“When we first started all people used to say was “you’ll never get anywhere with a band name like Crywank”, now that we’ve found some weird kind of version of success, people tell us “you only get listeners because of the band name”


By Andy Joice

Apr 25, 2020 14:00

The end of a band happens in different ways. Some carry on playing for decades, with no notable demise until they disappear from existance. Others go out with a bang, at the peak of their time. The latter applies to Manchester duo Crywank, a band formed at the turn of the decade who, after ten years of providing us with great shows and even better albums recently announced the pending dissolution of the band.

Despite their top five songs alone having over 13 million plays, they’re a band that may have passed you by. They’re also a band that you may’ve inadvertently listened to – either intrigued by the fragility in content, the delicate melodies or simply coming across a name that, in the early 2010’s, would’ve caused a reaction. It’s an unconventional name for an unconventional band with an unconventional frontman. The name came from a cruel nickname given to founder, vocalist and guitarist James Clayton, based on what his friends thought he was doing when he wouldn’t leave his room in his underground flat, aptly named ‘Da Bunker’. “I was reading into debasement a lot at that time and got into a comfortable place being the butt of jokes and humiliating myself in front of others for their amusement” says Clayton. The night Crywank started, Clayton and friend Thomas Saunders stayed up all night, with Saunders teaching him two basic chords. By the end of the night, Clayton had written two songs and requiring an alias for the project, the decision was easy. “Crywank accurately described what I was doing with my music, and what my intent was with it. That being a cathartic exorcise; releasing the most over-dramatic elements of my emotions, whilst also trying to maintain an awareness of the triteness and performativity that comes from being a solo songwriter who largely sings about themselves.”

While it’s a name that has potentially cost them gigs or exposure opportunities – “When we first started all people used to say was “you’ll never get anywhere with a band name like Crywank”, now that we’ve found some weird kind of version of success people tell us “you only get listeners because of the band name” – the reality is it suits them perfectly. There’s a dichotomy between the snarky humour and the open-wound honesty they bounce between, song to song. Self-deprecating candor that mocks their own feelings and points to their own flaws while managing to twist the sad grimace into a smile is an almost impossible trick, but it’s one Clayton is able to pull off with ease numerous times throughout every album. For those who don’t know them or their discography intimately, those who have either listened to their more well-known tracks or who don’t know Crywank at all, Clayton believes the biggest problem with the name is it conceptualises them. “I understand how people who only listen to our bigger songs online can see us as a serious acoustic emo band though, and I can see why people who have only seen us live can take us as a satirical acoustic punk band. I don’t think we are either.”

Despite their aversion to using the term, Crywank are, at their core, a DIY band – and I say this knowing it’ll likely upset and offend Clayton and bandmate Dan Watson but hear me out. Historically, they’re  a band who self-finance, self-promote and essentially push everything themselves, with an ardent fanbase who are both heavily invested in their music, but also the people – the two band members and the larger Crywank family of listeners and supporters who have stood by them throughout. But the term ‘DIY’ has largely changed since they were first starting. It no longer means ‘Do It Yourself’ – instead, it’s become a scene, heavily pushed by numerous publications (both major and minor, ourselves included) to mean ‘socially conscious pop punk’. You could use the term ‘Indie’ in a similar way; no longer is it in ‘independent music’, now it includes the likes of Oasis and Arctic Monkeys, signed to major record labels but with a very distinctive style that matches.

It’s a fair argument, and one that Clayton sticks to, being strongly in the habit of rejecting a label that’s thrown around in such a laissez-faire way. “The term DIY is to empower people at the bottom who are literally doing all the elements themselves. We are so privileged to have had the response we have so we don’t need to use it anymore.” It’s an incredibly humble way to perceive it, particularly being unsigned and self-managed, they’ve appointed themselves as ‘anti-folk’ due to their relative success.

So much so that they’ve been able to embark on a self-financed world tour. That’s right – a WORLD tour.  Starting in New Zealand and Australia, ably organised by their friend Geneva Valek at Stitches Music, before subsequently moving on to South Asia, South America and dates throughout the US and Canada, it’s incredible that, for a band who doesn’t get any media attention and struggles to book shows in the UK, they are able to successfully tour worldwide and turn a profit. As expected, the South Asia leg has sunk both a lot of money and time, with Clayton booking future dates and venues through his phone with questionable wifi access, it’s a big commitment to turn up in a country and expect to be able to play – and yet that fanbase allows them to do so.  Unfortunately, due to the terrible Covid-19 pandemic, they were forced to cancel their tour whilst in Canada, leaving them in a hole of around £6,000 and no flights back to the UK, having to resort to the love and generosity of their fanbase to help fund their return.


