Crawlers’ Holly Minto talks debut mixtape, mainstream pop and TikTok power

Crawlers are set to continue their tour on into December, with singer Holly Minto sitting down with NewcastleWorld to talk about the band’s rise in popularityCrawlers are set to continue their tour on into December, with singer Holly Minto sitting down with NewcastleWorld to talk about the band’s rise in popularity
Crawlers are set to continue their tour on into December, with singer Holly Minto sitting down with NewcastleWorld to talk about the band’s rise in popularity | Chuff Media
Crawlers’ own Holly Minto sat down with Ewan Gleadow for an exclusive interview to talk their recent tour, their debut mixtape and how they’re managing the massive rise in popularity

Crawlers’ singer Holly Minto sat down for an exclusive interview with Ewan Gleadow, where the Hanging Like Jesus and Come Over band leader spoke of their varied influences, their meteoric rise in popularity and their next steps as they face up to their sold-out tour, which hit Newcastle just a few weeks ago.

Ewan Gleadow: First off well done on the EP, quality stuff. What can people expect from this upcoming mixtape? Why a mixtape, also?

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Holly Minto: I think the reason we went for a mixtape was to be able to give everyone an aspect of Crawlers that they’ve not seen yet. On our last EP, we established a sound and I think we wanted to pull it in all directions. We want that sonic cohesion in an album, and I feel like a mixtape can really spread our wings, go a little bit crazy, show what we’re capable of before we settle down on the debut we’re currently working on.

Ewan; It’s nice to spread the wings of what a band can do, is there any particular part of the mixtape that does that best?

Holly: I think at the minute my favourite song changes so often. Currently it’s Hanging Like Jesus. I think being able to see that one live is going to be really fun. I think just seeing a different dynamic from us, there’s a lot more musical - I don’t know - more of what we’ve not yet explored. A lot of spoken word, a lot of extreme and different styles of production. People are going to see that, obviously I’m not saying we’ve ever fallen into the pocket of a TikTok band or anything like that, but I think people are going to see that we are musicians at the core and it’s what we love - creating great music.

Ewan: I’m glad you mentioned that TikTok thing, because obviously social media over the past two years, bands are now more accessible on there than ever. How have you managed that trajectory? Having that connection with fans. I think of people like Yard Act who are very active on social media, very responsive to people that get in touch with them. Does that change how your music and the band are presented?

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Holly: I think being connected with your fans is so important, especially when you’re initially growing as a band. They’re the people who are going to be buying your merch. They’re the people who are going to be getting your music in the charts. As you grow bigger it becomes a lot harder to set boundaries between your fans. I think when you’re in this era where you’re constantly touring and you’re doing a lot of stuff, you want to give your fans everything and support them, but obviously you can’t be as in touch as you’re on such a full schedule. It kind of shifts the dynamic a lot, I think.

I think at the end of the day the fans are the reason that we all are able to succeed. The reason I can live off of being a musician, which is everything I’ve dreamed of, is because of the fans. Without the fans, you’re kind of nothing, aren’t you? Otherwise you’re just a band walking around to a venue for nothing.

Ewan: Pretty much, yeah. I mean obviously yourself and your bandmates have had quite the quick progression through the musical ranks, how have you handled it? It’s been quite rapid, hasn’t it?

Holly: It’s weird because we’ve been a band for so long. I think we’ve been a band for about five years now. Five years being a band. Obviously when you first start you think you understand everything but really, not even your toes are dipped into the industry. It’s crazy and hectic. I think this year in general has been. It’s only been recently I’ve kind of stopped and realised all the amazing things that we’ve been able to do just from a sudden catalyst of success that we’ve been building on for a long time. It’s been kind of crazy. I think you’re not really used to it, where you’re glorifying touring before you tour, and then you realise how exhausting it is and how different you need to act in those situations.

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But also, all these amazing things we do, sometimes you’re so into it that you forget how a year would go by. You wouldn’t have even dreamed doing the things that you’re currently doing. It was really nice. We’ve not had much time off as we previously had because of how busy we’ve been. I’ve had my first bit of time off and I was just sat there like ‘holy- we’ve done so much.’ We’ve really had our dreams come true. The fact that the realms of possibilities are so much larger than just a year ago. It’s absolutely crazy. Got to adapt to the speed of it all.

Crawlers are still experimenting with their sound and style, much to the delight of their sold-out crowdsCrawlers are still experimenting with their sound and style, much to the delight of their sold-out crowds
Crawlers are still experimenting with their sound and style, much to the delight of their sold-out crowds | Chuff Media

Ewan: It’s mad, isn’t it? I think that’s the experience of a lot of bands in the loop now, where it’s their first release. Pixey marked their first release, Sam Fender bagged a second. It’s quite fast in how they rise to the top and how their music stands out. How do you feel your music stands out? I asked Sea Girls about that, because they’re in such a broad genre. How do you stand out? Your music does stand out, it’s very different to what’s currently out there - but I was wondering what you thought the reason for that was.

