Interview: Crywank

Crywank is one of our elite Discovery feature members; with a gold, platinum, and diamond card. As by now, you should know Crywank is the pseudonym for Manchester based singer-songwriter James Clayton. He released his third album Tomorrow is Nearly Yesterday and Everyday is Stupid on the 8th (of November 2013 for you future readers and Crywank fans.) I caught up with Crywank via the Email to discuss his influences, his life, and what he has planned for the future.
~Eddie Gibson

Music Review Database: When did you start writing songs? 

Crywank: I used to sing in a pretty crappy garage band when I was a teen. The lyrics are hella cringe, and some of the songs where just me going "ba ba ba ba ba" for the majority of them but it was a lot of fun. I used to sing, although we'd swap instruments and for some songs I'd play the drums. I used to think our guitarist was great. Now I can actually play a little bit of guitar I see he was not so great. Crywank was my first real attempt of writing something that expresses myself.

What has been your biggest inspiration to record music? 

Ugh, it was a girl. She hurt me and I guess it was an attempt to turn that pain into something more positive. She had a lot of 'cred' and for a long time my identity felt like nothing more than being her boyfriend, followed by being her ex-boyfriend. I found it hard to define myself without her. Crywank started through me wanting my own identity without her to put it bluntly. I didn't really do the best job at first though considering my first release is about getting over her.

I was surrounded by creative musical people in my youth, always green with envy. I had so many songs and ideas littering my head with no way of realising them. Listening to musicians like Wild Man Larry Fischer, Paul Baribeau and Daniel Johnston inspired me a lot. They made me see it was possible to create something poignant and beautiful without the skill I'd deemed necessary. It's sort of a backhanded compliment towards them, but it helped me pick up a guitar. I didn't have that much self-respect back then (or arguably now) and so people laughing at me for trying seemed like an inevitability (I mean my first song 'Welcome to Castle Irwell' only has two chords), but it didn't happen. I was supported by friends, slowly grew a fanbase online and started getting more faith in myself when it came to song-writing. 

What guitar do you use to create your blunt sound? 

I use my granddad’s old guitar that he left me and I named her Barbarella. She's cracked at the bottom so the B string rings loads. I'd like a new guitar as I get scared about Barbarella breaking on tour, but right now money isn't really permitting. I just use the cheapest strings I can buy. I'm a cheapskate. 

How are you improving Crywank as a touring artist? 

I'm not really. I suck so hard at getting this side of being a musician done. I get a lot of messages especially from Americans and Australians asking me to go over and play but I can't afford it and I doubt I could organise it. I don't really know how to get support slots, and I struggle booking tours. I don't really scout out shows anymore unless I'm trying to book a tour, I just play wherever people are willing to put me on.

What is your favourite venue to play? 

I really like the 1 in 12 in Bradford. The library is lovely and the beer is cheap. I'm playing there for the third time now on November 22nd with Yorkshire hero Captain hotknives. We're both really excited for it.

What was it like playing on the same bill as Andrew Jackson Jihad? 

An honour, I was too excited to support them. They're both really sweet guys who were very supportive. It was only my second show when I first played with them, I was so tearful all evening. I ended up getting really nervous and drunk. I don't often drink but I too regularly get drunk at my shows. My friends sung along and it made me feel like a real musician. The second time was my 21st birthday, I got even drunker and crowdsurfed quite a bit, although I'm pretty sure AJJ hate that shit. I'd like to play with them again, ideally sober next time.

Is there a specific artist you would like to tour with in the future? 

There's too many. I'd want to ask bands, but I never do. I don't think I'd take the rejection well and I wouldn't know how to word it or assume they hate my music. I fantasise about 'dream tours' a lot though, usually with AJJ and ONSIND. That tour would be cool. I also think crywank and The Front Bottoms would look pretty funny on a poster together. 

You summed up a particular drunken populist culture with "Care Not For Your Clubnights", what was your inspiration behind this song? 

I guess all the 'metal' and 'hardcore' clubs in Manchester. When I first moved here I met kids whose idea of the scene wasn't those in bands or putting on shows or making zines, but where just the kids who frequented the clubs. I wrote this when I'd began to question more, and became more conscious of the fake alternative that exists. One with as much of a focus on consuming, apathy, gender roles and violence as the mainstream. The original name for this song was 'Front Magazine Has a lot to answer for' but I felt like it wasn't direct enough for that title. 

Do you ever look back on your internet exposure with hindsight? 

I think about my internet exposure a lot. It's a big cause of anxiety for me, but it's also something I feel privileged to have. As an artist it's nice to know I can make something and it will likely have an audience, and messages of support, or asking for advice, or telling me my influence are really moving and lovely. I do wonder if chasing an audience though is just widening the scope for future humiliations. When I read people speak so fondly of my early work, then dismiss all I've done since it does dishearten me. JIGTDS got a lot of love, and raised a lot of expectations. It feels pretty poo not to meet those expectations.

You put all your music up for free on Bandcamp, to that I salute you. What do you make of internet piracy?

I've actually had to stop doing them for free on bandcamp as I ran out of download codes. I uploaded the albums to mediafire and put free links on my blog though. I think anyone who wants it free can get it free, but I plan on making it easier when I have a website made. My new album will be priced at £1 for the first month as we spent money on recording and are saving to hopefully tour afar one day, but then I'll put up free links as well after the month. I don't mind piracy at all. I don't mind if people download my music without paying, I'm just happy they are listening. 

What plans do you have for the near future? 

I'm working on new concepts for albums, trying hard not to write about myself. I'm also bringing in more musicians. The third album is out soon, and hopefully I'll be able to arrange a few tours on the back of that. 

Could you offer any advice to any aspiring D.I.Y musicians? 

Don't take yourself too seriously.

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Discovery: Interview: Crywank
Interview: Crywank
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