Today I’m pleased to bring you part one of a two part interview with popular festival band, Thee Scarecrows AKA. I caught up with them recently on Walton Farm just after the launch party for their latest album, The Great Rook and Crow Swindle.
Read on to find out about their connections with Thee Waltons, their releases, gigs, artwork and more.
ABOUT THEE SCARECROWS AKA
Firstly can you tell us about how and when Thee Scarecrows AKA were formed and the reasoning behind the name especially the AKA?
Thee Scarecrows were formed when thee crowman stuffed our head sacks full of straw. However, we didn’t start to play music together until we were abandoned at Walton Farm following the mysterious disappearance of Thee Waltons. Our first gig was as a last-minute replacement for them no-good Walton Boys after they failed to appear at Sweeps Festival in Rochester in 2016.
It was only ever intended to be a one-off gig as we have very busy lives, what with all the scaring we have to do, but then we got asked to play one of the first psychobilly all-dayers in New Cross in January 2017. That gig went down a storm and was swiftly followed by our first recording a couple of months later – “Ten Heads Are Better Than One” – and then a debut appearance at Bedlam Breakout festival in September of the same year.
Of course, some people say that Thee Scarecrows are just some of the fellas from Thee Waltons with bags on their heads and that the AKA is a (not so) subtle clue as to the ‘also known as’ origin of the band. What a ridiculous notion!
We last heard from Thee Waltons after the release of Carry on Yippin’.
Will they ever be coming back to play live or put out new recordings?
We don’t really know what happened to them boys. They just upped and left one day and haven’t been seen since. When we started playing to fill in the silence, we took inspiration from Walton Farm being located in the Medway Delta, along with some elements of their sound and ramped it up to create our own genre of countrybilly speedblues. In the meantime, though we’ve managed to keep the farm ticking over and free of varmints, but we have no idea if them boys will ever return.
Whilst there are similarities in sound to Thee Waltons, if I had to describe the sound of Thee Scarecrows AKA, I would say bluesy hillbilly psychobilly with a distinct nod towards glam rock. What bands and sounds have influenced you and what do you all listen to back on the farm?
Yeah, we were definitely influenced by Thee Waltons as we used to hear their hillbilly nonsense floating across the fields from the farmhouse whenever they had a hoedown. But we’ve got a very different sound that’s much heavier, dirtier and loud! Each Scarecrow has different musical influences from blues, metal, rock n roll, trash, hillbilly, psychobilly, punk and glam rock to name just a few. Everything gets thrown into the melting pot, cooked up, stirred around and then served up with a bit of hot sauce.
Here’s some of what each Scarecrow listens to when they’re back at the farm:
Thee Grass Verge Scarecrow – three string ceegar box geetars, whoopin’ and hollerin’
The Cramps, The Stingrays, Rochee and The Sarnos, The Sonics, The Ramones, Wild Billy Childish, Hasil Adkins, Howlin Wolf, Elmore James, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson, Vince Ray, Hank 3, Bob Wayne, The Hives, The White Stripes, Daddy Long Legs, The Delta Bombers, JD McPherson, Flat Duo Jets, Legendary Shack Shakers, Seasick Steve, The Guv’nor – Nigel Lewis.
Thee Diablo Brothers Scarecrows – Bangin’ of stuff really hard
Brother 1 with the mohican
The Damned, UK Subs, Adam and the Ants, Bow Wow Wow, Sandy Nelson, Early Meteors, King Kurt, Faith No More, Sex Pistols, Pantera, GBH, Killing Joke, Orson Family, Suzy and the Banshees, Graveyard Johnnys, Magnetix, Village People, Wham, Kylie Minogue and of course Deacon Blue
Brother 2 with the beard
Killing Joke, Motörhead, New Model Army, Five Horse Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, The Police, Ginger Baker, Gene Krupa, Dead Kennedys, John Bonham.
Sonny Boy Scarecrow – Blues Harp and sarcasm
Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, Junior Wells, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, George Smith, Good Rockin Charles, Big Walter Horton, Jerry Portnoy, Dr Feelgood
Thee Wolfman Scarecrow – Thudd Bass and howlin’
Early Meteors, Hasil Adkins, Madness, Motorhead, Screaming Lord Sutch, Little Walter, Howlin Wolf, Gary Glitter, Rolf Harris, Suzi Quattro, Jimmy Osmond, Johnny Burnett, Nigel Lewis, Robert Gordon, Link Wray, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Legendary Stardust Cowboy, The Muppets, The Wurzels, Slade.
THEE SCARECROWS AKA SONG WRITING AND RELEASES
With song titles like Pluck My Duck, You Got Your Head on Backwards Baby and Hey Hoe Diddley, there is obviously a strong sense of humour in Thee Scarecrows AKA. What is the songwriting process for the band and who gets involved with what?
