Interview: Crooner – Heaven in a Hurry (Album)

Crooner is an Erie, Pa-based nostalgia-pop band featuring independent musicians Brian Kinney, Teddy Rankin, and Aaron Mook, alongside Will Kinney and Travis Mook. The collective formed in 2019 with the goal of creating songs that could stand the test of time without being tied down to any singular genre, something they achieved with their eclectic and scrappy debut, We’re Gonna Live Forever.

Hi Crooner, how are you today?

Aaron Mook: We’re doing well. We’ve been getting back to hanging out without having an album to work on, aside from promoting it. Thank you for doing this.  

Brian Kinney: Yeah, we’re excited and anxious for people to hear the album.

For those that haven’t heard of you yet, how would you best describe your sound and who have been your biggest influences so far?

BK: I would describe it as moody, driving, and nostalgic. My biggest influences for this album were artists like Kevin Devine, Bright Eyes, Khruangbin, and The Dear Hunter.

Teddy Rankin: And Hovvdy, we really like what they’re doing by blending simple acoustic arrangements with electronic flourishes. Between the last album and this one? Our sound is like…desert rock and 80s pop mixed with emo and folk rock.

AM: I recently started using the term “nostalgia-pop” to try and differentiate us from other indie-rock or indie-pop bands. Because of the musical backgrounds we come from, there’s a lot of melody and throwback to bands we listened to in high school, but through this weird filter of the artists we listen to now. And honestly, while we don’t sound anything like BROCKHAMPTON, I would say they were a major influence on this project in the sense that they were a collective of members coming from different musical backgrounds and trying to create something fresh and exciting. That approach, along with the idea that we all get to share the spotlight in terms of songwriting and singing, has been a huge part of the way we operate.

Do you remember what the first song was that made you want to start a career in music?
AM: Sheesh…I’m thinking back to my first band and it had to be some emo song by some band that is probably cancelled now. In fact, I know exactly which band it was, but since it’s the first song I remember covering, let’s just say it was “Anyone Else But You” by The Moldy Peaches. Shout-out to Juno and Elliot Page.

BK: I played guitar and sang in high school, but I didn’t think I actually wanted to record my songs until I saw videos of this rap duo from Chicago called The Palmer Squares. They’d make these awesome single-shot music videos that I’d watch with my brothers. That was the inspiration to start making beats and recording with a drum machine I was given.

TR: “Poison Oak” by Bright Eyes. I remember crying when I heard it live and thinking music had the power to make me feel something deeper than other forms of expression.

And what other artists have you found yourself listening to lately?

AM: Lately? Well I’m always listening to Alex G, I’m excited for that new record, but I guess I would say the new Greet Death EP is probably my favorite release of the year. I just got into that Black Country, New Roads record from this year, along with the one before it. And besides those…the normal amount of MF DOOM.

BK: Idles, Porches, Molchat Doma, and Japanese Breakfast are some bands I’m loving at the moment. They all make me want to try creating different styles of music in the future.

You have just released your new Album ‘Heaven in a Hurry’. Can you tell us how that album came about? Is there a story behind it?

AM: So basically, we released our first album, ‘We’re Gonna Live Forever,’ in 2020 just a few weeks before COVID-19 hit the U.S. And that record was super rewarding but stressful to make, so I didn’t anticipate us working on new music together anytime soon. But the longer we had to stay inside, the more we missed each other, and catching up over Zoom turned into talking about the band and how lucky we felt to have each other as friends and collaborators, and that eventually turned into us sharing demos and song ideas with each other. I spent a lot of time learning to play guitar better and record my own demos so I could keep up with these guys. I don’t think we knew we had a record at first, but it felt like we went from having a few song ideas to an album’s worth of demos in just a month or two.

BK: The record really started taking shape after we had the title, ‘Heaven in a Hurry.’ I wasn’t crazy about the name until more songs were written and we started to realize how many ways it could be interpreted. There were a lot of fun conversations about what the title could and does mean while the album was being written.

And was there a particular style you were looking for when you wrote it?

AM: Our first record is kind of scrappy and eclectic, hopefully in a charming way, but I think we really wanted to create something cohesive and find our sound this time around. It may be partially due to the limits we had while demoing on our own, but almost all of the songs were initially written and recorded on acoustic guitars. When we got together to re-record everything, we were able to add rhythm sections, harmonies, and different synth tones to all of the songs in order to flesh them out and differentiate them. More than anything, I remember talking about foregoing most of the electric guitar in favor of organic instrumentation and then something completely synthetic to strike that weird balance between the two.

BK: It changed as we went, too, which is how we like it. When we started talking about making a new album, I wanted something stripped down and clean to show that we knew how to play. I started to change gears slightly when we began to incorporate some abstract ideas.

Can we expect a new EP, or even an album from you in the near future?

BK: We are still buzzing from finishing this album, so I can’t really say. Even with this one, there wasn’t initially a plan to do a full album until it picked up momentum, so it’s always up in the air.

AM: Yeah, I don’t know about the near future — ‘Heaven in a Hurry’ is still a baby that we’re currently trying to nurture — but stranger things have happened. It’s already been discussed a few times, so we’re excited, and when the time is right, we’ll know.

The coronavirus outbreak has obviously affected everyone’s plans, but what have you got in store for the rest of the year?

AM: We don’t play out currently, so honestly, we’re just going to continue promoting the record, try to figure out what songs people are latching onto, what kind of physical media they might be interested in buying if we decide to take that route, and maybe shooting a music video or two.

BK: I’m going to be finishing up two solo albums during the fall and hopefully have them out before the new year. I’ve been holding onto one of them for years now, so it’s time for those to be released.

And finally, what is the best piece of musical advice you have ever been given? 

BK: I’ve learned from friends and family to be aware of my own time and to always ask myself if I’m really enjoying the process or not. And as of now, I’m definitely enjoying it, so I think I’m on the right track.

AM: I don’t have anything sentimental, but I’m a big fan of Kenny Beats’ motto, “Don’t overthink shit.”

TR: Less is more. Play tasty.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *