales”, Shane explains. “We see that there are enough people there. Every single place we played so far has been immense.”
It only seemed like yesterday when Shane and I last spoke, but it was almost two months ago. How has he and the band been preparing for this tour, the largest that they have done as a headline band? “We had a little bit of rest after Steelhouse, but then we were straight into pre-production and trying to make this show bigger and better.”
He continues, “I think we’ve done that. The size of the stage we brought with us, all the effects and stuff, it’s for venues that cater for that. Tonight, the stage isn’t as big as it was in Bournemouth last night, so it’s less staging. We’ve got ramps. We’re trying to up our game in production. That’s the big difference on this tour.”
Of course, Those Damn Crows have played a lot of these venues in the past. They were here in Bristol with The Goo Goo Dolls only a few months ago, but suddenly, they have extra room in the venues. I assume this is the kind of thing that they consider during pre-production.
“Yes. Basically, when you’re looking at the stage, we picked the middle ground venues that can fit in that stage. We can take stuff away for the smaller venues, and it doesn’t take too much away from the show, but you’ll see tonight on the stage. Now that there is a lot of stage, this actually leaves less floor space for us to perform, but there are multiple layers to do x, y, and z.”
For Shane, whose show is highly energetic and all about movement, this must mean a bit more focus in the preparation before each show, depending on the size of the venue.
“Yes,” Shane agrees. “Every show is slightly different in that you’ve got to have a good idea about where you’re going to be. It’s been tricky because we’ve bought a new stage, and normally, we just have three risers, but now, the entire front row on the stage has about 2.5 metres of risers, four of them. So, it’s like a runway now on the front. It’s not stopping me from doing what I normally do, but this is new stuff now. I think you must do that as a band. You always evolve and try new stuff. We will see if it stays.”
Those Damn Crows toured Europe in the early part of the summer with The Hollywood Vampires, but how did the five shows in Germany and the Netherlands go? The pictures on social media looked great. “They were great,” says Shane. “Smaller venues, it felt like we were starting again compared to what we’re selling in the UK, but that’s obvious.
“We haven’t been playing a huge amount over there, so to find a few people that were turning up at seven o’clock in front of the queue to come in when you’re on at nine, that was just crazy! We are doing something right, and I think we need to get back out in Europe as soon as possible and try and make the ground we have made in the UK and do that over there. That’s the dream.”
As much as touring may look glamorous, this is hard work. There are 14 people living and sleeping in the tour bus, and it was well on the way to becoming a bit unpleasant odour-wise. How long does it take Shane to get into the swing of a tour, because this is gruelling stuff. “It takes me three or four shows to get into the routine,” he says. “The band and bus are constantly moving because you’re driving to your next destination. I’m a terrible sleeper anyway. Yeah, it takes a while, but I feel like we’re in full swing now, and you get into that routine quite quickly.”
If you’ve seen the Crows live, you’ll know that Shane is the focus on stage, with a highly energetic approach and plenty of running and jumps. (He’s a nightmare to photograph, by the way!). How does he keep fit on tour in an environment which is not conducive to healthy living?
“Yeah, this is difficult,” he says. “I think this tour more than any I’ve thought about how I’m going to cope. I have my yoga mat. I don’t need a huge amount of space, just enough to do a high-intensity workout. It’s like a 25-minute workout every day. Get out, get in, and have the shower.
“It’s amazing how much energy that gives you. People think I can’t do that, I’m tired. But it gives you more energy, and I’ve only learned that fairly recently. So, I’m really prepared on this tour. Probably more than any other tour I’ve done.
“It’s key for the longevity. We are playing an hour and 20, 25 each night, which takes its toll. I’ve been prepared, being savvy with a little bit more experience than we had five years ago, and it’s implementing all that stuff so you can put on the best show possible.”
With three albums to choose from, does this present more of a challenge when the band are moving to a headline set? I say that there are obviously certain tracks which would result in a lynching if not played. “You know you’re absolutely right. We sat down and took a good look at it. We toured Exhale / Inhale in February, but this is where we have the chance to play every single song we can from Inhale / Exhale. I think apart from one, we play them all. And then you fill in the blanks with the rest. There are those Crow classics that I joke about on stage, but they are an integral part of the show.”
We talk about how it’s important for a band to play the new material. “To play most of the new album is necessary,” Shane says, “just so people can see and witness those songs in a live situation. We’ve changed a few things, so it’s not entirely what you hear in the record. There are bits and elements in the show that you can bring live that you can’t do on an album.”
As we heard later that evening, the subtle differences in the live show, especially on the newer material, make the live experience so memorable.
It’s no secret that the Crow Family are dedicated to the cause. In terms of the fan base, I asked Shane about them and if there have been any fans following the tour on the barrier every night. “Yeah, there are a couple,” he confirms, “and it’s amazing because, obviously, we have the fan page as well. That’s their page, and they tell everybody where they’re going to meet up before the shows.
“So yes, some are coming to every single show, and it’s remarkable because people came to Germany and the Netherlands to watch us. At one point, I was sure we had more British than Germans at our show. I said this on stage, and this guy popped up in a Welsh shirt. I was like, holy shit, you’re from Wales. It’s crazy, but the support is immense. Hopefully, especially with the stage production, we give them a different show every night. We try, but yes, the support is just unreal.”
As a Welsh band and a proud Welsh band at that, I wondered if there were any challenges being from a nation that, at times, can be a bit parochial. Big fish in small ponds can be a disadvantage. What advice would Shane and the Crows give to bands about playing locally? “It was the stranger thing for us because, from the word go, we didn’t play anything in Wales for the first two or three years. We went to London, Scotland, travelling across the country. It was only fairly recently that Wales had us playing shows.
“I think Swansea is obviously the big one in the arena, and we played a little acoustic thing at Bridgend RFC a couple of months ago. But before that, there wasn’t much. We did the Patriot. We’ve done Cardiff Castle, but not too much.
“You must be proud of where you’re from. I think that really tells in how we perform and how you do things and how you go about your work, but I don’t particularly look at us and say we are a Welsh band, I really don’t. I feel like we are a UK band. Of course, we fly the flag because the support is amazing. That’s why you saw those great people who came to see us in Germany and across the European leg.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me, but I was so grateful. I think, try not to put yourself in that place to start with. Okay, you’re from a certain area, but that doesn’t mean you have to be just there. We’ve been doing this since we were kids. We would jump on a bus and head to London.
“Playing Covent Garden when we were kids. Jam nights. So it was never about where you’re playing. It was about who was ready to listen to you, you know what I mean?” Shane laughs, “We’ll play to anyone.”
Touring can be a boring endeavour, so do Those Damn Crows spend much time listening to music on the road, and if so, is it new stuff, or do they resort to comforting sounds. Surprisingly, perhaps, Shane reveals that they listen to little music whilst on the road. “There is a lot of crew on board. So, you’re talking, having your food, and you’re just having a general chit-chat. There’s FIFA on the PlayStation in the back room, which gives a bit of competition. We don’t tend to listen to too much.
“When we were in Germany, people kept giving us their cards and links, their band’s stuff and you check that out. I’m always looking. I think we all like to hear new stuff. The boys in the crew get started at about 10 am, get all the rigs sorted out, and then we sound check at about 3 pm. Before you know it, have a bit of food, and you’re ready to go on stage”.
It was great to have a quick catch-up with Shane again. A couple of hours later, he and Those Damn Crows blew the proverbial roof off the O2 Academy Bristol.
For me, they are one of the most exciting bands around today. If you can catch them before this tour ends, I would recommend you do.