Counting Crows have achieved what all rock bands hope to, they have managed to successfully conquer both the American and British music scene.
The band is now in its twenty-third year of existence, and each of their seven studio albums have been Top 10 hits in their native US. All of their albums so far have also made the Top 30 in the UK.
They are embarking on a European tour this November to promote their latest record, Somewhere Under Wonderland. Speaking to the group’s front man and chief songwriter, Adam Duritz, just a few days before the album is due to be released, he elaborates on why he considers this album to be a little less ‘mature’ than their previous works.
“I think it’s quite immature in some ways, which I like about it. It’s the first album I ever made dumb jokes on. I never allowed any kind of humour to creep in songs at all, and I sort of let that go on this record. I think it’s a good record, I really do. I love it, maybe it’s our best record.”
It is no secret that within the music business, making an album is often the most stressful part of the job. Duritz says that the recording process for Counting Crows is far from being a picnic.
“I think they’re always really, really f****** hard to make,” he begins.
“I think that’s important, you should beat the c*** out of each other when you make a record, because you want it to be great, you know, and it’s not the place to be like ‘hey, relax’.
“That said, it’s the fastest we’ve ever made a record, except for Underwater Sunshine.
“It’s by far the fastest we’ve ever made a record, so in that sense I guess it was easy; at the time, it did not feel easy.”
Perhaps the reason Underwater Sunshine was an easier album to record than others was because it was a collection of cover songs, rather than an album of new material.
However, Duritz says that this album is just as important to them as albums containing their own songs.
“When you love a band, it’s not really the song-writing part you love. The thing that you listen to for the next 20 years or so, hopefully – that’s the collaborative work that goes into taking a thing that is just some chords and some words on paper, and the whole band getting together and turning that into something that stands the test of time.
“It makes the difference between bands that make great records and bands that don’t.”
Counting Crows completed a tour of America before the new record was released. Was it nerve-racking playing new songs to an audience who hadn’t heard them, yet?
“Not really, we just did it,” quips Duritz. “We’re fully used to disappointing audiences in a way, I mean we change the set list every night,” he jokes.
“I don’t really mean that, I think it’s just a point that we’ve trained people to understand that you may not come to our concert and hear a song you wanted to hear, but you will hear us play a s*** load of really good songs, and play them like we mean them, because we do.
“There used to be a thing where fans were much more interested in hearing new material, and that’s not really the way it is, nowadays. But, that doesn’t mean you have to do it! The truth is, I don’t think I could do this for 20 years and play the same songs every night. I really don’t want to hate my own songs, and I think playing something you don’t want to play over and over again is a good way to hate it.”
Yes, it would appear that Counting Crows don’t do anything unless there is something meaningful behind it. So, what is the meaning behind their name? “Not much, really!” laughs Duritz, as he explains that he named the band after a line from a scene in one of his friend’s films. “I’ve been friends with this girl Mary-Louise Parker (The West Wing, Angels in America) since we were kids. She was in a movie called Signs of Life, it was the first film she ever made. I was watching it on a VHS tape, making a list of names for our band, and then that scene went by, and I thought ‘Oh’. I crumpled it up and threw it in the fire. There you go, Counting Crows.
“It’s funny because the next line is ‘What’s the rhyme your grandmother used to tell us about counting crows?’ and he says ‘I think it was counting dogs’!”
“If I had been listening and not crumpling up the paper at that moment, I might have settled on ‘Counting Dogs’. But, it’s better this way.”
Counting Crows play at O2 Academy, Cookridge Street, Leeds on November 5, doors 7pm, tickets £38.81. http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/event/ZDH0511?brand=o2academyleeds&camefrom=AMG_LEEDS_COUNTINGCROWS