A local band renowned for having audiences of all ages stand up and dance to the beat of Oasis, Pearl Jam, Coldplay, The Beatles, and Arctic Monkeys… just to mention a few of their favourite covers.
Crimson Clover is rocking the Summer Nights stage on 11th August, with a full set of their staple originals, peppered with cover songs. Their musical style is independent, mature, assertive, and it rises to the challenge of breaking free from the influences of trendsetting local bands. Lead singer and lyricist Mark Muscat (-flies) proudly embodies the ‘Brit rock’ ensemble, when he graces his poppy riffs with a rockier saturation, and embroiders his lyrical message with a philosophical sense of a life worth living and making into song and dance. He also takes pride in ‘keeping it local’, when he mentions Gibraltar topography in his songs, featuring everyday heroes wandering around the core streets of fortress identity.
Absolutely “not a boy band”, the group is enjoying ever-growing popularity in the local live music circuit: they played the Rock on the Rock club, where they also participated in the epic Battle of the Bands, they are regulars at Lord Nelson’s, All’s Well, and have gigged at high-profile fundraising events such as Autism Awareness Day and Mental Health Day.
Founded in 2015 by Sussex-born percussionist Martin Winterstein-Smith and Gibraltarian songwriter, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Mark Muscat, this his first band enterprise at the age of twenty-seven, Crimson Clover has undergone a few line-up changes before settling in the current M-team, with the addition of eclectic pianist and bassist Marco Pinnisi. Marco pours in his ‘Sicilian energy’ and showmanship to balance the technical input of audio engineer Martin, who describes himself as “breezily sailing towards a milestone birthday”.
The band is rounded up by the fresh technical discipline of young Bristolian Jonathan Crowther, who landed in Gibraltar last September and was immediately contacted, auditioned and inducted, for the terrific contribution of his virtuoso solo guitarist skills.
They reckon that whisking up a catchy band name that isn’t already taken can be one of the most onerous steps of founding a band, so they explain the genesis of their own as inspired by the 1968 Tommy James and the Shondells’ song Crimson and Clover, mentioned in the opening stanza of Kings of Leon’s California Waiting. No matter how quick Mark is to dismiss any hint of Leprechaun or kermes silk-dye connections, the listeners cannot help be thunderstruck and hooked by the visual oxymoron etched in their mind’s eye as soon as the band drops their first riff, especially when the melody comes from their newly released Saturnalia, a hymn to the strife of life and the importance of togetherness.
In his lyrics, Muscat sticks to his philosophy of Keepin’ it Real – the actual title of their latest release. The entire band acknowledges his creative value when it comes to composing melodies and writing lyrics, although they contribute each with suggestions about the specific role of their own instruments, and Martin advises on mixing and arrangement: “Being a professional audio engineer, I know what makes a song work, appealing to the audience and rise above its demo status in order to become worthy of international charts. We are very proud to be featured on iTunes, a target that not all amateur bands can boast to have achieved, and we can count on a varied fanship across the globe. Music nowadays is all about single tracks, so our first EP won’t be a conceptual album. Furthermore, the contemporary industry is mostly about live concerts and digital downloads. And a track can chart in the many billboards available, from indie to rock, pop-rock, Britpop etc, so artists are afforded more chances to land a professional record deal after they are heard and downloaded.”
Some songs perform better live and others in recording, but either way Crimson Clover is a traditional band in the sense that they never rely on backing tracks when live, and what the audience hears is wholesomely played on the spot, thanks to gruelling rehearsals and jamming sessions of course – and their recordings are just that, a faithful record of live sessions harmonised particularly well, just politely polished off in post-production.
Their debut song Paisley Skies is a hymn to the swirly teardrop patterns of infatuation worded as ‘I don’t need no silver lining… you’ve got me walking under paisley skies’. The 2016 release Line of Sight is about the thrill of the nightclub chase to meet a girl’s gaze: ‘Our eyes locked together from across the bar, […] You’re in my line of sight, and that’s exactly where I want you to be.’
Surely this crimson quartet is exactly where they want to be: rocking like it was 1999, reinventing the laidback era of pop-rock male performers for middle-aged nostalgia and millennial consumption.