Interview with John Clews of Corvus


By Woody


Hi John, you are the guitarist with a new AOR band hailing from Birmingham – Corvus. So can you tell us who’s in the band, how you got together and how you would describe your sound?

Heya Woody, thanks for having me.

Corvus is a new British Melodic Rock Band currently recording our debut album ‘Chasing Miracles’. The members consist of Ciaran James on vocals, Nick Jeavons on keyboards, Jordan Brown on bass and myself on the guitar. Drumming wise for the studio recordings we have procured Alex Cooper of Arkham Studios to do them justice.

You can trace this union of souls to early March 2012 where Ciaran, Nick, Jordan and I were pulled in to session on a double album project. We spent approximately a month or so locked in a studio recording and due to various issues that arose it never got finished. Luckily we all kept in touch after going our separate ways.

During this time, Ciaran and I had talked about trying our hand at song writing together to see what we could come up with. I loved his Buble-esque tone from the moment I heard it and was fairly excited about working with him.

When we began writing we had no clear plan of action so we set ourselves a target of writing 30 songs and seeing what came out. There were no restrictions on genre or style so we indulged ourselves a little; writing pop, rock, blues, jazz, reggae, anything we possibly could.

During this initial process we actually wrote quite a few songs that feature on the album; ‘The Last Night’ was the first true AOR song we wrote and it came out in our first song writing session but at that point we didn’t know what we had.

It was in early January of this year that we had reached that ever elusive 30 mark and decided to have our first song professionally recorded which was actually a summer reggae song called ‘Don’t Let The Sun’. We took this into Arkham Studios with Alex at the head and in no less than a day we had the finished product with the exception of a tweak or two. This experience was very interesting for the both of us as we were able to view Alex’s versatility as an engineer.

We were obviously very happy and thought we should try our hand at simply writing songs for people and seeing what happened, but then….

We took ‘Can’t Stop Falling in Love’ into the studio which originally began as a bluesy pop mid tempo ballad. The song changed our entire outlook when Alex suggested that it be an AOR song and I’m so glad we went along with the idea.

The recording of this song essentially built Corvus, I knew we needed some kick ass players to give it some special treatment; Nick and Jordan were the perfect choice who agreed to it straight away.

Another few days in the studio laying vocals, solos, synths and sexy bass and we walked out with the foundation of this project and the rest is history we have yet to make.

I’d say we have a very traditional AOR sound alike bands like FM, Journey and Shy but that comparison only goes so far when you have a low range front man like Ciaran. A ‘Buble does Journey’ concept if you will. Sweet melodies, heavenly tones and crunching guitars!

One key rule of thumb for the band is that everything must be huge. Big catchy hooks, heavy synths, guitar solos, and reverb, lots and lots of reverb…

Tcorvushe name of the band Corvus, what does it mean? Why did you settle upon it as the name of the band?

Corvus is actually a star constellation with its Latin name meaning ‘crow’ or ‘raven’ which we felt really reflects the light and shade sound of the band. Ciaran actually approached me with this name at first and I have grown to love it.

His supporting case at the time was because he looks a bit like Brandon Lee from ‘The Crow’. Any excuse to take his shirt off!

You are currently recording your debut album Chasing Miracles at Arkham Studios in Birmingham. When will it be released and will it be an independent release or on a record label?

Well we are currently about a quarter of the way through, essentially ‘finding our feet’; the plan is to build an anthemic sound on every track, the songs deserve no less than to have blood, sweat and tears shed over them. It shall be a huge effort and I’m afraid it will be a rather broken process due to availability issues, Nick in particular will be leaving us for the summer to teach at an American Summer Camp. We’ll pick straight up where we left off when he gets back. We’re aiming maybe a bit too optimistically at a March 2014 release but you never know.

Currently this is an independent effort but providing a record label is willing to give us the appropriate support we will of course consider all options.

Arkham Studios is part of the Madhouse complex which also features The Asylum venue and is owned by Shy bassist Roy Davies. Why did you decide to use Arkham Studios to record the album?

