[INTERVIEW] Andy Craigen from The HomeGrown

The HomeGrown are currently recording in studio for their first ever full album release. Andy Craigen (front-man of the band) seems unable to contain his excitement and the thought of releasing their new politically-charged indie music out into this currently fragile country, for the left AND right wing to hear.

I met up with Andy in his quaint hometown of Bedford, as Andy would call it ‘Deadford’; because of its apparent lack of liveliness for the younger generation. Craigen is wearing a baggy blue t-shirt and a pair of old jeans, his hair a shaggy mess and a cigarette is dangling from his mouth. You could say he looks like the typical indie frontman, but he tells me that he ‘just doesn’t like spending money on clothes when he could be spending it on booze and cigarettes’. A statement that you would want to hear from a shaggy, young indie rock-star.

Witnessing The HomeGrown perform in a small venue is like watching your family gather for an awkward Christmas Dinner, we’ve all been dragged along to this event, but no one quite really knows what to do with themselves. Andy is like the drunk uncle after 7pm on Christmas day, who yells at everyone to get off their chairs and dance with him. Just like you will often see at gigs, somehow Andy will convince these awkward passers-by to get up and dance – and also have a giggle whilst they’re at it. Craigen’s ability to seduce a crowd into having that extra drink that they shouldn’t have, or laugh at that naughty joke, is an attribute you seldom see in musicians. He is able to combine comedy with music, without it sounding like a corny cabaret. You will find yourself mercilessly giggling and being silly as he prods and pokes you to enjoy his music with him. Even producing grins from the most anal of people, which I believe he takes great pleasure from.

‘Tell me a little bit about yourself, how did you become the front-man for The HomeGrown?’ I asked, he looked at me reminiscing the past and replied: ‘I never know what to say when I get asked to talk about myself! I normally face trouble head on – I feared heights, so I went skydiving. Now I’m cured! Something interesting about me is that I was once called a ‘yob’ by the Daily Mail when photographed at the 2010 student protests. Starting the band kind of happened by accident honestly. Me and Danny, a close friend and one of my housemates at University wrote ‘Broke in Britain’ as a bit of fun after some refreshments one evening, we then thought it would be a clever idea to try out for a student music festival ‘Keynestock 2015’. To our amazement, we got in and were asked to perform a 45-minute set, after that we just kept getting booked for gigs!’.

Andy seemed proud of himself when speaking about the fact that he faced his fears head on, he had demolished his fears and anxieties with one simple act. It may have seemed simple to him, but I don’t know many people that would jump out of an aircraft to rid their anxieties. A somewhat admirable attribute to have, and a look into how he comes out on the other end full of positivity and charisma.

Wanting to know where the front-man had got his inspiration from, I asked him who he admired. He said: ‘Our influences are quite wide-ranged really. There’s a big dollop of Frank Turner, a dash of Jamie T, a pinch of the King Blues, a shot of Beans on Toast and a sprinkle of Rage Against the Machine. I would like to say our sound is a mixture of catchy chorus’ and melodies, broken up by some clear straight-talking rants in between!

The sound has evolved massively over the last year or so since bringing in our bassist – Adam and our drummer, Seb, they’ve helped us come such a long way in such a short space of time! Even though I was asking questions about himself, Craigen always seemed to involve others in his answers and often avoided solely talking about himself. A personality trait you don’t often see in the lead-singer of a band, humbleness.

I wanted to lean more towards the political side of The HomeGrown, they have grown a reputation as a band for being outspoken about right-wing politics and pushing the anti-austerity movement. After chatting with Andy for most of the day, it’s very plain to see that he very strongly supports Labour and most left-wing movements – a man of the people. Wanting to know more about his outlook on the government in the United Kingdom, I asked him if he was trying to provide a specific message for his listeners and if so, why? Andy continued: ‘Too right! For the last generation, we’ve been sold down the river by successive governments, selling off state assets, the public fuck up initiative, being sent into war under false pretences, seven long dark years of austerity, backdoor privatisation of our NHS. All while the rich get richer and they still have the fucking audacity to say, ‘we’re all in this together’, whilst stuffing their faces with tax payer supplemented caviar and champagne! The higher power claims to have reduced child poverty, when we’re seeing record numbers of families reliant on foodbanks! The message we try to give is, get off your fucking ‘smart’ phone and get out there and do something about it!’ He then added, ‘am I allowed to swear?’.

It’s clear to see that Andy has a strong understanding of what he believes to be the problem with our government. The public are seeing a record rise in young students and young adults wanting to have their say in the voting system, and rebelling at the fact that the younger generation do not have a say in their future. People like Andy and his band members, are the sort of people that are keeping young people in politics, telling them that they aren’t stupid and that their opinion does matter – their future matters.

‘So, I’ve heard you’ll be recording in the studio soon? What’s next for the HomeGrown?’ I asked, his response being: ‘Word travels ‘ey! We’re booked in to studio sessions in December and January. We’ve been very lucky that Alan McGee, the man who first signed Oasis; has offered to let us use his venue to record in January! Meeting McGee was surreal, he’s managed so many legends, including one of my favourite all time bands- The Libertines, what he’s doing with ‘Musicians against Homelessness’ is amazing as well!’.

It seems that there will be a lot of noise and movement coming from Andy and the HomeGrown over the next few months, something that we will have to keep our eyes peeled for. Exciting things are happening for them, and knowing that Andy will be fronting this political alternative/indie band, means we can for sure expect to find a grin sprawling across our face when we listen to new material.

Words by Julia Simmons-Barry

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