Making Friends, Losing Friends, Being Poor, Going to School: The Crooked Spines’ ‘Canyons’

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I want to go home
But I want to stay out

So goes a portion of “Definite Maybe,” the second track off of The Crooked Spines inaugural full length, Canyons. The song seems to be a testament to trying, whatever that may mean for the individual – trying to survive, trying to experience the limited number of things one can enjoy in a lifetime, trying to just make it by socially and emotionally and everything else that falls between those lines.

“The album is called Canyons as a metaphor for the way that I have felt living in Athens for the past five and half years ago, it’s about transient life,” said Conor Stratton, the leading force behind the group, which came together after his involvement in a number of other beloved regional acts, among them Blonde and Yellow Springs’ Speaking Suns. “This album is about making friends, losing friends, being poor, going to school. ‘Canyons‘ just felt dreamy and open and hard to pin down, and that’s the way the music feels, too.”

The Crooked Spines, made up of head vocalist and lead guitarist Stratton, bassist Wes Gilbert, drummer Henry Allen, and keyboardist Ben Leeson, have been performing since around 2015, when Stratton’s involvement in the Speaking Suns fell away due to his distance from the band’s home base, and the dissolution of Blonde. Shortly after, Stratton started working on a project called Birthday Boy, which allowed him to further explore his unique take on songwriting, which he was able to fulfill completely with the formation of The Crooked Spines shortly thereafter.

“At the time, when I was writing under the moniker Birthday Boy, I didn’t see much happening for the songs I was writing,” said Stratton. “I was just writing a lot of songs and putting them on the Internet, but I was getting a lot of encouragement from the people who were hearing it and my friends, who were my musicians for the recordings, so that’s what led to me forming the band afterwards.”

In May of this year, the group released their six-song eponymous EP. It’s worth noting that organizers of the esteemed Nelsonville Music Festival only had to get their hands on the EP a few weeks before the festival to add the band to their roster for the year.

“This album (Canyons) is about making friends, losing friends, being poor, going to school, and all these things that I have been caught up in here. ‘Canyons‘ just felt dreamy and open and hard to pin down, and that’s the way the music feels, too.” – Conor Stratton, lead vocalist and guitarist for The Crooked Spines

“I’ve been very proud of all the projects I’ve been involved in, but I really wanted a direct outlet for what I wanted to say, I wanted the mic to say it,” said Stratton. “I also think that musically and creatively I have a very different mindset than a lot of the songwriters that I have been able to work with; which is cool, that’s what makes those other bands so great, all those different ideas. But I really wanted to see my vision through, sonically and emotionally.”


Stratton said that in many ways, Canyons has been a long time in the making.

“I started writing some of the songs on the record before we released our EP earlier this year, and some of them I have been working on for the past two years,” he said. “These songs really took time. Granted, I didn’t know what they would become back when I started working on most of them.”

The band featured on the album, which was recorded at Amish Electric Chair Studios outside of Athens, is entirely different from the line-up featured on their initial EP.

“We recorded it over three days, and it didn’t take too long because we had been rigorously practicing these songs for weeks before we went into the studio,” said Stratton. “The album began to take shape pretty quickly. I’m very satisfied recently because we are able to play those songs very true to their recordings live, even though hearing them live is an enhancement on those songs.”

Stratton said that a huge part of crafting the album was simply listening.


“For years I’ve had this sort of internal battle over how I feel and how I want to be heard as a musician. I listen to a ton of music, and as I have gotten older and have hung out with more musicians, I’ve really tried to lose any type of pretentious attitude towards any type of music or art,” said Stratton. “I have learned a lot from pop music. I wouldn’t necessarily call Frank Ocean typical pop music, but I listen to him a lot, and I think he’s one of the best poets and lyricists we have right now. I always am trying to dissect his songs. Every time I listen, I take more away from what I hear. In a similar way, I’m trying to create something that is really good that people can understand, but which also expresses how I feel and gives the listener some idea of what I’m really trying to say.”

The Crooked Spines are currently in the middle of writing a brand-new EP, which will be out soon. Also watch the band for upcoming tour dates, as they are planning on taking on the Midwest this early spring with a tour throughout the region.