I remember there was an assignment for my guitar class back in high school. We had to learn how to use GarageBand to record our song into a demo, and the finished file was to be submitted to the teacher for grading.
“Did you know? For most artists, their released songs are just the tip of the iceberg. You might know an artist who has only released an EP with 5 songs. In reality, the artist might have a few dozen unreleased demos that only a handful of people have heard. Sometimes, if you compare the demo to the live performance or the released single, you will realize how different they are from one another.” I remember our teacher shared this while we were struggling to hand in our assignments on time.
That is the flashback that I had while attending CRAS’s band practice.
Before I had the chance to attend their band practice, I have only listened to their EP, “Morning Wood” (https://open.spotify.com/album/5io7xGyTvCgCTSdQEPCN63). When I finished listening to the EP, I shared my thought with a friend: “Don’t you think the vocal sounds a bit risky here?”
“Because it sounds like he is on the verge of losing control.” I explained to my friend.
But after attending their practice, I realized how ignorant I can be.
CRAS is a pop punk band formed with Channing (lead vocal and guitarist), Steven (lead guitarist), Ryan (drummer) and Jerry (bassist). I have to admit I was a bit worried that they might not want to have a stranger in the studio with them. But they were very polite and friendly. We chatted while the band tried to set up the equipments.
When they finally finished setting everything up, Channing, Jerry, Steven and Ryan formed a circle with their position, and they started playing.
“Oh? It sounds different than what I remembered.” I thought.
The music filled up the tiny studio. I had to wear earplugs because I was sitting right beside the amps, but it didn’t feel loud. My feet ended up tapping the beats. I was having déjà vu because the guitar intro sounded familiar. Channing started singing right after the intro.
He sounded different during live, not as “risky” as I recalled. Or I should say: Channing’s “risky” vocal is what defines CRAS’s song and style. It is nothing fancy, just something simple and real. That realness is why their songs can feel sentimental at times.
It is a great way to destress through Channing’s vocal and the powerful melody conducted by the rest of the band.
To be honest, I always thought listening to punk music for a time in one sitting would be exhausting. This is why it is hard to replay the songs over and over again for me. But there is something special about CRAS. Their music sounds like it is just about right, adding a tiny bit of something would make it go over the limit and become unacceptable.
They have given their EP a playful name, “Morning Wood”, with the first song being “Masturbate”. This shows how direct their music can be for the audience. The opening of the “Masturbate” is even more direct, with the lyric “I masturbate everyday, you were naked in my head.” being employed to deliver the message. They didn’t use any metaphor or simile, just went straight into the topic, which reflects their straightforward attitude.
But my favourite song from “Morning Wood” is “I Am Who I Am”. I was looking for the first song I heard at CRAS’s practice, so I ended up listening to the entire EP multiple times. Thanks to the opening drum and the guitar riff, before I realized it, I had already joined on the chorus. The lyric is easy to understand, and the melody is catchy.
The song seems to be describing a couple’s relationship. The protagonist has made mistakes throughout the relationship, and he’d promised to change after every fight until the relationship ended. After some struggle, the protagonist has finally understand that he is who is, and he would not change for anyone else. The message might be a bit pessimistic, but it is totally relatable. And I think this is one of CRAS’s strength.
That day, when I was in that tiny studio listening to them playing, I realized that yellow-lighted room is way too small for them. CRAS’s music has this strong and beast-like impulse. That beast should not be locked up in this tiny studio. Instead, it should be released on a stage, and let the world hear them.
After the practice, I asked Channing whether if there is a final rehearsal for all the bands to participate before TAIWANfest. I told Channing that it is my intention to attend the final rehearsal if there is one. I hope by doing so, I would have a chance to compare how they might change in this few months period.
“I hope we don’t change at all.” Channing answered. I felt embarrassed with my ignorance.
As in, for now, I also hope they don’t change. Because I want to see if CRAS and their addictive music can remain true to themselves. See if they can continue moving forward, conquer every stage, even if there is only one fan in the audience.
They are CRAS, they are who they are.
Recommendation: “Thousand Miles” by CRAS, a demo that is not included in the EP. This song is the first song I heard at their practice. It’s even catchier than “I Am Who I Am”. (https://craspunkband.bandcamp.com/track/thousand-miles-2)