“Music has been my best form of expression.”

After a delay caused by the pandemic, CROOKED SHAPES are ready to release their self titled debut album at the end of this week. Rock Out Stand Out’s Lotty Whittingham spoke to band members George Twydell, George ‘Ivesy’ Ives and Craig Carlaw about the album, influences and mental health. Here’s what happened.

For those who haven’t heard of Crooked Shapes before, how would you describe your sound?

George:  Probably alternative rock, modern rock, hard rock, I’m not quite sure really. There are so many sub genres these days so listen to it and tell me what you think it is. 

Craig:  Basically what George said but with a sprinkling of the blues. 

Who would say your musical influences is?

George:  Between us we have an eclectic range of influences. In terms of bands, we take influences from Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and 90s grunge/alternative bands. We also from 70s hard rock bands like Thin Lizzy, we love bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. We also go way out there with bands like Rush, King Crimson and I also like playing classical guitar so classical music is a big influence for me.

Ivesy:  Anything that’s kind of out there or weird, I naturally gravitate myself towards that I think. I like listening to anything from Captain Beefheart to Black Midi.

Craig:  I have to be honest, as time has gone on and I have spent some time with these two. They probably inspire me more than anything now.

You talking of weird sounds makes me wonder what is the weirdest music you have heard.

Ivesy:  I don’t if you have heard of a band called The Residents. They come on stage with big eye balls as helmets and my Dad used to play me some weird music when I was a child that has probably led to my taste as an adult. It was The Residents and I am big fan of Tom Waits. 

George:  I have really got into Thundercat recently.

Ivesy:  He is a six string bass player and often dresses up as characters from Dragon Ball Z. He’s worked with Kendrick Lemar and his music videos are wild. 

George:  Musically, I also like Audience’s House On A Hill. It has a saxophone intro but they must have put a filter on it as it sounds similar to Egyptian music and it has a heavy riff.

You’re due to release your debut album soon, the song Rise Again reminded me of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love.

Ivesy:  It’s a bit weird because we recorded the album a little while ago, at the end of 2019. We had big plans for it in 2020, we couldn’t really do much with it. We were working on new material and promoting this album at the same time. It’s like we have had a break from this album and then re-familiarising ourselves with the material again.

Was this the intended release date for the album?

George:  We did a couple of gigs with Massive Wagons in Kendall, awesome shows. We were talking with our manager there about releasing, we were aiming to get the songs out around that sort of time and the album we wanted to release September/October time 2020 but it never happened because of Covid. It’s good to finally be getting the album out, the trouble is it might be new to everyone else but it isn’t to us. We’re glad to finally be getting the album out, it’s a bit of a weight off the shoulders.

Ivesy:   We wanted to wait a couple of weeks so we could created music videos and give it respect it needed.

It’s mentioned in the press release your song writing touches upon topics such as mental health, can you tell us a bit more about that?

George:  I mean we have all had our problems with it, it seems to be a big topic at the moment. Personally, I have never found it easy to talk about that sort of stuff. Some people post about it on social media, if that works for them that’s fine but me personally I couldn’t do that myself. It wasn’t intentional to write about that, it’s what naturally came out because of what was going on at the time. We then realised this was a theme that was going on so we sort of ordered it in some sort concept, the stages of grief and depression. So, starting off with anger and denial. Then going into more of the sadness and then it gets better at the end, the recovery side of things. It’s a journey.

I did notice the recovery side of the process through the uplifting songs Rise Again and Don’t Look Back. Even from the titles alone.

George:  It is happier. Don’t Look Back is self explanatory, it’s about keeping yourself focused.

Ivesy:  In a way, the song writing is a kind of self therapy. It’s a way of helping process the feelings of things that we are going through at the time. We’ve been going through some rough break ups and stuff. 

George:  This sounds cheesy but this stuff does come out best through music, it’s the only way I feel comfortable talking about this stuff. Music has been my best form of expression.

I find that sometimes there is nothing better than listening to a song that matches your mood too.

Craig:  Yes, the album has a broad spectrum of those sorts of songs. So, someone might be feeling a bit of Fire one day.

George:  Going back on influences, I like bands like Slipknot. They’re really heavy and it’s a lot more emotional than people think because there’s a reason why it’s that angry. People ask “why do you want to listen to something that makes you feel more depressed” and I say “I’m not listening to it to feel more depressed, I am listening to it because it’s how I am feeling right now”.