Holly: I think there’s a combination of things. The fact that we run as a band is highly important to our sound. I think that we all provide a different piece to our sound. We’re all a little different and into different things that really helps. I think I burst through a little bit with taboo lyrics in our sounds, which I think of in rock music a lot of the time you don’t hear. You kind of hear it more in the sad pop genre, which I’m really into. But the rock genre, you know, to hear those themes of battling mental health and hot topics that, in the last few years are less taboo than they were, is important.

Amy makes the most amazing wall of sound with guitars. I think now, currently, we’ve come into this minimalist production style in music. We didn’t mean to do this, but Crawlers has gone the other way. As in, 500 tracks on a song of guitars. We’ve created this wall of sound effect, that Amy has mastered and for general rock and indie music, a moving bassline isn’t something really explored normally. It’s very rooted and centred. We have those solo moments, where the low-end moves while the high end doesn’t. Harry and our producer Pete, who’s also a drummer, they team up and work on how to push the vocal lines through the rhythm parts, which I think is something we enjoy doing. It makes a hook when sometimes it’s not as hooky. Lyrically wise, I think it’s a cool way of doing it.

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I think all those combined help make our songs, and even when we explore different genres, like the mixtape, we still kind of embody those morals as individual musicians and combine them.

Ewan: That’s the right blend for any band. If you can bring all those ideas to the table and mix them, and you can tell that works on the EP. Like you said, with minimalism in music at the moment and pushing against it, but like you said it wasn’t an active choice. Is there going to be a stage where you carry on further away from minimalism?

Holly: I think it was so accidental, and that’s what’s great about having this experiment with the wall of sound. We can use minimalism and make it even more effective. I think our songs on the mixtape do that in particular. It stems from the verse and broader instruments. When it opens up to that wall of sound you can really hear the difference. I think exploring those textures is so much more fun. Obviously when you’re touring live, there might not be much understanding on just how much goes into the studio work and how big the wall of sound is and how much fun we have doing it. We can get too carried away and it’s knowing exactly when to stop. When’s too much, when’s too little. That’s what the album is going to be. I think it’s really exciting.

Ewan: It’s one of the few new releases I’m excited about, but I’m just burnt out with new albums now. Speaking of that wall of sound, there’s an album out by Lambchop called The Bible, and it’s such a strangely good exploration of what a wall of sound can do. You’ve got acoustics, slowly paced melodies, and then all of a sudden it crashes into saxophones and a faster tempo. It’s great.

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Holly: It’s not as explored right now in the mainstream because obviously we’re so focused on the pop kind of melody, but Liv said the most wonderful thing to me once. As someone who mainly writes on acoustic guitar and piano, it kind of hit me in the face with facts. You hear from writers in general going, well if you can’t strip a song back to an acoustic guitar, it’s not a good song. Then Liv went, “Are you saying The Prodigy isn’t good music, though?” Because if you strop that back to an acoustic guitar, it’s not going to be anything. I was like, “whoa, you’re right.”

It made me think about how much noise and music and sound has an effect on you already without the lyrics. If you have that combination of music that makes you feel without the lyrics and combine them, that’s when you can make something really special. For sure.

Ewan: It’s exactly what you’ve said there. Lyrics on their own can be stripped back, but sometimes it’s not great to say the least. If you think of something like Black Midi’s new album Hellfire, that wall of sound effect is what makes it. If you strip that back to just acoustics it’s going to sound a bit mental. But that effect, like you said, it’s not mainstream, anymore.

Holly: I think being a mainstream artist now, not because of just TikTok, but I think because in general how loud people make good music are on social media, that’s really good. Songs are becoming huge just because they’re good and they have that feeling. Katie McLeod, when she released Complex, it had nothing of virality that TikTok normally applies but just because it was a great song, it blew up and went big. I think that’s what’s so exciting about music at the minute, if you have people loud enough who want to support your art, no matter, what, it can be forced into the mainstream. It’s what’s so exciting.

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Ewan: Just from this year alone, there’s so much variety that we’re now seeing variety that we didn’t have a few years ago, it feels more present this year.

Holly: Completely. I think as well, people who are in the limelight, huge artists who are kind of experimental. If you’re thinking of the top three right now, probably Billie Eilish, Harry Styles and Taylor Swift, they’re doing the typical music they encompassed in the 2010s, but they’re really going crazy production-wise and they’re not staying safe anymore. Art was not diminished but lacking a lot in music and it became this mechanic creation, especially in mainstream pop. I feel like now there’s less control of virality, I think good music and huge music is becoming big again. Artists are becoming huge, not just singers, which is exciting.

Ewan: I’m glad you brought up Harry Styles and Billie Eilish, obviously they released their first couple of albums and then went left of field with not just their music but their image. My mate sent me the music video to Music from a Sushi Restaurant, it’s absolutely terrifying. Surprising, too.

