The Crookes' Russell Bates on Touring America and Playing Small Venues

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It's a Saturday afternoon and Sheffield, England four-piece the Crookes are on another marathon drive to the next gig. They play Minneapolis on the night in question, Chicago the next and then Dallas tonight, Tuesday, July 15 for a show at City Tavern. Frontman/bassist George Waite was originally slated to do an interview with us, but he's asleep in the back of the van when the call comes. Drummer Russell Bates gladly takes the phone and shares a lot with questions he's probably been asked hundreds of times already.

The band is currently promoting Soapbox, their third album overall and first for their U.S. record label, Modern Outsider, a label based out of Austin. Run by the husband-and-wife team of Chip and Erin Adams, who worked together at TCU's radio station KTCU, Modern Outsider aims to break this promising band in America. The way they're trying to do do that is by putting the band on the road throughout the country, setting up radio appearances and the like.

The Crookes made a name for themselves in their home country with their bouncy sound, playing festivals and collaborating with the legendary Richard Hawley, but the band has had to start from ground zero in America. That included their first Dallas show, which was only a few months ago where they were on their way to Austin for SXSW. Playing a free show at the ritzy NYLO Hotel in Las Colinas and matched up with a band that probably plays weddings and sports bars rather than any venue in Deep Ellum, Bates says the band has been on stranger bills.

"I remember one gig where they had a poster for the show and our name was on the poster, but they had a new Real Ale in stock," he says. "So they decided that was more important us being there."

Texas served as the band's first taste of what America is like, and they like what they've seen. At their show at NYLO, even though there were a lot of people hanging out at the pool and taking it easy, there were a few dozen people that knew obscure songs by the band and immediately wanted autographs and pictures with them afterwards.

"The strange thing now is that a lot of people come to the shows in America, they're almost always serious fans of the band, like people who have been waiting years to see us," Bates says. "They've got every record and know our songs, which is a really strange experience but really nice, too."

Bates cites Motown hits from the '60s, Elvis Costello and Squeeze as some of the Crookes' direct influences, making a specific note of their oft-mentioned "heartbreaking melodies." If the band existed 10 years ago, they would have been perfectly matched with bands like Voxtrot and the Libertines. Plus, given their name, they were often mistaken for the Kooks, a once buzzed-about band from England.

Now, the Crookes are on their own, focusing on a long haul, doing what they can for as long as they can. Who knows, there could easily come a day where you won't see the Crookes play an intimate venue like City Tavern.

The Crookes play City Tavern on Tuesday, July 15 with Analog Rebellion and Young Buffalo.

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