Ivesy:  It’s cathartic, it’s almost a sense of community with people that are feeling the same thing.

George:  Which is something we hope the album can do.

I thought the song Chains In My Mind was really raw.

George:  That one is a personal one for me, I wrote that at about two or three o clock in the morning as I couldn’t sleep due to going through some really tough stuff at the time. Thing is the lyrics are direct because I wanted to sleep and get over what I was going through at the time. I managed to finish the rest of it the next day.

Have you been able to play live shows?

Ivesy:  We were lucky enough as in October 2020, we were able to play The 1865 and gigs in the early summer.

George:  We managed to hire out a hall. The day they announced we were going into lockdown again, we had a gig on that evening. 

Craig:  We did a gig on the Saturday and the lockdown was announced for the following Monday.

George:  During that window, we managed to put a gig on at The Legion in Winnersh. We did the sound ourselves and there was a few people that came to see us but then there were old people watching us whilst drinking their beer. The guy came to us and asked us what we wanted to play. We jammed some covers afterwards.

Craig:  It was the last gig for a little while.

Which songs are you looking forward to playing live the most?

Ivesy:  I think Don’t Look Back. I think some of the songs, we have played live before recorded them but Don’t Look Back is one that we haven’t had a chance to play live yet.

I think Rise Again might go down well live too. It has that stadium rock feel.

Craig:  It’s weird as Rise Again and Don’t Look Back are the ones we haven’t played live yet so I definitely am looking forward to playing Don’t Look Back. With Rise Again, we’ve paid the least attention to that one; in terms of rehearsing it.

Going back to mental health, is there anything you think we can do more of so people feel comfortable talking about mental health?

Ivesy:  I think as guys, it can be difficult to talk to friends about mental health and there’s a bit of macho ego type thing where it’s not seen as a tough thing to be talking about how you’re doing mentally; this ego is something people need to get over. Mental health is part of your overall health rather than something you have to hide or protect as it doesn’t help you in the long run.

George:  I consciously taught myself not to show any emotion on the outside as it comes from s*** back in school through bullying and stuff like that. No matter what was going on, I tried to be as blank towards it as possible. The trouble is, that lead me to have problems dealing with things like anger as I bottled everything up then it would erupt out and that’s what Fire is about. It’s about learning to deal with the consequences of what happens when you do explode. I am now learning to be more open, it’s not easy.

Is there anything you like to do that helps you calm down and take your mind of things when you are stressed or overwhelmed?

Ivesy:  It sounds like the most obvious answer but playing and writing music together is what we have been doing to help with that. Sometimes being in band can be hard work but it is enjoyable and I really enjoy being able to use music to help process bad feelings and emotions. Playing and performing music is also a physical activity as well.

Craig:  Definitely a good point about playing music as a good release. Going to the gym also works for me but sometimes when that feels not doable, I found looking inwards helps and think about what you have. You might have a good job you like or you might have a lot of things in your life that are really good and they are at the back of your mind, you might need to bring them forward. Just to get you up and going again. They say happiness is a decision, in my experience you can’t turn on happiness but I do think you can turn on a positive mindset. You can always decide to be positive but you can’t decide to be happy. Do something that makes you happy. You can’t turn on happiness, that’s my opinion and from my experience anyway.

Hopefully live shows are coming back into play, particularly festivals. Which bands would headline your dream festival? These bands can be dead or alive, disbanded.

Craig:  That’s a good one. 

George:  One band for each of us, Craig we’ll start with you.

Craig:  So I’ll pick the Friday.

George:  You got the option of bringing people back from the dead.

Ivesy:  That makes it harder.

Craig:  There’s so much to choose from.

George:  Think of a band you really want to see but haven’t.

Craig:  Oh, Rush. [turns to George] I bet you were going to say them for Sunday.

George:  We can put them on the Sunday so Ivesy, you choose for Friday or Saturday. I would pick Free from the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival and plonk them on whatever day.

Ivesy:  I would have really liked to have seen early seventies Focus so they would be my choice.

Do you have a message for your fans and our readers?

George:  Buy our s****. [laughs]

Ivesy:  We got a new single coming out in October and another music video coming out.

Craig:  Thank you for your long awaited patience on this album. Enjoy the album and stay safe, hopefully you get something from it.

Ivesy:  I hope people get to see us at a show, I expect we will be doing more of those once the album is released.

George:  Tell all your friends about us.

Thank you for talking to Rock Out Stand Out today and best of luck with the album.

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