Some world tours feel like a victory lap. On August 25, 2017, The Sherlocks stepped onto the NME/Radio 1 Stage at the Leeds leg of the Reading & Leeds festival and announced to a rammed tent that their debut album ‘Live For The Moment’ had, that very day, entered the UK albums chart at Number Six.
“That was crazy,” says singer Kiaran Crook. “It was our guitarist’s birthday as well. We can say we’ve got a Top Ten album under our belt. For a guitar band, and a new guitar band, to get a Top Ten is quite a big deal. But we kept our head screwed on and played a good show. Your first album’s always your benchmark, something for people to finally get hold of and from our end the reaction was amazing, it blew us away. We’d have been over the moon if we’d even scraped a Top Ten, we couldn’t believe it to be honest.”
From there, The Sherlocks tore around the globe with their arms aloft. In Japan they were met with “the most passionate fans I’ve seen and it’s not alcohol fuelled either.” They blitzed Europe on their own headline jaunt and supporting Liam Gallagher – “we had a drink with him on the final night in Amsterdam,” Kiaran recalls, “he wished us all the best and told us to enjoy it.” Throughout the summer of 2018 they stole every festival they set eyes on, from Neighbourhood in Warrington, to Tramlines, TRNSMT, Truck, Y Not, Kendall Calling, Japan’s Summersonic and Liam Gallagher’s Finsbury Park extravaganza. “Last year we smashed it with festivals,” Kiaran enthuses. “Every festival we did we were on the main stage either second or third from top. It didn’t feel unusual, it felt comfortable.”
They’d certainly come a long way from family gigs in Bolton upon Dearne. The band had first come together in 2010 when, during one of the regular private Christmas ‘gigs’ they’d play as a duo at their grandparents’ house, Kiaran and his drumming brother Brandon heard the next door neighbour Josh Davidson playing guitar through the wall. Bonding over a shared love of Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, The Stone Roses and Flaming Lips, they roped in Josh’s brother Andy on bass and became The Sherlocks, ascending swiftly from stints in working men’s clubs to rammed, buzzing and riotous gigs on the nearby Sheffield scene, embraced as the city’s next big guitar stars and the band set to launch the next generation of Sheffield alt-rock.
A series of self-released singles and EPs, beginning in 2012 and really kicking into gear with their Arctics-style signature anthem ‘Live For The Moment’ in 2014, took in the infectious rock rushes of ‘Escapade’, ‘Heart Of Gold’ and ‘Will You Be There?’ and spread the word like wildfire. Over two years of hard touring, The Sherlocks rose to two-thousand capacity venues across the north of England and caught the ear of Radio 1, 6 Music, Radio X and Soccer AM. Signing to Infectious in October 2016, their march for glory continued with the ironic Valentine’s Day release of the video for bitter break-up track ‘Was It Really Worth It?’, a re-release of ‘Will You Be There?’ and the freewheeling ‘Chasing Shadows’, but months before their debut album emerged they were already crowned as local heroes supporting the Kings of Leon at the Sheffield Arena in June 2017.
“Usually when the support band’s on it’s like everyone’s daydreaming,” Kiaran says, “but we didn’t get that vibe at all. They were all switched on and loving us. We’re the next band from Sheffield where people can support us and think ‘this is my chance to watch a band grow’. It feels like the city’s behind us.”
‘Live For The Moment’, the album, was a scintillating insight into Yorkshire youth – fantasist schoolfriends faking wild weekends, drunken teen troublemakers, heartbreak and hedonism aplenty – but as the band toured the world, missing home, Kiaran found himself writing more mature and reflective new song; of youth, yes, but also of young manhood.
These were worldly songs, but always with one eye cast homeward. A visit to New York, for instance, inspired the wide-horizoned yet homesick new single ‘NYC (Sing It Loud)’: “I wanna see the world with you,” Kiaran sings, imagining “getting lost in the city for a day” with someone left behind. “It was the first proper American tour we’d done and I was blown away by the places,” Kiaran explains. “The other side was wishing certain people could be there to see it with me. It’s annoying when you know people are at home and you’re having such a good time and you think ‘if you could see what I’m seeing’… even though I’m in New York, I’m still thinking about people at home who I wish could see New York who have never been and may never go. From where I’m from, they’re not really privileged and for a lot of people seeing New York one day is just laughable, there’s no way that’s gonna happen.”
These are songs of experience: the driving ‘I Want It All’ reminisces over watching James play a gloriously stormy festival weekend in Wales, and other idyllic moments Kiaran has spent with a special, unnamed someone. Then ‘Time To Go’ celebrates the more casual romantic encounter, “trying to channel a bit of a Bruce Springsteen lyric.” Whether despairing over the ambitions wasted by people doing McJobs on ‘Dreams’ or dissecting the various stages of relationships on ‘Waiting’, the glorious canyon pop of ‘Now And Then’ and the album’s heartbroken, epic finale (and title track) ‘Under Your Sky’, Kiaran took inspiration for his characters and situations from home.
“It might be the people in my village,” he explains, “or I might just look at someone who lives near me and make a story up or imagine what they’re thinking. The thing that links it all together is where I’m from. Some are personal, where I know the people, and some are observational. There’s always an element of sadness behind it because, with a sad song, there’s always a lot more truth in it. ‘Under Your Sky’ might feel slightly sad but there’s always a bit of hope in it.”
With all of these fresh monsters and more under his belt by the tail end of 2018, The Sherlocks begged to be allowed back into the studio. In stark contrast to the sessions for their debut album, recorded in late-night sessions at the cut-off, rural Rockfields in Wales, this time they opted to record at Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios with The Coral’s James Skelly at the desk for the four weeks running up to Christmas, knocking off at six o’clock Monday to Friday to head into town for snooker, beer and a debrief on the day’s work. The result was a tighter, brighter, ultra-modern alt-rock record, benefiting from Skelly’s knack for focusing a killer chorus, less indebted to indie rockers of old and smattered with stylistic swerves into new wave, ‘80s textures and all-out feedback freakouts. It’s as Killers, Cars, High Flying Birds and Two Door Cinema Club as it is Catfish. A real 21st Century guitar rock record.
“The first album was us four in a room,” Kiaran says. “We wanted to make it really raw like the Arctic Monkeys’ first album or Kings Of Leon’s. We wanted to capture the live sound and polish it up a bit. It was a straight-up rock’n’roll record, there weren’t many tricks going off. With this one we’ve taken it a step further and made it slightly smoother and put more keyboards in. Rather than having the guitars thrashing all the time we’ve tried being a bit sweeter with it. It sounds more contemporary, I can hear it on Radio 1.”
And you will too. Meanwhile, Kiaran claims to already have half of album three in the bag, which is already hinting at The Sherlock’s next step towards total rock domination. “It’s quite upbeat.,” Kiaran says. “A lot of bands get to their third album and take a weird turn, thinking outside of the box. I think I know what a good melody is and we’ll try different things on each record and push ourselves a lot more but I’d never stick some weird production on to try to mask a bad song. We like big anthemic sing-alongs like The Killers would write, so that’s the direction we’re heading in, aiming for stadiums.”
Considering how accurate The Sherlocks’ aim has been so far, an elementary deduction.