By Bob Gourley | Originally published in 2005
When was “Particles & Waves” originally released?
Alison: “It came out in the UK in September of 2004. In other countries in Europe, it’s been a staggered release. Like in Italy, it came out October of 2004, and in France it came out over the summer. But basically, it came out in the end of 2004.”
Why was there such a delay with the US release?
Alison:“The previous album, ‘Future Songs,’ was released on Instinct Records, and they kind of wound down as a label. They merged with the Knitting Factory and are concentrating on the live side. So it took us a few months to find a new label, who were the right kind of people for us. We ended up signing for 2 albums with Manifesto Records.”
What made you choose Manifesto?
Alison:“Well it was partly because some friends of ours are in another group, The Wedding Present. They were with Manifesto and we were just browsing on the website. We got the feeling that they might be the right kind of label for us. They have groups who aren’t exactly mainstream. So I just sent them a CD, and they responded.”
Was the DVD part of the original release?
Alison:“The DVD is actually from a little filming session we did in 2003 at a theater in London called Bush Hall. We just filmed it on 3 cameras, but then we didn’t edit it. We just kind of had this footage. When Manifesto asked us if we had anything that we could add to the US release to make it a bit special, we decided to have a look at these tapes that we’d recorded. And we edited 4 songs from that. We’d never done a DVD before, and it made us starting thinking about a proper DVD release in the future. We found loads and loads of other footage from over the years, and there’s a possibilility that we might do a compilation of material from various stages of the group.”
Have you considered putting some of the other footage online for your fans to see?
Alison: “We’re just now deciding what to do with it. Some of it needed editing. We’d like to present it in a form that makes sense, rather than just haphazardly putting little bits and pieces around. So we’re thinking of editing it into a long form thing. But we’ll probably put bits of it on the website when we get around to it.”
How is it going running your own label?
Alison: “I think we’re beginning to find our feet with it now. I think initially it was kind of a steep learning curve. But it’s really good, just being able to choose your own directions and when you do things and how you do things.For foreign releases, we tend to have an individual company we link up with in each country, rather than having one major indie company we go with for the whole of Europe or whatever. We tend to do smaller independent deals. That way, it’s much more personal, and everyone who you work with does it because they feel quite passionately about it. Sometimes you can get bogged down with the boring organizational side, stuff that you’d rather not do. But there’s always a payoff. It’s a balance between being free and doing that other stuff.”
Do you regret not doing it sooner? Or do you feel that it was necessary to be on an established label in the beginning?
Alison: “Yeah, I think I was helpful when we first started. We did sign quite early on the BMG and were with them for about 7 years. I think probably the last album we did with them, I would have rather not done that record with them. Or not done that record at all. But I think that the first 3 albums we did with BMG benefited from having a company behind us, to help with tour expenses and stuff like that.”
With the staggered release schedule, are you worried about people getting the c ds on import, or downloading them because they can’t wait for it to come out in their own country?
“Alison: We asked our UK distribution not to export to the US for that reason. And as far as downloading, I don’t think it affects CD sales. We don’t object to that, it’s just part of the culture now, isn’t it? I think it does help music spread, because people get to hear things that they normally wouldn’t bother to go to the store and buy, and that might introduce them to a whole new group. Releasing independently, we don’t have the advertising power. So really, Cranes has become just much more music based. When you sign to a major label, or any company that’s not your own, there are business pressures and career paths and all those kind of things that you take into consideration. But we’ve kind of been through all that, and now we just completely focus on the music and playing shows. We just have to keep an eye that don’t do things that cost so much that we can’t afford to continue. ”
How does running your own label affect the actual making of an album?
Alison: “I don’t think that the song writing process is any different. I think that the way technology has improved, it’s a whole lot easier now to make really good quality recordings for far less money. I think the time thing is the only thing that we notice. The very first record that we did took us 2 years because when we have all the time in the world, we take as long as it takes. But when you’re working with a larger record company, everything is scheduled and in some ways that can be good. For the 4 albums we did with BMG, or the 4 main ones, we were just booked into a studio in London for 6 to 8 weeks. We used to just go in and write and record, and at the end of the 6 weeks, whatever we’d recorded pretty much would be the album. That kind of pressure is quite good for Jim and I sometimes, because confines can sometimes be good for creativity. But then on the other hand, having pretty good equipment at home is also a good thing because you can explore things over a period of time and come back to them. Let things sort of happen quite naturally.
“We signed a publishing contract with Mute a few years ago and updated all of our recording equipment then. So yeah, we recorded it over a six or nine month period.”
Since there are no label-imposed deadlines, how to you keep yourselves from spending too much time on a CD?
Alison: “You have to at some point give yourself a deadline. You don’t want things to drag on for years. There has to be some sort of minute on it. We’re working on a new album at the moment, actually, and we’ve decided that we want to finish it by November. That means we can hopefully tour in America in the spring and then tour in Europe in the summer.”
Do you ever come up with music that you like but don’t feel fits with what you’re trying to do as Cranes?
Alison: “Yeah, we do. There’s a ton of stuff that doesn’t get used. I think that’s part of the process, though. Choosing what to use. There’s always a lot of stuff there that doesn’t get used.”
Have you considered releasing some of it, maybe as a side project?
Alison: “We’ve kind of thought about that. Jim has done a lot of instrumental stuff, and we’ve compiled that together. But he’s such a perfectionist that he’s never finished with it. We were maybe going to do a compilation of Jim’s more kind of filmic stuff. But we’re quite conscious about not letting out stuff that we’re not 100% happy with.”See all interviews →