The Great Crusades

Keep Them Entertained

Release Date: 08/01/2007 · Format: CD · Catalog-No: GR 672

It doesn’t take long. In fact, at the 8-second mark of The Great Crusades’ newest album, “Keep Them Entertained,” his bandmates kick in behind guitarist and vocalist Brian Krumm, adding the kind of driving power and foot stomping beat that can simply and effectively define an act’s sound. “Keep Them Entertained” showcases everything the group’s about, in one, taut package: the gruff vocals and gritty guitars of Krumm; the interlocking rhythm and lead work of guitarist Brian Leach; the insistent bass of Brian Hunt; and the powerful, yet supple percussion of Christian Moder.

Adding color to the album are some keys, harmonica and horns, with occasional gang vocals adding to the signature leads of Krumm. But make no mistake: this isn’t some kind of overcooked studio product. Instead, it’s the kind of work that can only be made by a band that’s made its mark as a live group, credited with hundreds of shows in the US and abroad.

Loaded with cuts that achieve the same balance of subtle, airy acoustics and (more often) dense, driving electronics, “Keep Them Entertained” defines the best work of a Chicago band that’s now six studio albums deep into a career that, ultimately, stretches back to the players’ grade school days. Playing in various incarnations since then – including half of the GCs in the long-running Suede Chain – the band’s been able to create its own language over those two-decades-and-change.

Says Hunt, “The reaction I get telling other people I've know these guys since 5th grade make me realize just how lucky we are. The longevity creates an atmosphere of no bullshit. Everyone can pretty much speak their minds and understand the opposite opinion is in no way disrespectful or rooted in some other intention. Everyone has kinda found their niche in it all; from a business, creative and social stance. We've been through a lot on the road, the studio and our personal lives. That experience really makes for a very unique situation. The only comparison that comes close is a family. We've all watched each other grow up and been a big part of that process for each other.”

Formed through those mutual friendships in 1998, the group achieved its current, successful lineup a couple years later, right about the time that European labels and audiences began to latch onto the group. That European connection remains a powerful one for the group, with many relationships formed over the years. Though that’s true in several European markets, it’s especially found in the group’s unofficial second home, Germany, where they maintain an active, enthusiastic fanbase.

“The German connection came about after the ‘First Spilled Drink’ album was released in Europe by a small label, Trocadero, after the album was initially released on Mud Records in the U.S.,” says Krumm. “We ended up doing a tour in Germany and Austria shortly after the CD’s release and have gone back many times since then in the last 10 years or so. I think we’ve built a connection especially through our live show. People anywhere identify with good live music, played well and with energy. It makes people react positively to see musicians just pouring it out, giving it all they’ve got.”

Adds Hunt, “The friendships with the Glitterhouse label have been tremendous, as well. They’re just a great group of music-loving people, in it for the right reason. Originally they weren’t entirely sold on our music, but really appreciated the band personally and admired what they perceived as a strong work ethic. And we were just so damn happy to be touring Europe. Over time they have been involved in the direction of our albums and songs, giving feedback on just about everything, but leaving all the decisions up to us.”

Those decisions, recently, have revolved around “Keep Them Entertained,” which began a 40-song monster, written over four, marathon-length writing sessions in Chicago.

“The process has gone through several stages,” figures Krumm. “It started more as me bringing my lyrics and song arrangements to the band and working on the arrangements as a group. For the past two albums, we’ve used an approach where we have ‘jammed’ out song ideas, worked up songs based on those ideas, and then I write lyrics based on melody improvisations that came about during the ‘jams’ or based on ideas that come up later that somehow connect with the song ideas. I think the songs themselves in many cases have gotten stronger, more concise, perhaps. But there’s always a story somewhere in the lyrics.”

He adds that, “I think the new songs in particular have taken a punkier, edgier direction, which is exciting to me after the last album, ‘Four Thirty,’ had a more bluesy approach. Lyrically the new songs have taken a turn toward the darker side of life again, as they have in the past, but still not from a gloomy aspect. Sometimes I think the lyrics even verge on confrontational on this new record, much more so than they have in the past.”

And you wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking that the songs of “Keep Them Entertained,” themselves, are infused with the spirit of Chicago. Sure, the lyrics of Krumm and company continue to reflect a slightly cynical, but hard-charging spirit. But the music, too, is delivered with a certain toughness that seeps through, even after the first listen.

“I think our music provides a soundtrack to this city,” reasons Moder. “Just driving to the rehearsal space down Chicago Avenue is an adventure that weaves its way into the music, somehow. It's as if you are driving through another world, with blue-flashing camera lights on the lampposts. It’s not uncommon to see a brawl on a street corner or two people racing their cars down this street, damn near running you off the road. In a strange way, these are the characters that live in our songs. Real people who get left behind struggling to get through life.”

While almost all of the group’s members maintain a foothold in some type of complementary side project – the pop band Sugarbuzz and production duties for Leach, the instrumental act Lanterna for Krumm, design and video projects for Hunt, and film/theatre scoring for Moder – the group plans to make the remainder of 2007 another relaunch for the band, with heavy touring in US and Europe. The muscular songs of “Keep Them Entertained” will serve as the centerpiece of those gigs, alongside the GCs’ deep catalog of originals and countless, choice covers.

That’s just the way the band’s been built: write, record, tour, repeat.

“It's funny, but you spend your whole life wishing for something only to realize you've been doing just that for quite some time without knowing it,” says Hunt. “The fact that we get to tour Europe every year or so is truly a dream come true. But, here we are writing, recording, touring and having a damn good time doing it.

“We’re all very lucky to have comfortable personal lives that allow us to do so without putting too much pressure on the bottom line; something that can be the death of such a great situation. Ideally I think we would all love to spend more time traveling and not have to balance work with touring so much. However, we don't let that skew the priorities in life. To tour with your mates and create lasting memories and friendships through music is something we all really appreciate. And to be playing our music and taking home a few bucks for the next record is a lot more than most bands get to do.” - Thomas Crone

Attention Attention! You can visit the official GC-Homepage ( klick!)and listen to the new album via Stream. Plus: you can download the Song "Paradise" for free. The well-dressed gentlemen are being generous.


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Tracklist

1. Christina Flatbush
2. Broken Umbrella
3. On A Fast Moving Train
4. Forgiven For An Hour Or Two
5. Paradise (At The Petite Four)
6. Sex Sells (So I’ll See You In Hell)
7. Keep Them Entertained
8. I Don’t Remember
9. Demolishin A Bottle Of Wone
10. Why’d You Have To Do This To Me?
11. The Bucket Of Blood
12. The Moon Cried Don’t Do It

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