Crazy Arm are one of the most recognised names in the UK DIY punk community; playing fast-aggressive-political-punk rock with acoustic roots, the band have an extremely distinctive sound. Lead vocalist Darren Johns had a chat with us about the band’s DIY journey.
So, how did you guys get started? Was it difficult starting up in DIY fashion?
We were all in other bands and wanted to do something different as we hung out together all the time. We started off sounding like a Fugazi-meets-Bluetip post-hardcore band but then it morphed into a more rootsy sound. It was just great fun, no desire or ambition to do anything other than make good music that we loved. This was in 2005 when things seemed easier and the internet didn’t have such a hold on music and musicians. It’s never difficult starting up a band in the DIY community, it’s just hard to please everyone once you’re popular within it and once you start making different choices.
How did you get to the point you’re at now?
You mean still scrabbling about in the lower echelons of the indie/DIY scene?! Playing lots of shows, not giving up, and making very good music, I hope. I think we could have made much better decisions and choices in the past but hindsight is 20/20.
What would you consider to be your local scene and how does it treat you?
The Plymouth music scene is in a constant state of flux, and doesn’t always have any real cohesiveness, which is not necessarily a bad thing. There are pockets of activity, and good hard-working people and great bands, and in the main our band is treated well down here. Things change so quickly though so I count our blessings.
What promoters/venues are doing good work there?
Well, we’ve recently lost the best venue the city ever had – the White Rabbit, run by Dan James from WOAHNOWS – which is a big loss to the music community. There’s a new place called the Underground with Ben Turner at the helm which is great for smaller shows as well as places like Tiki Bar and Voodoo Lounge. And we also have The Hub which is taking on the bigger shows from the White Rabbit until something new arises. There are a lot of independent promoters popping up all over the city, all with their hearts in the right place.
Where are your favourite places to play in the UK?
It changes from year to year, but we always have fun in Lincoln, Norwich, Manchester, Bristol, Southampton, Brighton and our home town. We’ve also had great shows in Bradford, Keighley, Leeds, London, Canterbury, Portsmouth, Glasgow and more. It all depends on who else is playing, the time of year, the day of the week, the type of promoter, and whether we’re having a good run.
How do you think the scenes across mainland Europe compare to the UK?
They don’t care about in-bands and out-bands on the mainland. If they like you they like you, no matter what or who you sound like or what your status is in the UK underground. We have a tendency to judge the shit out of bands over here. And countries like Germany, Austria and the Netherlands have a good network of anarchist semi/squat venues and promoters, which means that a lot of the shows are about more than just the music.
What are you guys currently working on? When can we expect new music?
We have ten or more songs under way for the fourth album, which will categorically not be an acoustic one, and I have loads of fragments of music for other songs. We want to have about 20 when we go in to demo. We may release an online EP before the album. We’ve also talked about recording some covers including songs by The Who, The Stooges, Future Islands, Phil Ochs and Grand Funk Railroad. Watch this space.
Are you guys still focusing on the acoustic thing?
To me it’s pretty intrinsic to our sound so we’ll always do a more stripped down thing when the need arises, although I’m not sure the whole band agrees. We tend to do a combined electric/acoustic set a lot of the time anyway, especially when we have our fiddle player, Luke Yates. But we no longer have Vicky Butterfield singing with us so I’m really missing the female harmony vocals on the acoustic songs. We had Emily Barker and Helen Chambers guest with us on two different acoustic shows, which was a lot of fun. I’m hoping to still play acoustic shows with Vicky as a duo or trio so I’m always working on other folk/country/Americana songs to that end.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Write and demo all of the new songs, tour Europe at the start of October including a couple shows with Boysetsfire in Germany, finalise the details for a tour of South Korea (fingers crossed!), tour the UK in December, and not lose any more band members. That would be nice.