CROOK – my bf (kinda) – Premiere
CROOK’s latest release ‘my bf (kinda)’ is undoubtedly charming —smooth and clean and yet interwoven with so much feeling.
It feels like the kind of song that plays during a dramatic slo-mo scene in Euphoria — moody close-ups included. We chatted with the Irish-born, Berlin-based singer about his songwriting process, why he describes ‘my bf (kinda)’ as a love song, and where his inspiration comes from.
What initially inspired you to create this song?
It started when I found that first line: ‘I am cute/When I’m scared’. I often start with single, isolated lines, little scraps of an idea, and something about it seems to want explanation or fleshing out. So, when I came up with that line, I guess I was curious to see what I meant by it, and where it would go.
How would you describe ‘my bf (kinda)’ to a new listener?
It’s a pop song whose lyrics you won’t be ashamed to belt out at karaoke in ten years’ time.
The song sounds very atmospheric, almost like that minute before sleep where you feel yourself falling. What feelings or emotions do you hope to convey with this song?
I think that sense of falling is fairly close to the mark. I’m not really trying to convey or communicate any feeling, or group of feelings in particular, for me it’s more like a process of distillation. Once I’ve figured out the situation or moment I’m writing about, it becomes about trying to bottle that: to capture the essence of it and preserve it — first and foremost — for myself, because the moment taught me something, or affected me in some way. After that, I just trust that almost regardless of how specific, or personal an experience might feel, there is likely to be something in it that even a total stranger could share in. That way, my job is just to capture the moment as faithfully as I can, and then trust that the richer and fuller I make it, the richer it will feel for someone listening.
Tell us a bit about the lyrics. What was the writing process like for this song?
It took a long time. I’ve talked a bit about this before, but for whatever reason, ‘research’ has become an important part of my writing process. I think that makes sense for journalists or even novelists, but I’m still not totally sure why I feel the need to do it when writing pop songs. For this song, it was one of my first attempts to write something more pop-leaning, and so it felt important to me that I have a clearer understanding of what pop meant to me, how it worked, and why I was bothering to try to write something poppy anyway. I spent a long time getting the tone/register of the lyrics to feel right, and wrote & rewrote verse after verse. I probably have about 35 other verses that I tried and cut before settling on the ones that you hear now. Part of that was because the situation I was writing about was unclear to me, and I needed to play around with a lot of different perspectives before I could get a firm grasp on it. In the end, the lyrics should hopefully sound simple, and honest — but it took a lot of work to even get close.
What’s your favorite line from ‘my bf (kinda)’ and why?
It changes over time, but today, it’s ‘I smell like peach/If I don’t sweat’. I remember the night walks I would take while I was writing this song. I’d go out almost every night around midnight and wander around Berlin for a couple of hours, headphones on, just listening to an instrumental section of the song on loop. One night, I was kind of in my own world and almost bumped into a guy who was walking against me. I did one of those little side steps you do in those situations, and the sudden movement apparently moved enough air around that I was momentarily hit by this distinct smell of peaches, which on the otherwise fairly predictably-smelling city streets, caught me off-guard.
I thought it must have been this guy’s perfume or something until I got home and was greeted with a big bloom of the same smell in my apartment, only then remembering that I’d bought a new peach-scented fabric softener earlier that week, and that — without knowing it — every item of clothing I had, now smelled of peach. Something about that, about not recognizing your own smell, seemed striking to me, and so many iterations later I landed on this line.
There is obvious yearning, tension, and ambivalence present in the lyrics, yet you describe ‘my bf (kinda)’ as a love song — why?
I guess I feel like there’s yearning, tension, and ambivalence present in most love. Or at least, the presence of those things doesn’t necessarily mean that what you’re feeling isn’t love. Beyond that, I say it’s a love song because it’s about the questions that love poses, to ourselves, to others, about the nature of love in general, and about the nature of love in a specific situation. My experience of love is not as a certain, immovable mountain, but more like a gradually shifting ice-floe, generally trending towards decay, but sometimes it’s solid enough, for long enough, that we don’t feel it melting.
How does this song represent your personal songwriting style?
In general, I try to avoid songwriting choices which could result in being categorised as having a ‘style’, but this song does hit a number of things that I try to consider in my approach to writing a pop song, such as, be direct, but don’t oversimplify, be honest, but don’t forget yours is not the only perspective, and re-write, but do so with purpose, rather than just to make more work for yourself.
You’ve managed to create an impressive career in a non-traditional way. What advice would you give to aspiring songwriters and/or producers?
It’s not my advice, and I can’t recall where I heard it, but the most practical advice I’ve received is simple: Keep a low overhead.
What’s next for you? What are you most excited about releasing music-wise?
Next year I’ll be putting out a new EP with Sleep Well Records, which I’m super excited about! It’s going to be the most pop thing I’ve done so far, and it makes me that magic combination of scared and excited to see how I figure out how to externalise what’s in my head right now. Apart from that, I’m still working on writing and production for a bunch of under-wraps projects with different artists, which I can’t wait for other people to get to hear ASAP.
Check out ‘my bf (kinda)’ below!