There’s a palpable sense of excitement fizzing around Liverpool’s Arts Club – and that’s just outside the city centre venue, where a colourful bunch of excitable fans are killing the long hours before doors open for tonight’s show. Once NME makes it through the crowd of Pride flags and an impressive spectrum of hair-dye, we find Crawlers singer Holly Minto and guitarist Amy Woodall in the venue’s green room; the table before them littered with letters and gifts from fans who are waiting patiently outside in the spring sun.
We’re here in this Liverpool institution before the rising band plays the first of two sold-out headline shows at the 500-capacity venue, which come ahead of a sold-out UK tour which begins in Leeds on Friday (April 1). Minto is quick to explain that selling out the Arts Club is a rite of passage for any local musicians worth their salt. “We’ve watched some of our favourite bands play here and seen many an indie disco here,” the singer says. “To have sold out two nights hasn’t hit home. I can hear people outside and I’m still like, ‘Nah, it’s not true’. It’s just unreal seeing them all.”
It’s something that the four-piece will have to get accustomed to. If Crawlers started to realise their dream of making it big when their alt-rock anthems blew up last year, amassing millions of streams and followers along the way, then now is the time when they’ll really witness their rapid rise in real life. “I remember we put the tour on sale when our track ‘Come Over (Again)’ was starting to pop off, but we didn’t know what was going on,” Minto recalls. “Then we got a call 20 minutes later saying [the tour] had sold out. It was like, ‘What level are we at here?’”
Crawlers are part of a bigger wave that’s crashing off the banks of the Mersey right now: fellow Scousers The Mysterines, STONE and Courting have also helped establish a new live scene that Liverpool can be proud of. Minto believes that the pendulum is now swinging towards the first heavy movement in the city’s already storied musical history. “I feel like it’s a new loud moment for Liverpool, and we’ve never really been known for that,” they say, beaming with pride. “What’s most exciting is these bands smashing it here, and then going on to sell out huge UK-wide tours.”
The band are hardly strangers to the stage. Having met after school, pals Woodall and Liv Kettle (bass) then met Minto in 2018 while at college, and they wasted little time in immersing themselves in the local live circuit. Woodall says the open-minded spirit of the scene was integral to the band’s growth: “Liverpool was great because it doesn’t have a strong genre identity, so when we were gigging we weren’t put in a box.” Things really clicked when drummer Harry Breen entered the fold: “He got our tone and humour, so from then we took it in our stride.”
It was the pandemic that provided Crawlers with the laser-focus to pen their self-titled debut EP, which arrived in October 2021. The quartet cite the writing of their grunge-tinged epic ‘Statues’, a track with giant, wailing guitar lines and lyrics about Black Lives Matter (“You make me so calm / Let the statues fall / Does it feel, does it feel / Does it feel right?”), as a huge turning point. “The pandemic really brought alive how to write about these themes,” says Minto. “We’re trying to raise other voices in the rock scene that aren’t as loud about such topics.”
While they were crafting their “genreless and genderless” sound, which takes in such influences as Phoebe Bridgers, Queens Of The Stone Age and Bring Me The Horizon, the band were putting an equal amount of energy into their social media, lifting the veil on the inner workings of a DIY band for their followers. Minto says their viral growth wasn’t by chance: “It was a lot of hard work, honestly. I spent weeks analysing TikTok, and then I’d post every day. We’d be in the middle of a rehearsal, and then spend half an hour blasting these TikToks out.”
With nearly 700k TikTok followers now on board, the legwork has paid off, spawning a Crawlers community on both sides of the pond which, the band hope, will be a safe space for all. Woodall says that that connection is a huge part of their band. “We made it our own thing. Holly is amazing at striking that bond, and it’s made it what Crawlers is. It’s mostly us just taking the piss out of each other, really. We shamelessly promoted these songs because we’re so proud of them.”
The sharpest embodiment of this community spirit can be seen in the lyric video for their bruising and profound single ‘Come Over (Again)’, in which a cast of Crawlers fans pour their hearts out into the camera. Amid the array of piercings, eye-liner and hair-dye, you’d struggle to pick Minto out of the glorious and powerful line-up of proud misfits. “We cried multiple times that day,” the singer says. “One fan came out as non-binary with the release of the video: they said how the space helped them come out. To feel we’re creating something like that blows my mind.”
Though they’re hurtling towards imminent stardom and racking up millions of streams, Minto insists Crawlers’ relationship with their fanbase will always be a two-way street. “We don’t want our fans to put us on a pedestal. If we do something terrible, we want to be held accountable. We don’t want to be these seamless figures, because we are just people.” She briefly pauses, before adding: “If there’s anything we feel we can help them with through our own experiences, that’s something we want to share. For example, things with my identity, our relationships, growing up working-class.”
Tonight’s first sold-out show at the Arts Club is especially memorable for the big reaction which greets the band’s latest single ‘I Can’t Drive’, a gripping anthem inspired by Minto persevering through toxic relationships and battling through mental health issues. “I was going through a very terrible mental health crisis,” the singer explains. “I have psychosis and generalised anxiety disorder, and then went through a break-up on top of that. I couldn’t cope at all. I’d lost all faith in my musicianship: my confidence was knocked out of me as my partner at the time told me I write like a 13-year-old.”
That ex needs to look no further than tonight’s Crawlers gig to be proved wrong. Screams ring out from the minute they take to the stage to the sounds of Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Killing In The Name’: a fitting choice of track, given they’ll share the bill with the anarchic heroes at Reading & Leeds Festival this summer. Those major festival slots will be exciting milestones in what is already becoming a hugely memorable year for Crawlers, given they signed to Polydor (Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo) at the tail end of 2021.
“We never thought we’d be on a major label this early into our career, let alone be signed at all,” explains Woodall. “It’s absolutely nuts.” The label’s support is also enabling Crawlers the opportunity to finally meet their North American fanbase, with a run of live dates set for this summer including stops in New York City, LA and Toronto. “With the label and our fans behind us, it feels like we can achieve anything now,” Minto concludes. Judging by the generation-defining kind of adoration inside the Arts Club tonight, you’d be hard-pressed to disagree.