Hi. It looks you're in .

Please select the store you wish to visit:

The Cromagnon Band – An Interview

The Cromagnon Band created one of our favourite albums of the year to date, so when we were given the chance to host an interview with them we of course jumped at the chance. Conducted in July 2022 courtesy of friend of Mr Bongo, Chris Headcount... 

When I’m looking at the record sleeve of the debut LP by London based trio The Cromagnon Band and listening to the gritty, cinematic music alongside it, it feels like an earthquake has ruptured the Earth’s mantle and released some boiling musical magma. Released in May this year on We Stay True and already requiring a reissue – I wanted to catch up with Tom Watt – one of the 3 people behind one of my favourite releases of 2022.



Hi Tom. Well first up, congratulations on what is a brilliant LP. I've been listening to it tons since I got my hands on a copy. When I'm describing your music to people it's not the most straightforward thing to convey. So, for your current fans and for those who are coming in fresh - could you give us a breakdown of how you'd describe your sound and what kind of things influence the band?

Hi Chris. Glad you like it and thanks for the nice words. Yeah, it's not the easiest sound to categorise, I guess that's a good thing! Genre tags like psych-funk-cinematic-prog-breaks are the quickest way to summarise us but it's nice to go a bit further. We've described it as reverse engineered hip hop. We usually start jamming around a groove that might be strongly influenced from a sample-based track and then work backwards to kind of reimagine what the song it was taken from would have sounded like and then arrange that into a new song. So, we are heavily influenced by crate digging culture and although we don't sample (and make strictly live music), we often go about things in a similar way and start by searching for interesting sounds, grooves, ideas, and melodies in obscure places to inspire us.

Hip hop is a massive influence on the sound especially the rhythm section. We love a good boom-bap golden era groove. We are fortunate to have a prodigious keyboard player/multi-instrumentalist (he plays pretty much everything on the album apart from the drums/bass) who draws a lot of inspiration from classical music as well as being a hip hop fan.

To go into a few specifics… Edan is the rapper/producer who throws together so many mind-blowing sounds, we are constantly vibing off him. The Bomb Squad's production has had a big impact on us. They constantly pack in hooks which is important, and they make music you can listen to over and over again and not get tired of, which is also something we strive to attempt. As one of the best electric piano-based bands Marc Moulin's Placebo are a favourite too. And I think anyone who says they are influenced by hip hop production must certainly acknowledge James Brown for sure! 


Reverse engineered hip hop! What a great description and one I can't argue with. So how long have you been operating as a trio? Can you give us a brief overview of how the band came to be?

We've been together as a trio since about 2015 but the roots of the band go back way further. We were all massively into golden age hip hop and then the underground scene in the 90s/early 2000s and obsessive crate diggers/beat makers. But around 2004 we got a bit bored of sampling and started to really get into some of the obscure psych/prog/funk/rock/jazz records that we'd discovered and thought "we need to make this stuff ourselves!"

At the time I lived in a big flat in Ealing and we started to have little jam sessions that slowly grew as we didn't get any noise complaints from neighbours and the band kind of formed out of that. But then after a few years I had to move out and without a base the band went on a hiatus and other projects we were all involved in started taking off.

Jack Sharp was in the very first line up on guitar and we were both in Wolf People. Ross Harris was on flute, and he formed the Speakers Corner Quartet. Bert formed a band with Lenny who wasn't in the old line up but had always been a mate and fellow crate digger.

We never released anything, only played 2 festivals but a few tracks made it onto mixtapes or were heard via Myspace. One of them was on an Andy Votel mix which ended up being sampled by the Go! Team. So we had a track sampled before actually ever releasing anything which is cool. Also a song was used in a German video game that was quite successful.

Fast forward the best part of a decade; myself, Bert and Lenny (the current line up) were at a friend's wedding in Germany where we got chatting about the kind of music we'd like to hear bands making and we thought we should have a go at doing it ourselves. It took a while to forge the sound but a few years later here we are. It felt like a continuation of the original band, so we stayed with the name.

Wow! An extensive history and it sounds like it was a long time in the making - like something was brewing up and getting ready to explode into life - which kind of brings me on to a question about your name. How did you pick the band name? The only reason I ask is... Once I remembered what Cromagnon meant - it seemed to make sense - because your music does have this kind of deep, textured, primordial sound. Are those two things related? This a geeky fan question… so apologies.

That sums up the name really well! Our old bassist Mike suggested the name. It was something he saw in an X-Man comic and apart from sounding cool, it simultaneously evoked both the prehistoric and progressive. We added the "Band" part to the name as we wanted to make it clear that this is a live project and because collaboration and developing ideas together is important to us. Also, there is of course the 60s group Cromagnon (I guess pretty much every one word name is already taken!) so we needed to change it slightly. When we reformed the project after a long gap the name seemed to make even more sense, so we stuck with it.

Wicked! So, tell me about your live shows. What kind of set up do you rock and where can people check you next?

Our live shows are a bit stripped back. Drums, bass and keys but there's still quite a lot going on for a 3 piece. Bert plays parts on the Moog and Fender Rhodes simultaneously - t's quite fascinating to watch.

As Bert overdubs so many instruments we didn't think the music would work live and remain a studio project but then in lockdown winter 2020 we were asked if we could play a gig at Islington Assembly Hall (where I work as the technical manager) to test the new streaming installation and distanced seating (150 people instead of 900). It was a great opportunity to see if the material would work as a 3 piece, so we gave it a go and it went down very well. So bizarrely we are probably the only band in the world that played more shows because of the pandemic than we would have otherwise. We are lining up just a few shows this year but will hopefully do a lot more touring next year when we release the second album.

August 5th St Leonards - The Piper

September 2nd - Finsbury Park (London) - The Night Owl

Well, I'm going to try my best to get down to at least one of those shows. 'Dismantle' is the type of album I'd love to hear played live. Anyway Tom, I'll leave it there and advise anyone reading this to go check out your work - and I can't wait to hear more new music from the band once it's ready. Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions and good luck with everything going forward. Peace. 

You can pick up the brand new, debut LP ‘Dismantle’ HERE.