Cleavers are an energetic, raw and talented trio from Elgin. I caught up with them as part of their April Tour, on their Edinburgh date (18/04) at the Jekyll and Hyde Pub. The interview was done in their practical and spacious Renault Scenic, and Danny Crombie, Craig Cantlie and Robi Lambie talked about their new 7”, life on tour (including the use of fireworks on stage), and what it means to be a “DIY band”, if anything at all.
Samarth: I'm here with Cleavers, sitting in their Renault Scenic, with Danny, Craig and Robi. Are you guys busy, right in the middle of your UK Tour?
Craig: First date tonight in Edinburgh, starting a run of 7 gigs is it?
Danny: Something like that yeah, we're always busy, we're always doing something.
And you've got a 7” coming out?
D: It's out, it's out yeah! Technically out on the 20th [April] but it's out today. Came in the post yesterday. And that's called Give Up/I Can't Wait Around For You.
There's a download track that comes out with the 7”?
D: Yeah that's a Joy Division cover and another version of the maiden tracks.
S: And that's for the hipsters?
D: (laughs) That's it yeah, all about appealing to different markets, we're quite savvy with that.
C: Yeah we appeal to hipsters that's our market.
So if you could describe yourself in three words, how would you do it?
D: As people or as a band?
S: Whatever you want.
Robi: (laughs) As a person, I'm angsty, raw and undefined.
D: Doesn't undefined cancel out the other two?
R: Oh yeah I'm refined, I'm refining myself all the time..
D: I just work. That's just me. I just do things.
C: Sexual Explosion, mixed with a bit of pain. Painful sexual explosion.
S: Is that how you'd describe your band as well?
D: Loud, relentless,
D: Not brash.
D: No well there's hidden qualities and that shit to it. There's like melody and that shit to it.
So how did you get to be so loud coming from a place like Elgin?
R: Hmm..Lots to scream about.
D: (laughs) We're full of pain....and angst.
S: Scottish Highlands, there's not much of a scene there, but you guys have managed to break out and be on the BBC and have been highly acclaimed.
R: Well I think we probably all met each other through a scene that existed when we were younger. There was a scene there at some time or another.
D: There was yeah, there used to be a little network of bands that played together and you know me and Robi's first ever gig was together with different bands and...it kinda fell apart and people stopped coming to gigs. There's the occasional metal gig but there's nothing we're involved with. We've kind of grown up, moved away, came back and are just doing our thing.
R: Tried to move away. (laughs)
Who would you say your main musical influences are then?
D: The Ramones, always. I think the quality about the Ramones is their melody and their relentlessness, and I think with their live shows they just kept pushing, and could fit 20 songs in 40 minutes. That's something that we try to do.
S: So that's pretty evident in your music
D: Yeah I think in terms of the pace and little hidden bits and pieces, and the quality to the music is that it's in your face but there's a lot more depth to it than people think unless they listen to it.
Your live shows are pretty frantic you would say?
D: Yeah they are
S: You done anything crazy in your live shows....involving fireworks?
R: That is quite a specific question, (laughs)
S: You're right that is oddly specific of me. I've done my research.
D: Yeah the first time I had a flare I stuck it to my guitar and played a solo with it. Recently, I put it in my mouth while it was on fire and tried to sing with it at the same time.
S: You have a beard so that's quite dangerous.
D: Yeah honestly I thought I was gonna singe my face. Another time we were in Shetland and I was going around like 'woo yeah fire' and handed it to this guy and he went and put it to my fuckin face. I thought he was gonna burn my fucking face off. That guy was mental. He actually came to our gig in corpse paint. He was actually walking around Shetland in corpse paint. He was a really really nice guy
C: Fair play to him, looked great!
D: Mhmm that takes some balls to go around looking like that.
R: I once blew up loads of balloons. Yeah it was a crazy stage show. It was like 8 balloons (laughs), I thought there'd be more in a pack.
Where do you guys like playing most then?
D: Somewhere new. Not the same place. Too many bands play the same place over and over again and do the same towns over and over again. It's so boring. Why would you keep doing that and why would you keep doing the same route and keep playing to the same audience for your fucking entire musical career?
D: Yeah security, it's just fear and like
C: Laziness as well
D: Laziness, totally, absolutely. Why wouldn't you want to play somewhere new and meet new people and do new things, thats why we take dubious gig choices at some points, you know.
S: The Shetlands is pretty out there isn't it?
D: Nah it's a great offer, you know, we had a great time in Shetland. We're going back in about 6 weeks. Why not go somewhere new? Shetlands especially.
