“What a nice fella.” That was my immediate takeaway after spending an hour in conversation with The Shend. From the promotional photos he sent us, the man appears formidable. The videos of The Shend performing with his band and some clips of his acting roles suggest he could be a little grumpy. The Shend swept away any concerns I might have had with a pre-chat message, “Hi, mate, I’m looking forward to talking with you.” The Shend, along with Svor Naan, Viscount Biscuits, Joe 91 and Rampton Garstang make up The Cravats. Originally from Redditch, near Birmingham, the band haphazardly got together in 1977 after seeing and being impressed by The Stranglers. Their first single, Gordon b/w Situations Vacant was self-financed with a little help from The Shend’s mum, who didn’t approve of “that awful punk noise”. A recording contract with fledgling indie label Small Wonder led to the attention of John Peel and in turn, four sessions for his influential BBC radio show. The band took a rest in 1982 with original Cravats member Robin Dallaway and The Shend forming The Very Things, as well as DCL Locomotive and The Babymen. The Cravats story picks up again in 2006 with a double CD compilation of Cravats singles and other material was released as The Land Of The Giants – The Best Of The Jazz-Punk Colossals on Overground Records, including unreleased track Seance mixed by Paul Hartnoll of Orbital, and also released as a single. A CD reissue of their first LP, The Cravats In Toytown was released in 2012, accompanied by an additional CD featuring a complete remolding of the original In Toytown 8 track masters by Penny Rimbaud of Crass. The Cravats recorded their first new material in 30 years in the form of Jingo Bells b/w Batterhouse, a limited edition 7″ released on Overground Records. This was followed by the album, Dustbin Of Sound in 2012. And now The Cravats are back with a new long-player, Hoorahland. It’s twelve tracks of rollicking, rambunctious Englishness. (Even though the decidedly American Jello Biafra joins in on Now The Magic Has Gone). In our conversation, The Shend and I zig-zag between the early days of innocently putting out records without a clue, but magically being able to snag Judas Priest’s drum kit for their first recording session – to the remarkable DIY ethos of today’s enterprising music-makers. Plus, I unabashedly tell The Shend how much of fan I have been of The Cravats since that very first single. Trainspotters take note: this conversation is full of references and name-checks. Enjoy!
Norman B – March 2020
LEM Vol 171