With millions of listens on Spotify and other streaming services, it’s perplexing that no studio has picked them and pushed them further. It’s true they’ve signed distribution deals in the past but, having had their fingers burnt and restricted in what they were able to do, have stuck solely to releasing their music digitally – by themselves and for themselves. It allows greater freedom in what they can put out; music that’s of the high quality they want without being pushed to ridiculous deadlines by money-hungry labels. Clayton’s best advice to new bands is “to do all your digital distribution yourself, and only work with labels and distributors on physicals”.

While it’s incredibly savvy advice, it might be statements like this that have lead to labels viewing them as ‘loose cannons’. Couple that with Clayton’s incredibly honest Twitter feed, it’s a dangerous combination. Clayton doesn’t shy away from discussing things online – be it his past experiences with promoters and venues, his mental health, or his support and love of inclusive communites. Clayton is one of us – a normal person with opinions and feelings, who uses social media to be honest, thought provoking and, often, hilarious. And while that may not adhere him to the corporate bigwigs in the music industry, it endears him to their following, and the sensitivity, thoughtfulness and conscientiousness bleeds through to the music they produce.

With a discography of over six albums and many more EPs and demos, there’s clear musical progression between their first album, 2010’s ‘James Is Going To Die Soon’ and their 2019 album ‘Wearing Beige On A Grey Day’. While Clayton was still in the early stages of learning guitar at the beginning of the decade, by the end of the decade, he’s not only proficient, he’s outstanding, moving up and down the fretboard like King Kong chasing after Fay Wray. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is his lyrical prowess – Clayton has always had the ability to turn the simplest of ideas in the most poetic of songs.

Take 2013’s album ‘Tomorrow Is Nearly Yesterday And Everyday Is Stupid’, their most successful and the inspiration behind most Crywank tattoos (thanks in part to a lovely little daschund chewing it’s own tail), it also has some of their most delicately written songs.’If I Were You I’d Be Throwing Up’ and ‘Only Everyone Can Judge Me’ heavily reflect Clayton’s own anxieties with brave-faced honesty. Acutely self-aware of their sound, ‘I’m A Cliché’ discusses how a large proportion of ‘sad songs’ use the same three chords while hitting the same recycled subjects with great effect – “Every heartbreak is shitty, everyone’s hometown is lame / Act like my emotions are worth writing songs about / It won’t make you any better, putting words over sounds”.

‘Life Is Life and That’s So Deep’ from 2017’s ‘Egg On Face. Foot In Mouth. Wriggling Wriggling Wriggling.’ and ‘I’ll Have Some In A Bit’ from 2019’s ‘Wearing Beige On A Grey Day’ are just two examples of countless dozens that touch on Clayton’s mental health.

Clayton uses his own struggles as a tool to create cathartic messages of relatability to his fans. While it could be easy to say he glorifies his own sadness, it’s the muse he uses to build touchingly open and brutally frank songs. It’s an attempt to normalise sadness and create uncomfortable discussions – but mainly to give listeners the idea that whatever they’re feeling, they’re likely not alone. There have, however, been accusations of narcissism aimed at Clayton, but the old adage of ‘write what you know’ comes into play, with Clayton strongly believing the way people relate to things is by pushing the dialogue onto themselves, rather than empathise with an external person, believing “I could write a song about hating manipulative people and how you shouldn’t act in such a way but I find writing a song like ‘leech boy’ which directs all this behaviour onto myself to be more helpful in getting people to think about and address their own behaviour”.

With the band expecting to finally end in July, Crywank announced that their final album, ‘Fist Me ‘til Your Hand Comes Out My Mouth’, will be released May 1st 2020, confirming it will be the ‘longest, weirdest and potentially most self-destructive’ thing they’ve ever recorded, it’s fair to say Crywank are going out on their own terms. With vocal duties split 50/50 across the 27 tracks, it’s fair to assume it’ll be divisive amongst critics and labels. But one thing is for sure, the fans will adore it. And so will we.