CROOK Releases Pop Song For The Damned, "oh, cool" [PREMIERE + Q&A]
Irish-born, Berlin-based singer-songwriter CROOK offers a unique, dark twist to pop in his music, which exquisitely juxtaposes a soothing atmosphere with hauntingly honest, relatable lyrics.
CROOK's break into the music scene can be traced back to the winning of a regional radio contest. This sparked the process of recording his first EP, which went on to win Ireland's Guinness Amplify program for unsigned artists. In light of this accomplishment, CROOK returned to Ireland from Berlin to record his second EP, Calando (2015), with Mercury Prize-winning producer Tommy McLaughlin. While ardently working on his EP, CROOK simultaneously began developing and refining his live show, playing approximately 250 shows within the span of a year. 2018 marked a momentous stepping stone for CROOK, as he not only released four singles in a monthly sketchbook called "CRUSHING," but also self-produced this material.
Crook returns to the music scene with a nostalgic single, "oh, cool." This bedroom pop-punk single contains echoes of early 2000s punk music with brutally painful yet relatable lyrics such as "Oh, cool, I guess I'm crying on this train." When asked about the motivation behind "oh, cool" CROOK commented,
"I wrote this song during a period when I was having a lot of panic attacks and was generally feeling terrified about everything, all the time. For me, those moments are frantic, second-to-second re-ups of terror in the brain. With 'oh, cool,' I tried to write a 2-minute shot of pure adrenaline, something that could burst through even my own thick head, and get me to wake the fuck up. I'm probably not the only one who needs it."
Listen to "oh, cool" here:
In preparation for the release of CROOK's latest single, we recently chatted with the artist himself about his musical inspirations, daily anxieties, future aspirations, and more.
OTW: If your music was a color, what color would it be and why?
CROOK: Black. Not in a particularly goth way or anything. More like a night sky. So maybe a deep navy. It’s a color that sort of swallows you whole, surrounds you. It can feel as spacious or as intimate as you need, and seems to expand and contract as you do.
OTW: If you could describe your music in five words what would they be?
CROOK: Pop songs for the damned.
OTW: What would you say has been the biggest influence on your music?
Crook: Lyrically, it’s Fiona Apple and Samuel Beckett. Musically, it’s Limewire and my parents’ record collection.
OTW: Reflecting back to the regional radio contest which launched you into the creation of your first EP, how have you grown since then? What has remained the same?
CROOK: In general, the main change has been a slow shift in the direction of confidence. I’m not sure how much stock to place in the idea that Irishness and/or Catholicism apply a sort-of downward pressure to one’s sense of self, but certainly I felt some pressure from somewhere. Now, at least, the pressure seems to have changed direction and is at my back, rather than over my head.
The thing that has remained absolutely unchanged is my approach to lyrics. I’m a real fan of music, and love lots of the tropes and features that characterize certain genres, and so, regardless of whether I’m writing for myself or for another artist, I try to write lyrics that a) work with the genre in question (either by going along with it, or messing with it completely), and b) are the kind of thing that make someone say “this is better than it needs to be.” Most of my favorite lyrics are those where the writer could have probably gone 80% as hard, and it still would have landed, and yet they opted to just full-out brutalize us.
OTW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome while pursuing music?
CROOK: Sometimes it’s hard to know what the biggest obstacles are – either because they’re too big or you’re too close to fully make them out. Like, when I was most struggling with money, it somehow never occurred to me that it was really a money-problem. Of course, I was aware that paying one’s rent in coins was hardly indicative of a positive financial situation, but the stress of not having money muddled itself with more general stresses and old doubts.
What has *felt* like a large obstacle, especially starting out, was that I had no one to look to or ask about how anything worked. No one in my town was writing songs (at least that I know of), no one was producing music (almost certainly nothing electronic), and no one had ever really tried it before (not to talk of possibly succeeding).
Of course, there are plenty of examples of Irish musicians who I loved and was aware of at the time, but they all seemed a world away: either in Dublin, or having gone to LA or London to “make it” before returning home. It would have saved me a lot of trouble if I had even *one* person to talk with about any of this.
OTW: What is your favorite lyric from “oh, cool” and why?
“I dream of getting run over
It’s like vertigo I guess”
Although I’ve phrased it so that it could be read in a fairly metaphorical way, I like this lyric because it states, very clearly, what was happening at the time. It’s nothing complicated: I would be waiting to cross the street (and city blocks in Berlin are quite small, so you cross a lot of streets) and, for a period, I was overcome with the idea of stepping out at precisely the right (or wrong, I guess) moment. Thud, crunch, buckle – and then I’d be laid out in the street. It felt unbelievably similar to standing on a cliff’s edge and looking down: not wanting to die, necessarily, but wanting to fall, and maybe to hit the ground.
OTW: In this single, the lyrics largely address the daily anxieties of existing. Have you/How have you managed to take that anxiety and shape it into something positive or productive?
CROOK: I’ve kept a journal for years, and when I’m dealing with a particularly heavy dose of not-feeling-good, I almost always turn to that. Just writing out what I’m thinking, however convoluted or senseless it might be, grants me a certain distance from myself, some respite.
At times like that, I try to remind myself that being “productive” is not the only (or even the best) way to measure myself. I try to allow myself time to recover, if that’s what I need.
OTW: In response to your statement that this song came from a time when you were experiencing panic attacks and were terrified about everything, do you have any advice for other people going through this or similar situations?
CROOK: If all that fails, I revert to lessons I learned as a child and try to be of service to people: cook someone dinner, help someone move, call someone I know is lonely.
OTW: Why should people be excited for your upcoming projects?
CROOK: If you love pop music, or even if you’ve listened to pop music all your life and can’t stand it, I think we should all be excited about where it’s going, about what it *could* be. I’m intending to make some contribution to that future.
OTW: In regards to your future in the music industry, what would success look like to you?
CROOK: Success to me feels as if it should be a moving target, not something to be found, picked up, and put in your inside-jacket pocket. I hope my idea of success continues to evolve as I do – and also I guess it’d be nice to sell a bunch of records and be able to camp out in a large studio, surrounded by instruments and friends, and write until I’m too old to think.
OTW: Who would be your dream collaboration?
CROOK: Fiona Apple, Charli XCX, Brockhampton (all on the same song).
OTW: Who are your Ones To Watch?
CROOK: Right now, it’s Konradsen, 100 gecs, Deb Never, Viktor Leksell, and Cyn.