Well I have personally known Alex Cooper and Roy Davies for a long time during my time studying music at the local college and using the rehearsal complex for various means. This relationship developed over the years as I used the studio more often in and out of several bands.

Madhouse has always been number one with respect to its fine quality sound when rehearsing and fine tuning a live band.

Arkham on the other hand is a superb recording facility headed by the outstanding Alex Cooper. His reputation does his skills little justice until you hear how he can make your music sound.

Alex is paramount to the sound of the band and above all he understands the music. As one of the songwriters the music on this album is very personal to me and Alex can see that, he is able to identify what it is that you want and will strive to achieve that. Therefore he is the perfect choice when it comes to ‘Chasing Miracles’.

Corvus-1Who are the principal songwriters in Corvus? And what is the song writing process like for you guys?

I like to think of it as a collaborative effort between all of us but if we are to pinpoint the guys that lay the foundation it would be Ciaran and myself. I compose the majority of the music and Ciaran writes all of the lyrics with the exception of one or two.

As I mentioned earlier it first began with the two of us just sitting in a room with an 8 track sticking down every idea we came up with. It didn’t matter if it wasn’t great we persevered purely for the love of creation and that’s usually how the initial ideas are born, I’d say we write about 60-70% of the track and then when everyone’s input comes in we take it the rest of the way.

There are one or two songs on this album that I wrote some time ago. I wrote the music for ‘Can’t Get Enough’ two years ago and gave it to Ciaran to do his magic.

The writing does not stop there though, I like to believe that everyone has valid input, though Ciaran and I create the ideas, it’s Nick, Jordan and Alex that give them life. All for the good of the songs…

Can you tell us about a few of the songs that may be featured on Chasing Miracles? What they are called, how they were written and what they are about or any stories behind the song?

Well for the track ‘Chasing Miracles’, I originally came up with the title. I was having a philosophical moment reviewing my life and found the perfect tagline to sum up my feelings. There was only one thing for it, so I picked up my guitar and wrote the music. It started off as a pop number very mid tempo; it didn’t gain its real lifeblood though until I came up with the driving riff in the verse and Ciaran fine tuned his lyrics.

I think the song very much sums up the concept of the album, powerful optimistic pop rock and could very much become another single in time.

‘Turn to Stone’ is a very personal track as I wrote both lyrics and the music; it was wrote around two years ago. It’s naturally about being deep in thought and reflecting on one’s life. The realisation is that one should never give up and always do their best to stand out.

I mentioned a little of ‘Can’t Get Enough’ earlier, this is another song in which I wrote two years ago, it originally was an entirely different track and was finished to a point but I was never completely satisfied with the end product until I presented it to Ciaran who helped me re-paint and breathe new life into it.

It drives along with a powerful classic riff and has everything I desire in a song; light, shade, solos and reverb!!

Following you on Facebook I see you have just filmed a video, can you tell us about the video? What song was it for and what was the experience like?

Ahh yes, that video was shot rather recently down in Salisbury, we managed to procure a camera crew, a troupe of actors, some great key locations and a horse!!

The video was shot for ‘Can’t Stop Falling In Love’. It has become rather iconic for us as it started it all. It takes something truly special to bring people together in support of such a cause.

It was a great experience working with some very enthusiastic people. I look forward to seeing the video now and hope to publish it alongside the single.

John, if I remember correctly you were a member of the first incarnation of rising UK melodic rockers Serpentine. You featured on their debut album A Touch of Heaven and even appeared in their video for ‘Whatever Heartache’. What was that experience like for you especially as the vocalist at the time was legendary Brummie vocalist Tony Mills?

It was certainly a grand experience to work with such a prestigious vocal powerhouse like Tony. Not only did he provide his exceptional vocals and songwriting to the band but his many years of experience proved invaluable to this naive wide-eyed youth.

In particular, Tony would go to great length to ensure I could hit the relevant backing vocals.  Few can say they have ever had the chance to back up this astonishing singer. One key lesson I learned was to always focus on the song despite any personality conflicts that may occur; if it becomes about anything other than the song then it will not work.