C: Yeah the Shetlands is not on the route
D: Yeah totally, they paid everything. They paid 500 quid to take us there and back and we only paid for our food. It's perfect!
R: Yeah had a nice time.
D: It was great you know.
R: Kind of place you'd go on holiday, get paid to play there
D: Oh it's beautiful up there
R: Snap your hand off for it.
C: As your granny would say.
R: (laughs) As my granny would say.
And you are a completely DIY punk band? Do you think that's something necessary nowadays?
D: Not really we just do our thing.
C: I don't think we make a point about doing DIY, nobody else is going to do stuff for us so we just do it ourselves.
D: Yeah people expect people to do things for them and, the age of the record deal seems to be gone. Bands have to prove themselves nowadays and we're not doing this to prove a point to anybody but we're just doing what we want. We're just releasing records because we want to and we're doing tours because we want to. This is what we love, we only do it because we love it. We wouldn't do it otherwise.
Does this attitude find its way into your songs then?
D: In a lyrical sense?
D: I dunno, most of the songs are just about girls and bitterness and stuff. It's not all like that but recently it's just about getting older and not really having a place. It sounds so contrived to just say this stuff (laughs) but I just write lyrics about me, and where I'm coming from and what my life's like. I'm pretty boring and shit and there's not much going for me so I just write about that. People I know are getting doctorates and moving to cool places and doing pretty boring things...
C: They're having babies and shit.
D: Babies, and marriage and...
R: Even just being in a relationship and having a girlfriend...so lucky! (laughs) That's gonna come across really weird!
C: You are pretty weird.
D: I think you have to be pretty weird to be one of us.
Have you got plans for the rest of the year then? In terms of touring or music?
D: More of the same.
C: We've got another release with the Kimberly Steaks in June or July.
D: It's recorded, just the financials and all that needs to be done.
C: Oh yeah we're doing a video for that.
Your videos and art are quite eclectic. Who does all that?
D: Well I do all the art, that's why it all kind of looks the same (laughs). I just do it because I've got an idea in my head and I'll just execute it. You alright dude?
S: Yeah the Scenic's very comfortable.
R: I feel bad I'm just lounging about in the boot.
D: It's really nice in here, I feel pretty happy in here. As for the art it's partly due to me being a cheapskate. I'd rather not pay for anybody else.
R: We keep the money for the more important things like the actual printing.
C: You know what you want as well.
R: Not just keeping the money for the more important things but the more necessary things.
D: Yeah so I think art's important but it's not the be all and end all. I kind of fear this band being more about artwork and t shirts than music. I think there was a point where it was that, but we've tipped that scale (laughs). The videos as well.
S: You just released a video for Give Up?
D: That was a quick thing involving cats. We did that with Steve Cardno of The Murderburgers because we're filming something else. Shout out to Steve Cardno, the man! Get your video done by him. The thing about music nowadays is that you have to promote it and more people will see it on Youtube than hear about it anywhere else. It's nice to have a good video to go along with it. If you've got a half decent idea why not do it.
C: It's just another media to get creative with.
D: I couldn't have said that better. Craig Cantlie, nice.
You'd say you're looking at the more practical aspects of touring and recording then?
D: We do things, we don't fuck around. (laughs)
S: And you don't think about being political in some way with a message?
D: More socio-political, like Minor Threat. I'm massive on 80's hardcore and the sense of comparing Dead Kennedys to Black Flag or Minor threat or whatnot. A lot of the Dead Kennedy's music relates to that time and it's kind of dated in that sense. The music's amazing but you can't relate to it. Minor Threat talk about their lives and the people around them and what their beliefs are; and Black Flag talk about isolation and angsty stuff (laughs). We're coming from that sort of angle. I'm sort of a political person but I don't think I'd like to attach that to the band. We probably think different things but we don't really discuss them. We're not racists and we're not fucking sexists. We're pretty...normal, and left of centre sort of people.
C: We pay our taxes.
D: Jesus, I have to pay my tax actually (laughs). I think politics dates your music. It's not me to write about politics because I'm not smart enough.
C: Politics just brings things down. It's just grim. Why would you want to talk about politics when you could talk about
C: Girls on the beach and stuff.
S: Yeah I think on Facebook your musical influences are listed as girls, pizza and two others...
R: Coffee probably. I think that's why I've got a headache.
On that note, have you guys got anything else to say?
D: Come and say hi. We're not scary. We're loud but we're quite nice people.
S: That's been quite a refreshing take on a punk band! Thanks Danny, Craig and Robi.
Cleaver's new 7”, “I Can't Wait Around For You/Give Up” is available now on http://dadatunes.bandcamp.com/music, and Danny's art is on http://www.wolfmaskart.co.uk/