The Great Crusades, 2014
Say what you will about this ragtag bunch of lifelong musical cohorts, but the Great Crusades can claim longevity, prolificacy, and a never-say-die attitude among its attributes. Like many of the bands they admire, such as the Jayhawks, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and Kaiser Chiefs, the Great Crusades seem to be in it for the long haul—they keep writing outstanding tunes, pursuing new artistic directions, and playing mind-blowing live shows.
Vocalist/guitarist Brian Krumm gathered the current band members in Chicago more than 15 years ago, including collaborators Brian Hunt (bass), Brian Leach (guitar/keyboards), and Christian Moder (drums/keyboards). Krumm had released the band’s first album, The First Spilled Drink of the Evening, in 1997 while based in Champaign, Illinois, and moved north the following year. (The first lineup included Roderick van Huis and Mike Rader, who had played in Champaign bands Steakdaddy Six, Hum, Poster Children, and Honcho Overload.)
Now, the band is putting out their eighth studio release, Thieves of Chicago, on the very label that gave them their start nearly 20 years ago—Urbana’s Mud Records. The band is ecstatic about “returning home” to Mud, since without that label, the band might not have ever released a first record, let alone eight.
The band has kept a high profile since its last “proper” studio album, Fiction to Shame, was released in 2010 on Glitterhouse Records/Octane Recordings. That year, the band played a string of shows in Europe and the United States, to further solidify its now-legendary reputation as a live band that must be seen and heard whenever the boys pull into town. And much more was in store for the upcoming years.
In July 2011, Lakeshore Records (Hollywood, California) released Who’s Afraid of Being Lonely?, which featured “classic” songs from the Great Crusades’ back catalog. In October 2011, two of the band’s songs appeared in the season 4 finale of the HBO vampire series “True Blood.” The band performed in Europe and the United States in 2011 and 2012 and also recorded with Chris Estes (Adele, Aerosmith, Lenny Kravitz) at Chicago Recording Company.
The Great Crusades completed Thieves of Chicago with Grammy winners Brian Leach and Blaise Barton at JoyRide Studio in Chicago. The band completed their 20th European tour in Summer 2014 and now has set up shows in the United States for the fall and winter. They will return to Europe in March 2015 to appear on the legendary television show “Rockpalast.”
The Great Crusades, from the Beginning
The first Great Crusades album, The First Spilled Drink of the Evening, was released by Mud Records in 1997, and its sound and lyrics quickly created a cult following for the band. Rolling Stone’s David Fricke wrote, “The Great Crusades look at life through a shot-glass lens . . . mixing anger, muscle, and minor-key remorse like a roughneck Tindersticks with the bonus of a singer (Krumm) who’s got the tubercular pipes of Tom Waits and Axl Rose’s love child.” The album was reissued in Europe in 1998 by the German indie Trocadero Records, and the first of many European tours followed.
Damaged Goods was released by the venerated German label, Glitterhouse Records, in 2000, and by Checkered Past Records in the U.S. The critical accolades kept coming with praise from European and American press alike. Never Go Home (2002) saw the band reach a higher public profile when a tour of Germany, Austria, and Croatia was presented by Musikexpress magazine. In 2003, the band gained even more exposure as part of their appearance on the celebrated German television program, “Rockpalast.”
Welcome to the Hiawatha Inn (2004), Four Thirty (2006), Keep Them Entertained (2007), and Fiction to Shame (2010) followed, each featuring a fresh approach to the band’s sound. (The career retrospective DVD Key to the City was released in 2008.) The band continued to expand its fan base and further build its reputation as one of the most engaging, wildest live bands in the business. Along the way, the band shared the stage with a very diverse list of artists, including Gary Moore, Scorpions, 16 Horsepower, Broken Social Scene, Bottle Rockets, Steve Wynn, and Leningrad Cowboys.
AC/DC, The Band, Richard Thompson, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Neil Young, Gallon Drunk, The Jayhawks, Replacements, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, Leon Redbone, Webb Wilder, Morphine, The Smiths, Eric Burdon, The Pretenders, 16 Horsepower, Camper Van Beethoven, Thin Lizzy, The Ramones, Wall of Voodoo/Stan Ridgway, Uncle Tupelo, Nick Drake, R.E.M., The Pogues, Stray Cats/Brian Setzer, Leonard Cohen, Neil Diamond, PJ Harvey, Dwight Yoakam, Echo and the Bunnymen