Interview with Robert Baker – The Crayon Set
We had a chance to put some questions to Robert Baker from The Crayon Set about the release of their new album, their first gig in 18 months and the state of the music industry in Ireland. You can see the results below.
I believe your new album ‘Downer Disco’ was recorded in 2019 and was delayed due to Covid. Was it a hard decision to delay it? Did you realise you’d have to wait so long for it to be released?
Yes, we actually started at the back end of 2018 and then it was days here and there across 2019 – additional recording and mixing. It took a long time to get over the line so it was a bit tragic when covid hit and put the kibosh on its release. But I guess very first world problems in the grand scheme of things. We released a few singles and still met up when we could and worked on new songs – so it wasn’t all bad.
You also had to wait a long time to play this music live for an audience with the album launch on the 7th of October in the Grand Social. What was it like to be back on stage?
A mix of nerves and excitement. I think if we were to play again now I would relax and enjoy it more. The gig went really well though so really happy about that.
Can you tell me about the recording process of this album? Did you have the songs finished by the time you hit the studio?
Yes, the songs would have been finished but production-& direction wise things were still up for grabs. We’d approached Stephen Shannon our producer with this in mind. A lot of Steve’s recent work has been on some really impressive electronic and soundtrack music so he really helped us in shaping the sound you hear especially on the more synth-heavy tracks like Don’t Step Back Too Far and Moment. On another song ‘Out of You Mind’ he really remixed our initial recording and built up a huge amount of the track from scratch himself. I did offer Steve a writing credit on that one, not that he would have exactly been able to retire off it or anything.
One of my friends told me about a bumper sticker he saw in the states that said ‘Real Musicians have Day Jobs’ and the more I think about it the more sense it makes. How difficult do you think it is to make a living out of music at the moment? Is it worse now than in previous years?
It must be worse. It’s near impossible for people to make money from it – witness Nadine Shah, a super-talented and “successful” artist, admitting she couldn’t afford to pay the rent and had to move back in with her parents. The whole business model needs to be broken down and built up again from scratch. Tweaks here and there won’t solve anything.
This is your third album release, have you learned much over the years? Any advice you’d give to young Irish bands?
On the music and songwriting front, you are always learning if you keep your antenna up. But as we were alluding to there you have to be a jack of all trades now – writer, performer, producer, marketer, manager, PR, Social Media Exec, Booking Agent etc.
I think at the end of the day, despite the lack of return, it’s still great to have a decent album with your name on it or to have someone come up to you and say “great gig”. You only live once so you might as well have something to show for your time here. And try to have a bit of fun along the way.