As for the band itself, it possessed a somewhat unique melodic quality that attracted me. A Touch of Heaven was an accomplished debut album and I was proud to contribute to its production.

Why did you leave Serpentine shortly after the release of A Touch of Heaven?

I actually left Serpentine as they were writing their second album ‘Living and Dying in High Definition’ and in retrospect the musical direction was changing from the melodic/aor sound I knew. It is true that bands must evolve to please their listeners and I commend them for their achievements; it just began to create a distance between myself and the other members.

Also, at the time Tony had just suffered a heart attack while on tour with TNT so there were many questions as to whether this would be the end of the band. Tony then informed us that he would pen the second album and then focus his efforts elsewhere in some small part due to health concerns which were of course understandable.

I had given it serious thought after Tony had made this announcement. There were musical differences that I could no longer ignore, though it was plain to see that they would do well on the live circuit having rehearsed consistently with them for a year and a half, the music no longer inspired me as it should.

If anything it was specifically the songwriter in me crying to deliver new songs and new sounds to the world yet I knew that my sound would not match this new direction therefore I chose to leave and I wish them well in their future efforts.

What do you think of Serpentine’s progression/music since your departure and new front man Matt Black?

I actually was still with Serpentine when they auditioned Matt Black, a talented melodic singer. It was my last time with the band so I didn’t really have the time to warm to him on a personal level though it was plain to see that he got the job from the first time he sung ‘Whatever Heartache’.

He has done well to take on the role of the front man; it’s not easy to follow Tony Mills.

With respect I have not really followed their progression since my departure. Every chapter has to close and my time with Serpentine is in the past now. From what I have heard on the grapevine they seem to be developing nicely therefore I wish them well.

I feel as though it’s a good time to be a British melodic rock band, not just that British bands within the genre are getting more respect but more importantly they seem to be generating far more support from the fans within the melodic rock scene. Are you anxious or excited about how your debut album will be received?

Hmm a bit of both. As with any budding songwriter the first album is the one that ‘makes or breaks you’. At least that’s how I view it. You share your vision with the world and hope that listeners enjoy it.

With ‘Chasing Miracles’ I feel as though there is something unique to it. Not a primeval approach but rather music that touches the soul and warms the heart.

I want the album to take listeners on a journey, so they can shut out everything else, all of the hardships and woes of life and just listen. If we can achieve that then I will be satisfied.

Do you have any live shows planned? Are you planning to be an active live band?

There are no live shows planned at the moment. The aim is to join the live circuit soon but the album comes first as does ensuring we are gig ready. The aim for the album is high therefore the live show must be something else.

That being said, I may be able to pull Ciaran out in a few months to do one or two acoustic evenings so watch this space for further news.

Personally, I believe a rock show must be just that, a show. The music should become second nature to the band and then you can make room for theatrics like when Ciaran inevitably takes his shirt off!! (Calm down ladies)

What bands or albums are you currently listening too?

I have FM’s new album ‘Rockville’ in the cd player, the modern classics ‘Revolve’ by Danger Danger and ‘Coup de Grace’ by Treat.

Strangeways ‘Walk in the Fire’ is a quite a common album that I listen to as is ‘Raised on Radio’ by Journey.

My tastes differ quite often, one minute I’ll have Scorpions or Dragonforce on, the next it could be George Benson or Alfie Boe.

Honestly, I do listen to mainstream music, sometimes out of choice, sometimes not. I strive to listen to as many different styles as possible to expand horizon; an interesting chord change or a particular melody may inspire something. As a songwriter I cannot afford to limit my creativity.

Is there any Corvus gossip or hush hush ‘you didn’t hear this from me’ secrets you can divulge?

Hmm, I’d like to keep certain things a mystery but there may well be a special guest or two featuring on the album. To say they are well known would be an understatement. You’ll have to wait to find out…

Is there anything else you’d like to add or tell us about?

The single ‘Can’t Stop Falling In Love’ is available to download on ITunes soon, please follow, support and like us. We promise we’ll keep you happy.

Till then thank you kindly for the interview Woody and keep on Chasing Miracles!!!