|Birth name||Matthew Pritchard|
|Genres||alternative rock, post-punk, anti-folk|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, songwriter, producer|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitars, bass, piano, keyboards|
|Associated acts||Lupen Crook and the Murderbirds|
Lupen Crook (born Matthew Pritchard) is an English musician and songwriter who records either solo or with his backing band The Murderbirds.
Initially making his name as an acoustic singer-songwriter, Lupen Crook has gone on to create an eclectic music style incorporating garage rock, "broken folk", "skiffle, hip-hop and gypsy punk", "off-kilter ska" and "gothic folk music". He has been described, variously, as "a solo singer/songwriter of a particularly unique ilk", "insidious, vile, an enigma" "a larger-than-life personality that sometimes wilfully seems to court the reputation of idiot savant and awkward bastard" and "Kent’s finest neo-gothic psychedelic folk troubadour".
As influences, Crook has cited Syd Barrett, Carter USM, early Walt Disney and Bon Scott of AC/DC as well as "the spirit that is punk rock, the smell of sex and the sound of stray sods singing out from the Medway Towns." He himself has been compared to artists as diverse as Kevin Coyne, The Jam, The Libertines, Ray Davies, The Clash and Jamie T.
Crook is also a visual artist (working predominantly in illustration and collage) who creates the artwork and packaging for his own releases as well as exhibiting work formally.
Matthew Pritchard grew up in Chatham (in the Medway area of Kent, England) and had a Catholic upbringing. He became interested in music at the age of eight, making early experiments with his father's guitar and an eight-track recorder as well as forming a pre-teen rock band called Devil's Disciples. During his later teen years, Pritchard attended art school. He also began exhibiting symptoms of what he later learned was schizoaffective disorder and spent a month sectioned in a Medway psychiatric ward: although he’d been informed by his doctors that his obsessive interest in songwriting was damaging his mental health, Pritchard opted to ignore their advice and continue with music. He has variously claimed to have spent the subsequent few years "off the radar completely" while signed off as unfit to work, or has listed various low-status jobs taken prior to devoting himself entirely to music and art.
During his early twenties, Pritchard played in the Chatham area bands Pet Burger and Bonzai Reservoir (the latter under the pseudonym of "Jilted Jack Cann"). He claims to have taken on the pseudonym "Lupen Crook" as "a character idea" and to pursue a change of persona, although he has also recounted a story of having adopted it after an eerie experience in Chatham’s Victoria Gardens during which he was pursued "for a whole day" by a bird (an experience recounted in his song 'Matthew’s Magpie').
Rechristened, Lupen Crook emerged as a solo "anti-folk"-style acoustic act in the Medway area in the mid-2000s. His first gigs took place in 2004, and his initial demo CD was given a limited release by a Chatham record label, Tap 'n' Tin Records, in early 2005. Tap 'n' Tin also released his first EP 'Petals Fresh from Road Kill' in August 2005, which was followed up by the 'Halloween' single in October 2005. Crook immediately made an impact with New Musical Express and was included on NME: The Cool List 2005: an experience which he made light of at the time, but would later confess "completely threw me – it made me retreat hugely... I was a far more insecure person back then and I didn't have my gang and my band around me."
Crook released two more short-form releases in 2006 – the 'Love 80' single in March and the EP 'A Silver Boot for Sam' in October.
Initially performing solo, Crook then linked up with two brothers – Bob Langridge (drums) and Tom Langridge (bass guitar, keyboards) – who became his backing band The Murderbirds. Future releases would be credited either to Lupen Crook solo or to "Lupen Crook and The Murderbirds", although the Langridges generally contributed regardless of recording credits.
Lupen Crook's debut album was Accidents Occur While Sleeping (released in July 2007 on Tap 'n' Tin). The album was credited to Crook alone, despite the Langridges contributing to many tracks. The album received a varied critical response (being described as both "schizophrenic" and "cinematic"). Crook himself has referred to the album as being "probably over-ambitious, and as a result (it) was very stop-starty. I personally think it suffers from a sense of suffocation; basically it took too long to record." In November 2007, Crook released the 'Matthew's Magpie' EP, the first release credited to "Lupen Crook and The Murderbirds".
Lupen Crook and The Murderbirds embarked on a UK tour in 2007 in advance of the release of Iscariot the Ladder, their first album as a group. Crook has since described the tour as "a complete disgrace, utter fucking chaos. It didn't do us any favours in the long term, we made a bad reputation for ourselves along the way but for those few weeks we were untouchable punk rockers, who with little in the way of resources, mostly frozen to the bone and filthy right through, built the foundations of a brotherhood that stand stronger than ever today." At the end of the tour, Crook and the Murderbirds briefly relocated to America, spending two weeks living as illegal immigrants in New York City. During their time in New York the band met fiddle and mandolin player Craig Harff, who became the fourth Murderbird.
Iscariot the Ladder was released in February 2008 to mixed reviews. Criticised in some quarters for a lack of songwriting discipline and focus, it was praised in others for its raw recording and outlook, with Subba-Cultcha magazine commenting that "the raw ingrained grime is spread across this second album's runtime like a public toilet's handtowel. Its sordid themes and embittered melodies are all ruptured and flowing, creativity stemmed only by finances and narrow vision. The fantastist wanderings of Lupen's debut opus are less in evidence here; instead, a balance between grim faerytale and dirty reality has been achieved. Tottering between both, the unhinged quality of Lupen's output is just as plain as ever."
