AN INTERVIEW WITH CROOX: talent, charisma and festival frolics

Brighton three-piece Croox are only just emerging from the shadows and Tammy Cotton is blinded by the illumination

A miserable, cold and rainy afternoon in Brighton sees myself and R&B-inspired band Croox sat outside of a side street café in Hove discussing festivals, the creative direction behind their work and the lead singer’s incredibly strong dislike of Bastille.

Croox frontman Howard Kaye’s calm attitude already had me feeling as if I’d known him and band members Tom and Darren for months and his ‘no holds barred’ boldness was endearing and, already, had me hanging from his every word.

There’s little to no doubt that the band’s charisma is a bonus in combination with their artistic talent and they have no misgivings about where they get their musical inspiration from. “It’s like we’ll hear a song – which could be by anyone like Bieber or whatever – and we’ll be like, ‘That’s a tune,’” Howard says. “That will push us to go into the studio. It won’t even sound like that, but it’s more just songs and stuff that will push us to write.” After being in a band for ten years, it comes as no surprise that the bond between the lads is a strong one, albeit originally built on a shaky foundation. “We all moved down here about ten years ago from different places,” Howard says. “And Darren messaged me on Facebook before I moved down and…“ Darren interjects, “You didn’t reply, did you?” “Na, I didn’t,” Howard admits, adding by way of explanation: “Darren used to be like a proper Essex boy, from Billericay and born in Basildon, and he signed his name off as ‘Dal’ and I went through everyone’s photos on Facebook from ten years ago and Darren was like proper…sleeveless hoodies…So I didn’t reply at all.”

Although social media plays a massive part in how a band is discovered, Croox tried to stay as vague as possible with their online personas. “When we launched we did it in a bit of a backwards way,” says Howard. “In that we wrote a lot before we put anything out and we filmed a few videos across Europe and then when we launched no one knew who we were. We didn’t want anyone to, cause we didn’t want anyone to judge us on who you are and what you look like.” That even extended to playing live, and they preferred to play on a dark and backlit stage as opposed to being exposed by bright lights. “We had these black morph suits and then – only in our videos – we basically dressed over it and you couldn’t see our faces. A lot of people didn’t know if we were a band or a solo artist or anything like that and it was cool.”

When asked about festival season, Howard recalls his disappointing time at the V Festival. “I hate Bastille,” he says. “They are… I don’t understand how they are, where they are. They are just awful, and it annoyed me cause they played the main stage and it was so busy and everyone loved it. They’re rubbish. I miss Rihanna.” All three boys were quick to laugh at this revelation and continue to vocalise their hate for the indie pop band. “Ah I’d love it if we were going back to Secret Garden Party,” Darren laughs and looks at Tom and Howard, after asking if that could have been a hint. Howard says: “Yeah, we’re not allowed to say anything right now, so there’s an exclusive.”

Talking of festivals, the band are pleased they’ve made The Great Escape grade. “We’ve lived in Brighton for ten years and we’ve always done like the ‘Alternative Escape’ things,” Howard explains. “So it was really nice to be asked and to be put in the First Fifty, which was really cool.” Howard adds that the event is great for meeting people, including fellow artists. “The whole city transforms,” he says. “Like there’s a group of Canadian rappers called (Queen City) Stoop Kids and we just met them in the pub, got really drunk with them, and they ended up coming to our studio and we were just writing.” Darren adds: “Everywhere you go you’ve just got people that are not normally in Brighton like musicians and artists and stuff that you just start chatting to,” making it sound ridiculously easy and had me thinking that maybe I should just start getting drunk in bars if it means I’ll be able to make cool international friends on a whim.

Darren says that events like The Great Escape – and the industry in general – generates a sense of healthy competition. “I don’t know if it’s a point to prove, it’s like you have to work hard here to keep yourself above everybody else I guess,” he says. “Then if you stop one minute, someone else is gonna overtake you.”

Half an hour and three cups of coffee later, the time for me comes to leave the three lads as they excitedly rambled on about Howard’s stag do the following day and what type of alcohol they would be drinking for breakfast. There’s little to no doubt that Croox will be a band to watch throughout the rest of the year. Their talent is abundant, their charisma contagious.

Catch Croox at The Great Escape 2017. Tickets are on sale now

Words by Tammy Cotton