Holly: It’s so funny, because as someone who didn’t know before landing a major label, is that directors are different. They listen to the song, you can give them a mood board and directors will come up with a concept and we’ve had some crazy ones for some of our music videos. We very much like taking creative control so we normally go our own way with it, but it’s fun seeing them and I want to know what director came to the idea of dressing Harry Styles as a mermaid and then getting murdered, turned into sushi. Music videos supply a new context to the song, which here is just so funny.

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Crawlers display a new sound and are keeping up with their social media posts, something debuting artists are keeping in mind more and moreCrawlers display a new sound and are keeping up with their social media posts, something debuting artists are keeping in mind more and more
Crawlers display a new sound and are keeping up with their social media posts, something debuting artists are keeping in mind more and more | Chuff Media

Ewan; It’s very David Cronenberg. It’s quite good. But again, it’s that subversion of expectation. A lot of people think, “oh, Harry Styles is a pop artist” and then he goes and does something like this. It’s a nice change of pace.

Holly: If you go onto his songwriting credits, it’s him and two other people. That’s him writing his own songs and it’s really special to have that when we’re entering the era of the artist again. As an upcoming band, that is so exciting.

Ewan: Absolutely. It’s very exciting for people that listen as well, I don’t know how the average person listens to music. I saw average in the sense that they’re not listening to six albums a day with deadlines to meet. It’s kind of how people connect with the music in front of them now. Very musically oriented in the sense that lyrics are quite personal or pushing through with something new, something exciting. Those taboo messages you mentioned, that seems to be the next step, which is fantastic.

Holly: It’s because we’re in a recession. We’re in this dark, depressing period and it’s the same, whenever the political climate surrendered to a depression of sorts. The arts echo that and that’s why music becomes more liberating. It’s why it becomes more taboo. You no longer talk about surface-level topics, artists now go into the extremes. Even huge artists like The Weeknd are talking about battling addiction and fame in mainstream radio music. It’s a cool time to be an artist I think.

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Ewan: Without a doubt, and it’s a cool time to be a listener as well. Speaking of listening, you’re on tour, and heading to all sorts of places up and down the country including Newcastle. You’re off to Red Bar, are you excited for the tour? You mentioned earlier that touring can feel full-on. Is it still fun to tour?

Holly: Well our last tour I had no idea what to expect and was quite ill for a lot of the tour. I was battling colds, I hadn’t prepared, I didn’t realise how much stuff you needed. But now I’m on the multivitamins and the smoothies, I’m keeping my vocal health. It was a very interesting learning curve for me, for my own physical health. I’m so excited for this tour. We’ve sold it out. We’re going to places I’ve never been. I’ve literally never been to Newcastle. There are so many places I’ve never been before in my own country. Exploring these places and realising how much there is, rather than being cooped up in a van, it’s working out what we can do and how we can have fun with a tour because this is our job and we need to make it as fun as possible.

We’ve recently kind of set up a gigs and touring page on Instagram to share everything that the fans do, to connect with them a little bit more and also see what they’re doing on the tour because, well obviously you’ve gone to big shows before and it’s, it’s your life. I’m a huge The 1975 fan and when I used to go to their shows, it was a huge thing. I’d go there, I’d bring my blankets, I’d be camping, I’d be sat outside, and it’d become your whole life and being able to share that as an artist and knowing that our fans are doing the same thing. We have a bunch of fans who are following us around the whole tour and staying in a barn. That’s incredible, stuff like that. We wanna show that you are the  soundtrack to our music.

Ewan: That’s incredible, unbelievable. You said there about music being work, but a passion as well. How do you balance that?

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Holly: One thing I’ve noticed with being as full-on in the industry currently is that work involves so many things. We’ve obviously been signed and are maintaining creative control, it means we’re dipping our fingers into a lot of pies. My favourite stuff is the songwriting and being in the studio, that’s where my heart is. But there are so many different things to do. You can set up an entire live show. You need to work out how to make these live shows good. What are you doing with the lights? How are you making it like a performance? But then you’ve got your marketing tactics, how are you making this and what’s the concepts and what’s the alert videos?

There’s so many things to do as an artist, which obviously the things that I’m not as good at I can step back and oversee or the things that I’m best at, I’m gonna put myself forward, you know? Keeping on top of all these things but also providing interest and having fun with everything that I like doing rather than just kind of sticking to one thing. If I was just a singer, I’d be so bored, you know what I mean? Like, I dunno if it’s ADHD or just like the general short attention span our generation has adopted, but doing all these things makes it so much more entertaining.

Ewan: I don’t think many people realise or know how much planning goes into the smaller stuff, the lights changing at the right time, making sure a guitar is on stage.

Holly: It’s our first time working with a musical director on this tour. The musical director is the one who works on making all the songs sound huge, working on the interludes, the performance, getting a story with the set, working out the bits where we’re going to be breathing and the performance details. Obviously a lot of us went to the theatre as kids and love shows and want our performances to be taken to the next level. It’s exciting to be debuting on this tour.

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