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Crash City Saints - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 23 / 12 / 2017

Crash City Saints - Interview


John Clarkson speaks to Joshua Gorman from Michigan-based indie guitar band Crash City Saints about their second album and first in seven years 'Are You Free?', which tells of his teenage years and his discovery then of the late 80’s/early 90’s alternative rock/pop scene.

Crash City Saints is an indie guitar band from Kalamazoo in Michigan, whose music is influenced by shoegazing/alternative rock bands of the late 80's and early 90's such as the Cocteau Twins, the Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. The group have just released their second album, 'Are You Free?', and which follows seven years on from their debut album, 'Glow in the Dark'. It is an autobiographical concept album of sorts, telling of singer, guitarist and album producer Joshua Gorman’s teenage upbringing and his eventual salvation through his discovery of late 80’s/early 90’s alternative rock/pop. Pennyblackmusic spoke to Joshua Gorman about 'Are You Free?' PENNYBLACK: It has been seven years since ‘Glow in the Dark’, came out. Why has it taken since so long for this follow-up? JOSHUA GORMAN: Yeah, it’s been a hot minute. I have asked myself this same exact question many times now, and I’m still not entirely sure what the exact cause for all the hold-up was. There were a number of reasons, but the number one culprit would have to be the endless second-guessing on every decision - recording, production, mixing, etc. - over the making of this album. For just one example, almost two full months were spent recording and re-recording one single guitar part on 'Hour of the Wolf'. I wish I was joking. That’s the level of nitpicking that was going on with this album. It seemed like a good idea at the time. On the upside, I learned how not to approach future recording projects. PB: You have been getting fantastic reviews for ‘Are You Free?’ despite such a long hiatus. Has that taken you by surprise? JG: Yes, but a pleasant surprise for sure. Seven years in this day and age of continuous information bombardment everywhere we turn might as well be an eternity. Everything comes and goes so fast now. Also, I felt like this new album was a bit of a departure from the first album, so there was a bit of nervousness there as well. Like, even if there were people out there who remembered us, would they reject the new stuff because it doesn’t sound like what they were expecting? But yeah, overall, people seem to be connecting with it. It’s been inspiring. Makes me want to get right back to work on album number three! PB: Kalamazoo falls halfway between the much bigger cities of Chicago and Detroit, both of which are less than 150 miles away. It is also the opposite side of Lake Michigan from Milwaukee, and has about 75, 000 inhabitants. Is it a small sort of place eclipsed by its neighbours or is there more going on there? What sort of music scene does it have there? JG: Kalamazoo has a vibrant music scene that I think could compete with a lot of major metropolitan areas. On almost any given night of the week, there is a show going on somewhere in town; many of the best ones you can see for free in a basement or living room. It’s a very eclectic scene too, with a little bit of everything. No matter what genres you prefer, chances are there is a band or artist in town playing it. It’s also a college town, so there is a steady influx of new students every year who bring new ideas and sounds, which keeps things fresh. And I would be remiss if I did not mention our annual shoegaze festival, Kalamashoegazer, which has for over ten years now brought in some incredible bands from all over the country. PB: Crash City Saints have always been open about their influences which consist of 80’s/90’s largely UK alternative rock outfits such as the Cocteau Twins, the Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. How did you discover these acts from so far away? JG: My family didn’t have cable tv back in the 80s. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have some cool friends who would tape episodes of 'MTV 120 Minutes' for me (I wore those VHS tapes out watching them over and over), or even older friends in college who would tip me off to other lesser-known alternative bands. PB: ‘Are You Free?’ apparently takes its title from John Inman’s catchphrase in the 70’s British sitcom, 'Are You Being Served?' Is that really true? JG: Well, not directly. I saw that in a review as well, and at first was like “Huh? I don’t think so.” But the thing is, I am indeed a fan of a lot of old British sitcoms (thanks to my dad, who introduced me to 'Monty Python' and 'Fawlty Towers' at an early age) including 'Are You Being Served?' So, I love the connection. Was that what I had in mind when I came up with the title? Sadly, no. I am not that cool. But I will happily give that interpretation my blessing. PB: 'Are You Free?' is a concept album of sorts about a teenager’s growing alienation and his eventual salvation through his discovery of alternative rock. ‘There’s No School Tomorrow’ is about his happiness at not having to go to school the next day and a day free of abuse from the in-crowd, while on ‘The Hour of the Wolf’ you sing about wanting to die in a car crash. Were your own teenage years so bleak? JG: Um….Yes. On the other hand, as Bart Simpson once put it, making teenagers depressed is like shooting fish in a barrel. PB: Crash City Saints have been through a lot of line-up changes since ‘Glow in the Dark’. Who are the other regular members of the band now? JG: Darry Arning (guitar), Elliott Skjordal (bass), and Joel Gorenflo (drums). PB: ‘Dawn of a Bright New Nothing’ has as a special guest, ex-Cocteau Twins member and Bella Union boss Simon Raymonde on bass. How did he become involved in the project? JG : Kind of a long story, but the short version is I met him through MySpace years ago and was going to have him mix some songs for me, but that plan fell through. Fast forward a couple years, and I had this song that I thought his style of bass playing would be perfect for. So I sent him a demo, and asked if he would be interested, and he said yes, and here we are. If someone had told 16-year-old me that someday the guy who played bass on 'Heaven Or Las Vegas' would play on a song I wrote, I would have laughed in their face. But sometimes, the stars align, and the impossible happens. I will always be thankful to Simon for being so cool and making a dream come true for me. PB: The front cover of ‘Are You Free?’ is really special. It is like one of the classic 4AD record label sleeves. Was that what you were aiming for? What was the appeal to you of those covers? JG: Thank you, and I totally agree. The cover was designed by Wyatt Parkins, who runs our record label Saint Marie Records. He was sending me a bunch of different ideas, but that particular one immediately grabbed me when I saw it. It has that otherworldly vibe that all the best 4AD albums had. Back in the day, I would often buy albums just on the strength of their artwork. I first got into 4AD and the Cocteau Twins after listening to the 'Love’s Easy Tears' EP, which I bought because I loved the cover. Had no idea what I was in for, but I’ll never forget putting that record on for the first time when I got home later that day. Life changing! I bought every 4AD album I could find after that. PB: What are your plans for the immediate future? Will there be a tour of the UK or Europe? JG: Doing a Paris Sisters cover for an upcoming 60's girl group tribute being released by 'The Blog That Celebrates Itself'. Also working on some stuff for a new project, Loveblind, I’m doing with Wyatt Parkins and Dorian Electrique. As for a tour, I would absolutely love to. Can’t make any promises, but you never know. If the opportunity arrives, I will jump on it. PB: Thank you.

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Crash City Saints - Interview

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