Iscariot the Ladder was the last record on Crook's contract with Tap 'n' Tin. Having been less than impressed by his discussions with other record companies, Crook went on to set up the Beast Reality label, dedicated to releasing his own material. The label has a strong DIY ethic, delivering releases as downloads or as limited-edition CD releases featuring Crook's own hand-made cover art. Crook has commented that "the whole thing with Beast Reality will be to get material out as much as possible – I'd like to be looking at two to three EPs and an album a year."
The first Beast Reality release was a Lupen Crook solo compilation of archive material called Old Books, Broken Bands And Other Little Treasures which was released in November 2008. This was followed in 2009 by two Lupen Crook and The Murderbirds releases – a second album called The Lost Belongings (in July) and the free 'Great Fears & Curious Predictions' EP in September. During the summer of 2009 Crook suffered a relapse of his schizoaffective disorder. When recovered, the experience inspired him to release another Murderbirds EP called 'The Curse of the Mirror Wicked' in association with the mental health charity YoungMinds (to whom Crook suggested fans made donations in lieu of paying for the download.
Crook released his second "solo" album, The Pros and Cons of Eating Out, in 2010. His eclecticism continued to provoke both interest and irritation in reviewers, with Subba Cultcha magazine complaining "The thing with this album is half of the songs are brilliant and the other half are distinctly average, making makes this album more lopsided than a table with only two legs. Fans of Lupen Crook's earlier work will love this record and everyone else will love half this record." The album was supported by the subsequent release of the 'Dorothy Deserves' EP, featuring a remix of the title track by Howie B.
Discography: (as Lupen Crook)
- Accidents Occur While Sleeping (Tap 'n' Tin, 2007)
- Old Books, Broken Bands And Other Little Treasures (Beast Reality, 2008)
- The Pros and Cons of Eating Out (Beast Reality, 2010)
Singles & EPs
- 'Petals Fresh from Road Kill' EP (Tap 'n' Tin, 2005)
- 'Halloween' (Tap 'n' Tin, 2005)
- 'Love 80' (Tap 'n' Tin, 2005)
- 'A Silver Boot for Sam' EP (Tap 'n' Tin, 2006)
- 'The Curse of the Mirror Wicked' EP (Beast Reality, 2009)
- 'Dorothy Deserves' EP (Beast Reality, 2010)
Discography: (as Lupen Crook and the Murderbirds)
- Iscariot the Ladder (Tap 'n' Tin, 2007)
- The Lost Belongings (Beast Reality, 2009)
Singles & EPs
- 'Matthew's Magpie (Tap 'n' Tin, 2007)
- 'Great Fears & Curious Predictions' (Beast Reality, 2009)
- http://drownedinsound.com/releases/12487/reviews/2839736- Drowned in Sound review of 'Iscariot the Ladder'
- "Introducing Lupen Crook – Broken Folk" – feature in Fly Magazine by Gerry Hectic, 20 April 2005
- Review of Lupen Crook single 'Love 80' by Dom Gourlay in Drowned in Sound magazine, 27 March 2006
- http://www.subba-cultcha.com/features/article.php?contentID=12755 “Lupen Crook: Young, gifted and broke”; interview with Lupen Crook by Chris Bell in Subba-Cultcha magazine, 2007
- http://www.subba-cultcha.com/album-reviews/article.php?contentID=4892 Review of Lupen Crook and the Murderbirds album 'Iscariot the Ladder' by Brad Barrett in Subba-Cultcha magazine, 2008
- http://hydragenic.com/2008/11/21/loss-love-lust-an-interview-with-lupen-crook/ "Loss, Love & Lust: An Interview With Lupen Crook" by Hg, originally published in Drunken Werewolf magazine #5 (reposted on Hydragenic blog on 21 November 2008)
- http://www.the-gig-guide.co.uk/2009/06/01/lupen-crook-and-the-murderbirds/ Article on Lupen Crook and the Murderbirds in http://www.the-gig-guide.co.uk by Jo Lawford, 1 June 2009
- Live review of Lupen Crook at The Flower Pot, London by Ben Homewood, published at The-Fly.Co.Uk, 4 October 2010
- "The Crooked beat"by Lee Trewela – feature in 'This is Cornwall', 30 September 2010
- "Gazing into the Mirror Wicked" – Lupen Crook interview/blog entry, 11 November 2009
- http://www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk/MagSitePages/Article.aspx?id=3981 "Lupen Crook : Interview" by Jamie Rowland, published in Penny Black music magazine, 22 July 2006
- http://www.ameliasmagazine.com/music/an-interview-with-lupen-crook/2010/09/30/ "An interview with Lupen Crook" by Rob Harris, published in Amelia’s Magazine, 30 September 2010
- http://www.shakenstir.co.uk/index.php/interviews/lupen_crook_the_man_the_myth_the_truth/interviews/4441/ "Lupen Crook The Man, The Myth, The Truth?" article by Sebastian Falls in 'Shakenstir' music magazine, 2006
- 'Drowned in Sound' news item re release of 'Matthew's Magpie' EP
- "Lupen Crook And The Murderbirds give away new five-track EP", NME.com. 18 September 2009
- "Lupen Crook And The Murderbirds announce free charity EP", NME.com, 18 November 2009
- http://www.subba-cultcha.com/album-reviews/article.php?contentID=21890 Review of Lupen Crook album ‘The Pros and Cons of Eating Out by Will Holloway in Subba-Cultcha music magazine, 2010