Andy Crofts needs some tips on self-promotion: “It’s by no means anything to do with what my actual album will be. I kind of wish I hadn’t done it! You know when you’re trying to be spontaneous? You can’t be spontaneous when you’re putting something out, it just doesn’t work like that. I had to tell people about it a bit. It’s just a collection of songs that I did on my radio show. No frills, quite rough. The recordings are really raw and some of the levels are up and down.”
The songwriter is speaking to Live4ever before his acoustic show at the Louisiana in Bristol, the second night of a mini-tour he’s doing for fun, certainly not to showcase his ‘new album’. As the frontman of The Moons has explained, he’s recently released a covers album just for the hell of it, comprising a number of songs he’s performed on his regular Boogaloo Radio show. “There’s a charm to them, so I just put them together for an album,” he tells us.
“Just for the hell of it, because I didn’t like the thought of those things being wasted. They’re all covers: Wings Of Speed by Paul Weller, Ghosts by The Jam, Don’t Let Me Down, Waterloo Sunset, I Love You by The Bees. I asked the listeners to pick a song every week, then I’d cover it. Then I just put them all into one space. It’s just digital. It’s not going to stay up for long. I’m having a very limited run of CDs put together, but that’s it.”
Get it while you can, as Crofts has already moved on. Reason being that he has a lot of irons in the fire at the moment, including a new Moons album. The band have been on ice for a few years, but Crofts has a pragmatic attitude which is generally overcome by his simple and pure love for music: “We’ve been quiet for a while. We did the last album, Mindwaves, in 2014. I’ve got two kids as well, and they are a handful! So I don’t really have loads of time, so to juggle that with the rest of the lads, who live up and down the country…We can’t just hang out and have a ‘praccy’, it has to be properly organised.”
Such is his dilemma that Crofts seems to be debating the band’s future over the course of our conversation: “It’s not fair on everybody else to waste their time and I can’t expect them to just to turn up when I say,” he says.
It sounds like The Moons are succumbing to geography and sadly fading away, before Crofts hits us with a plot twist: “But then other times I’ve thought, ‘What is the point of knocking it on the head? We’re certainly not in it for fame and fortune!’. We’ve recorded a new album in Abbey Road and it’s sounding great. In the last two weeks I’ve mixed it and it’s pretty much done now. Success for The Moons is our own success; we got to record in Abbey Road, with my original music. That’s success.”
Crofts also has a large chunk of a solo album ready to go: “I’ve got a bunch of demos that have been laying around and I’m slowly building them up over time. I’ve got about fourteen songs that I want to be the album. It’s more musical, not indie-schmindie rock and roll, with songs like Jennifer or English Summer. Not jangly indie.”
As to when the album will see the light of day, it’s equally as fluid as the Moons album: “Between Weller work, I guess.”
For the uninitiated, Crofts is a member of Paul Weller’s band, and has been for the last twelve years. He gives us a bit of backstory to their relationship: “I was in a band called the On-Offs which was a power-pop, punky thing. We got support with him, he and Steve Craddock watched us soundcheck and they were loving it. Afterwards I messaged them to say thanks for having us, then Paul rang me and said it was wicked, blah blah blah, send me some demos. So I sent him some of what ended up being The Moons. We stayed in touch via text and then he rang me to tell me he was looking for a keyboard player, was I interested? Obviously I said yes.”
Sometimes dreams do come true. Crofts has contributed in a variety of different ways to the last five studio albums made by The Jam legend, with the next one due for release in the summer. Having been on a rich and prolific vein of form for the last decade, how is Paul Weller’s fifteenth solo album comparing? “It’s sounding amazing,” Crofts tells us. “It’s not a million miles away from what he’s been doing for the last few years. It’s just good songs. I think I know how he’s so prolific: because he’s found freedom in himself. It sounds like a hippy thing to say, but you learn how to knock down all those walls that you margin yourself in with. If you can get rid of that then you’re free to not care and that makes you more prolific.”
Not only that, but Weller also adopts a collaborative approach in the studio: “He’s always been very free, and that’s what I admire about him. We’ll all be sitting round and put together ideas, he’s very good at inspiring us. If, for example, I hear a string section on a song, the string quartet come in they will add it.”
With a new album comes a worldwide tour, and with much of 2020 already taken up, it’s a testament to Croft’s attitude that he’s optimising his downtime by opting to tour himself. After two dates, in his hometown of Northampton and then Bristol, there’s a two-week break before shows towards the end of March. Crofts continually makes the point to Live4ever that the gigs are just a man and a guitar (“it’s me and my songs before all the stuff goes on in the studio”), but that’s doing himself an injustice. He keeps the crowd entertained throughout the Bristol show, a special Department S night in conjunction with their regular Saturday night events.
He’s an old-school raconteur, equally entertaining when not playing, giving the crowd insights into the songs he’s written, thanking us in a heartfelt way. He regales us with the strongest songs in The Moons’ catalogue (Something Soon, Jennifer) whilst also throwing in an adhoc cover of The Beatles’ I’m A Loser in addition to a splendid version of I’ve Just Seen A Face earlier in the set. As well as that, we get a couple of glimpses of The Moons’ next album. It may be just a man and his guitar but sometimes, when the music is of such purity and honesty, that’s all you need.
“Paul Weller will always be priority, and I can work my music around that,” he tells us. “I’ve become close with him so I don’t ever want to mess around with that. I’m in the band and blessed, so I’ll just make my music work round that.” As for the Moons? “Why can’t we just be one of those bands that just records? There’s all these pressures when you’re in a band, does it really matter? Why can’t you just make music and put it out?’
Why not indeed. Regardless, with so many different plates spinning Andy Crofts, and all of his fans, have much to look forward to.