Crooked Spines. From left, Henry Allen (drums), Wesley Gilbert (bass), Conor Stratton (vocals, guitar), Ben Leeson (keyboard). (Photo by Hillary Jones)

Crooked Spines Announce New Album, Return to Athens for Feb. 2 Show

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2018 was a big year for Crooked Spines.

“Keep On,” a dreamy track off of the band’s 2017 debut full-length Canyons, was included on a major Spotify playlist, which brought the song to a stunning six hundred thousand plus streams; a figure that translates to some six hundred thousand plus instances of kids all around the world jamming to the track.

The group also moved out of Athens last year. Front man and principal songwriter Conor Stratton made a tumultuous, emotional trek back to his childhood home of Yellow Springs, OH; bassist Wesley Gilbert ended up in the northwest portion of the state, in Defiance, OH; keyboardist Ben Leeson is now based out of Columbus, and drummer Henry Allen is now living in Cincinnati.

Amidst all the changes, the band is working diligently on a new release, which will be available later this year. While Canyons was about struggling through one’s treacherous early ’20s, the band’s second full-length will scrutinize what happens when the footing you thought you had established during those formative years falls out from under you, and the map you drew yourself doesn’t seem to be of the terrain that surrounds you at all.

(Photo by Hillary Jones)

“In February of 2018 my partner and I of nine years split up, and subsequently I left Athens and went back home to Yellow Springs, and I immediately started writing the record that is coming out this year – so it’s taken a year or so to unpack everything that happened,” said Stratton in an interview with WOUB a few weeks before Crooked Spines returns to their place of origin to perform at The Union with Columbus’ Counterfeit Madison on Saturday, September 2. “All of us have had to work really hard to get together and stay organized to get the album recorded.”

Stratton said the earliest sketches of the new songs were conceived on his organ and acoustic guitar after he moved home. He shared those simplified versions of the tracks to the rest of the band, who elaborated on his work.

“I started out with a lot of songs, I had written maybe 15 or 20, and we boiled that down to 12, and once we got to that point we got together in Yellow Springs for three days and recorded everything in this shack that we rent with the Speaking Suns (a Yellow Springs band,) and just spent three eight hour days learning every single song and trying to make them better,” said Stratton. “After another weekend of that, we were feeling good about the songs and booked some time at Amish Electric Chair Studios.”

Although there is no concrete date for the forthcoming album’s release, Stratton said that over the next several months the band plans to release a single, and potentially some music videos.

(Photo by Hillary Jones)

Stratton said the forthcoming album is flavored heavily by the emotions, epiphanies, and sense of capricious transformation that he experienced in his own personal sea change last year.

“I had never had anything happen to me that is anything like what just happened to me, before,” he said. “It was an extremely challenging time and I think that in a lot of ways this album reflects that. I also feel more vulnerable, as a songwriter, than I ever have.”

While the forthcoming full-length is intensely emotional, Crooked Spines, as a band, have never been as technically and musically mature as they are now.

“It’s not like our music is more complex now, really, it’s just that it’s more well thought out. We spent a lot of time just trying to make every song as good as it could possibly be,” he said. “I see the new album as a sort of narrative of what happened to me, from my perspective; about exiting my relationship and exiting Athens and starting over and moving forward with new relationships and how perplexing that all can be.”

Keep up with Crooked Spines on their Facebook page for more information on their forthcoming release and shows. Check them out opening for Counterfeit Madison on Saturday, February 2 at The Union.