Featuring members of Hostage Pageant and Toil, Crooked Necks create a dynamic sound mixing anxious post-punk, foreboding metal, and frozen 80s goth and new wave. The duo’s debut release, Alright is Exactly What It Isn’t, was recently released on the Handmade Birds label along with a companion white-label 12″ featuring reinterpretations of deep cuts from Joy Division’s small but bountiful catalog. I recently exchanged emails with Shane Church, the man behind Crooked Necks’ songwriting and production to discuss the band’s long-overdue debut, finding inspiration in bizarre recordings by Crispin Glover and Harmony Korine, and what the band is working on for 2012.
Who and what’s in the band?
The band consists of Andy on vocals and myself on all instruments. All sounds are created with voice, guitars, bass, drums, & effects.
How did the band begin?
The band began in early 2006 under the moniker “Frail” when Andy and I decided to form a project to that would be completely separate from the Black Metal activities that we were both involved in at that time. We changed the name of the band to Crooked Necks in 2009.
“Streets with Teeth”
You can hear hints of black metal, shoegaze, postrock and post punk in your music, while your mix for Cvlt Nation’s Sonic Cathedral series is like a checklist for the greats in dreamy shoegaze and drift pop. Who and what has influenced your sound most?
Andy and I both have a mutual adoration for the depressive works by the Cure, which has been a major influence on us. In general, we’re also inspired by select bands from the Post-Punk, Shoegaze, Dream Pop and Goth genres. We also draw influence from the films of Harmony Korine and Crispin Glover. As well the literary works of William S. Burroughs among many others.
Interestingly enough, Korine and Glover both have albums (not together) that are equally as bizarre and engaging as their films. In particular, Korine’s collaboration with pre-Gang Gang Dance Brian Degraw SSAB Songs and Glover’s only album that I’m aware of. Have these recordings influenced Crooked Necks as well?
Personally, I am an admirer of both of these albums. Both works are highly intriguing pieces of audio art. In general, Andy has been heavily influenced by Glover’s “The Big Problem…” to an immense degree. Although, neither release has been directly influential on our sound as a whole.
The name Crooked Necks is quite a fitting name for you guys, not quite cueing toward any one genre. How did you settle on the name?
We took the name from a portion of one of the song titles on our first demo (“Brilliant Darkness”, released under the name Frail), entitled “Crooked Necks and Uneven Strides.” We intended for the name to be ambiguous and free from any pre-conceived notion of genre, while still bearing relation to our past as a project.
Do you identify yourselves with any “scene” or genre?
In our opinion, we remain independent of any “scene” or genre. Although, admittedly, we could be loosely associated with the Post-Punk, Shoegaze, Dream Pop, or Goth due to our influences from those genres. For us, it’s imperative to maintain as individual of an identity as possible. We’re much more concerned in forging our own path, rather than following in the footsteps of others.
“Forgetting to Remember to Forget”
You guys have been tagged more than once with the genre “experimental black metal” with Circle of Ouroborus (who you’ve issued a split with), Velvet Cocoon and Wolves in the Throne Room. Do you feel a connection to this tag or is it an unfortunate grouping that you want to move away from?
We feel no connection at all to this tag or subgenre. We’ve never considered ourselves a Metal band of any sort, much less a Black Metal one. Our intention is to move away from this, or any other tag for that matter, in lieu of something altogether separate and unique in comparison.
The split with CoO came together quite naturally, actually. I’ve been friends with both members for quite some time now. Rauta and I mutually decided to issue a split between the two projects. CoO used unreleased material for their side, while we recorded material to be used specifically for the split release. Our relationship with the band is one of mutual respect. Sonically speaking, we don’t share many similarities, but have a somewhat common mindset pertaining to creativity.
The Alright is Exactly What It Isn’t LP was apparently released after a six-year gestation period. What went into the prolonged wait for the full-length?
Actually, the LP itself was delayed for just over two years, as it was completed in July of 2009. However, its release was nearly 6 years after the inception of the band. The delay was primarily caused by the time it took to find a suitable label. We were initially planning to release it via a label that our vocalist was going to launch, which was never realized. Then we were in talks with another label for almost a year, but couldn’t come to an agreement over the terms of the contract. Finally, we decided to release it through Handmade Birds due to R. Loren’s immense interest and support of the project.
How did you choose the songs you wanted to include for the Joy Division EP? Are there more recorded songs that didn’t make the cut? The songs seem to cover JD’s entire run, while staying away from “Love Will Tear Us Apart” in particular. Not to say it’s their best tune (you can’t argue that it isn’t great), but it may be their most referenced and covered song.
The songs included on the Joy Division tribute EP were chosen based on the tracks that we felt were the most conducive to our sound, while making a conscious decision to not use the songs of theirs that have been covered numerous times. In my opinion, there are so many jewels in their canon apart from the standards such as “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” which is indeed amazing, that focusing on those tracks alone wouldn’t have done the spirit of the band any justice. Besides the tracks that were featured, no other material was recorded for that release.
Do you see Crooked Necks releasing another covers EP in the future? Maybe even a The Cure cover EP?
No, we aren’t planning to do another release of covers again. The Joy Division covers weren’t actually planned, or intended to be released. Initially, those songs were done for reasons of personal catharsis, and weren’t meant to be heard by anyone outside of the band. Although, after recording them, we decided to make a few copies available in a private/“friends only” pressing. We ended up having a small number of extra copies and chose to make those available to the general public. We had no intention of making the recording available beyond the limitation of that press. However, after R. Loren of Handmade Birds expressed how strongly he felt they should be re-released, we reconsidered and agreed to have them re-issued one time only on vinyl format.
How do the songs translate to the live setting? What is a Crooked Necks show like?
Unfortunately, we are unable to perform live with the project. Andy and I currently live in different states, which would make it extremely difficult to rehearse. Also, since I perform all of the instrumentation solely myself, we would have to enlist several live session members in order to perform the material.
How do you approach the artwork and design of your releases?
Andy is an artist by trade, and he designs all of the artwork for our releases. For “Alright…”, he used a technique of cutting out patterns of colored paper and assembling them into pieces of art. Since he’s also a band member, he has insight to the atmosphere of the material and is able to mirror the feeling of the art with the music contained within.
How did you become involved with Handmade Birds?
Prior to the label’s launch, R. Loren approached us due to his affinity for the project. His enthusiasm and true understanding for what we are doing was obvious and infectious. Likewise, we highly valued his integrity and professionalism. Shortly after our initial correspondence, we came to the decision to have our material be issued via Handmade Birds.
“Every Step Seems Backward”
What’s the best album/label/film/book/etc. you’ve heard this year and recently? Any newfound inspiration?
My favorite material from this year would be the recent Skin Graft material (the project, not the label), and Soft Kill’s debut, “An Open Door”. Hands down, the best film I’ve seen from this year would have to be the “City/Ruins” documentary. It’s a superb film focusing on the Harsh Noise/Industrial scene based in/around Cleveland, OH. I haven’t read any books from this year though, but I’m guessing there are some worthy ones that I’ve missed.
What’s next on the Crooked Necks horizon?
Currently, our vocalist is working on completing unfinished material dating back to 2009. T hat material, as well as other unreleased tracks, should be realized sometime in the future. The re-release of “Brilliant Darkness”, which features all new re-recordings of the original demo tracks, is planned for release soon. I’m also planning on beginning the writing process for our next full-length when time allows.
Crooked Necks’ newest LP along with the Joy Division cover EP are available now over at Handmade Birds’ site.