It goes deeper than that.
Sure, it’s nice to know that the band was originally inspired by Nick Cave and that they’re great musicians who craft interesting and catchy songs.
But, past that, there’s a history to this group that makes them a band. And I’m all about bands – one for all and all for one – you know the drill.
In my mind, there’s nothing better than a small group of ruffians honing and perfecting their craft with the sole purpose of kicking ass. I’ve always viewed the best rock bands as being a confrontational force. It’s not about creating art, it’s about being on stage with your brothers/sisters and doing what you do to clobber the crowd into being fans. That said: The Great Crusades have always been a great rock band.
Frontman and guitarist Brian Krumm formed the original line-up in 1997 when his band, the Suede Chain, broke up after releasing two critically acclaimed albums on Champaign, Illinois’ Mud Records.
“I actually wrote a lot of the lyrics that I used for the songs on the first album while on tour with the Suede Chain,” Krumm remembers. “I think I called Mike (Rader, Honcho Overload) right before the last Suede Chain gig at the Side Door in St. Louis … leaving a message that I wanted to play some music.
“The Great Crusades did come about because Suede Chain broke up, but I still want to do another record someday. I always wanted to do one more because three times a charm.”
Original Crusade members included Rader on drums, Don Gerard (The Moon Seven Times, Steve Pride and His Blood Kin) on bass, Jason Docter (Suede Chain) on keyboards and Rod Van Huis (Steakdaddy Six) on guitar. After their first album came out, a new line-up emerged. Krumm recruited Suede Chain alum Brian Hunt to take over bass, Brian Leach of the famed Last Gentlemen and Sugarbuzz was added as a singer/guitarist, and childhood friend and Suede Chain collaborator Christian Moder took his place behind the trapkit.
Like I said, this band has quite a history. Over the last 13 years, they have released seven full-length albums, an EP, a DVD, and they’ve toured the U.S. and Europe numerous times. Wow.
The new album (Fiction to Shame) is the most cohesive effort the group has put forward. Krumm believes it is because they approached recording differently this time around.
“We’ve always recorded basic tracks in a few days, basically live in the studio and then added overdubs,” Krumm said. “We worked on the songs in the studio this time and actually recorded a lot of the songwriting process. A lot of the initial recordings ended up in the final product, which I’m thrilled about because I’ve always been a fan of first take vocals and guitars.”
The album was recorded at Joyride Studios in Chicago, where Leach is also an engineer and producer. He had a strong hand in shaping the new sound of the Crusades.
“We tried to incorporate instruments we hadn’t used that much on the last two records,” Krumm continued. “And we brought in some new folks to help out with vocals, including Chloe F. Orwell from the Handcuffs, Dawna Nelson, Ben Spoden from The Curses and others.”
Still, old habits die hard. When asked about equipment utilized for Fiction to Shame and on stage, Krumm falls back to his old standards.
“The same stuff I’ve been using for years!” he said. “Strat, Epiphone Boogie Man (Sheraton II) and Fender Twin Reverbs. I never got into buying new gear, either because someone always lets me borrow something or because anything new I buy tends to stop working shortly after I use it,” he said.
In April, the band hits the international road again. Europe has been a regular stop for them ever since their first album came out.
“The First Spilled Drink of the Evening was licensed to a small label in Germany,” Krumm remembered. “A booking agent from Germany reached out to us and basically demanded that we tour over there. We had a blast. Our second record was picked up by a larger label, Glitterhouse Records, and we started touring more often.”
And the band does well overseas.
“We have a blast every time we go,” Krumm said. “The audience reaction really depends on the venue you play – if you’re playing a place known for being a great place for music lovers, people tend to pay more attention and not talk or scream over the music. If you play at a sports bar or at a barbeque, you’ve got to be prepared that the music isn’t going to be the main priority. Of course, I prefer to play at places where people pay attention to the music, but I like good barbeque, too.
“As far as the appeal to an audience in Europe, certainly the fact that we’re from Chicago has something to do with it, and people all over the world are aware of the rich musical history that Chicago has. I like to think our appeal comes from the fact that we are a great live band and that people know they can expect to have a good time when they go to a Great Crusades show.”
That said: The Great Crusades have always been a great rock band – on stage or on record. Check ‘em out and prepare to be clobbered.