We can’t take credit for “Head on Backwards Baby” as that’s a cover of a song by the kings of garage rock ‘n’ roll – The Sonics, but we do try to write a lot of our own material. There’s quite a few with a sense of humour that we probably inherited from Thee Waltons, especially with songs like “Empty My Sack”, “Stuffin’ ‘n’ Splinters” and “Six Knuckle Shuffle” that are heavily laced with innuendo and double entendre.
But we have also written a few songs that aren’t quite so humorous. “Ten Heads Are Better Than One” got its title from an episode of Wurzel Gummidge but certainly isn’t about the kids TV program and “Scarecrow Man” and “Freight Train” are a bit on the darker side.
The song-writing process varies. Sometimes it starts with an idea for a song title or a subject or story idea and sometimes it starts with a guitar riff and we play around until we decide on some words that would work with it. The Grass “Verge” Scarecrow usually writes the lyrics or comes up with a lick on his ceegar box but it’s the whole band that play around with the idea until it germinates.
We’ve already started writing some new songs that could well be possible for a fourth release in 2020.
The Scarecrows AKA released their first album in two parts as a side 1 – Ten Heads Are Better Than One, followed by side 2 – Stuffin’ and Splinters. Both came as CDs and digital downloads with both sides being released as a combined coloured vinyl album.
The latest mini album, The Great Rook and Crow Swindle, comes as a superb 10” vinyl picture disc, CD and digital download.
You seem to be covering all bases, what format sells best nowadays? Where do you see the future of musical releases going?
“Ten Heads Are Better Than One” was first released as a mini-album CD and digital download and sold pretty well. When we recorded “Stuffin’ ‘n’ Splinters” as our second mini-album on CD we wanted to get the two pressed together on vinyl just so we could have a vinyl LP.
We didn’t really expect the vinyl to sell well and only pressed 150 copies, so we didn’t end up with too many left over. Needless to say, every one of those limited edition copies has been sold!
So, when we released the latest 8 track mini album – “The Great Rook and Crow Swindle” we decided to press a vinyl again and this time use the spectacular artwork skills of our drum technician/roadie Ray to create a 10” vinyl picture disc.
The vinyl has outsold the CD and some people actually buy all formats. We had one person that bought 2 CDs – one for the car and one for in the house – and a copy of the vinyl for the wall!
On a serious note about the future of musical releases, all we can say is that the more it moves towards digital sales the less likely it is that small bands are going to be able to afford to keep playing.
Digital sales of music really don’t cover the costs of recording and releasing music let alone the costs of running a band. If you’re Cold Play or some other bland, generic, global mega brand then you’ll make money from downloads and streaming from the masses.
If you’re an independent or alternative band with a relatively small but dedicated audience, then the only way you can break even with costs is with sales of physical music formats and merchandise.
All of our physical releases always include a code for a digital download, so you have the convenience of digital but still get to grip us in your sweaty mitts. So, if you like watching live alternative bands and want them to be able to carry on then go buy their CDs, vinyl and t-shirts. Keep live music alive!
The cover artwork for The Great Rook and Crow Swindle was done by Ray Hunt and Matt Steer, tattoo artists at Diablo Tattoo in Rochester, Kent.
Do they do all the band artwork? These designs are also available on band t-shirts and stickers, are there any plans for prints, posters or other accessories?
Ray is the artist who has painted the covers for all our releases. We usually have a band meeting (pub session) where we all come up with ideas for the artwork, but Ray is the one that brings the ideas to life. We set him a massive task with “The Great Rook and Crow Swindle” where we suggested 3 paintings of the same scene from three different perspectives! I think he hated us for that one and he had a few failed attempts that he ceremoniously burned, but the final paintings he came up with are superb.
Matt works with Ray and used to be a graphic designer before he turned his hand to tattooing so he’s the one that comes up with all the graphic design layout for all our releases and t-shirts.
We are thinking of getting some high quality prints of Ray’s paintings and making them available for sale via our bandcamp shop and our merch stall at gigs.
Where can people buy your merch to best support the Thee Scarecrows AKA?
We always have a merch stand at our gigs manned by the lovely Saucy Nancy and Aunt Sally and everything is also available from Thee Scarecrows AKA bandcamp shop. Bandcamp is great and it really helps us sell our merchandise all over the world.
One thing we would say though, if you do want to buy a digital download only then please buy it from iTunes or Amazon. If you buy it from Bandcamp then they keep the money as their commission for hosting the shop.
Where can people follow Thee Scarecrows AKA?
It’s time for those scarecrows to head off to the fields to do some more scaring but you can now read part 2 of Thee Scarecrows AKA interview where we talk about their live performances.
I hope you’ll check us all out on social media. It would be really kind if you could leave us a comment on and maybe give us a share because algorithms stop these things from reaching everyone who likes us. Many thanks.