A common bond between all four members of local rock band The Crags is a love of Pink Floyd.
It makes sense. In their early Syd Barrett days, Pink Floyd was an independent band with psychedelic leanings, a band with songs being made with a 1960s garage-rock mindset. Listen to “The Piper at The Gates of Dawn” and you’ll hear where Pink Floyd has influenced a band like The Crags just as much as Ty Segall, Wooden Ships, Dan Sartain or the music of Wilco and Jeff Tweedy have influenced The Crags.
The Crags will celebrate the release of their latest record, “Desert Haze,” with a show Saturday at 11th Street Station.
“All four of us love Pink Floyd and it’s all in our blood,” said rhythm guitar player and vocalist Tracy Ford. “We have very similar backgrounds in music, the four of us, and of course, it influences us somehow. Even if we don’t listen to it right now, it’s totally there.”
When the band formed, they were a trio, made up of Ford, her husband, John Ford, on drums and Dan Leek on stand-up bass. A vehicle for the songwriting of frontwoman Ford, they shared a minimalistic approach to their music. The stand-up bass lent itself to the delicate twang of their early sound, Leak loved playing a brand of bratty punk on the stand-up, and the tunes were infectious. Tim Lillyquist joining the band on guitar was an addition they needed, his guitar adding a load of melodic color.
“Desert Haze” is an album that marks the band coming into their own, a record made by a band confident in a sound they’ve worked at creating and owning, a sound Ford refers to as “psyche-desert rock.” It’s safe to say that nobody sounds like The Crags, a claim any band putting out original music strives for.
“It’s definitely our most cohesive-sounding album, and I’m very happy about that,” Tracy Ford said. “When I put on an album, I generally am in the mood for a particular sound, so I like the album to have that sound, and I feel like this one accomplishes that.”
The word “psych” may lead listeners into the world of “psychedelic” music that gets lumped into the jam-band world, but this is far from jam-band meandering. Think more of fuzzed-out and reverb-drenched guitars combined with the desert-noir music of a band like Calexico; they’re a rock ’n’ roll band that can be ambient and dreamy while also being punky and aggressive. With the guitar playing of Lillyquist and Ford’s vocals, they’re a bouncy surf-rock band that can also be dark and daring.
This is also a band that will continue to explore and grow, despite now having an identifiable sound along with a self-proclaimed genre in “psyche-desert rock.” “Desert Haze” finds the band reeling their sound in and having one audible identity, but that doesn’t mean the band is going to have a minimal bag of tricks. As music fans, they’re willing to explore for their own entertainment, and that exploration will lend itself to future releases, as the band is constantly plugging away at new music.
“When we made our last record, ‘Long Shadow Day,’ and Tim just joined the band, there was a lot going on there sound-wise, genre-wise,” Tracy Ford said. “The last album, ‘Bent,’ we were honing in a little bit more and kind of finding our sound, and this one really nails our sound. That doesn’t mean our sound won’t change, but we nailed it on this one.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.