HOLY Moly & The Crackers have a new album on its way in April, preceded by a tour that takes in Helmsley Arts Centre on Friday and Pocklington Arts Centre the next night.

Album number three by the North Yorkshire and Newcastle band, Take A Bite, arrives on April 5 on their own Pink Lane Records label with its passionate take on folk, blues and indie rock.

"We set up our label a year and a half ago to release out last album when we tried to hunt round for record labels to take us on, but with the way the record industry is going, there's not as much investment in bands now, so we thought it was better to retain our own creative control and aesthetic," says singer, guitarist and trumpet player Conrad Bird.

"From teenage days, your dream is to sign on the dotted line, but I have friends who've released records on labels where they force you down a branding route you might not want to go."

Formed in 2011, initially by Conrad, fellow singer and violinist Ruth Patterson and costume designer and accordion player Rosie Bristow, to play Irish, American and Balkan folk songs together at open mics and dive bars, Holy Moly & The Crackers have since expanded to a six-piece. Jazz/funk bass player Jamie Shields and drummer Tommy Evans joined in 2015; classically trained but psychedelic and DIY punk-inspired guitarist Nick Tyler followed in 2018.

"We've been a good band live first and foremost, and that's the right way round, building a relationship with fans at gigs and through social media and streaming," says Conrad.

Now comes Holy Moly's studio follow-up to2017's Salem. "From where we're standing, it’s the best stuff we've made, musically, lyrically and in its production," reckons Conrad. "At the beginning of the writing process, Ruth said to me: 'These songs have to come from something real, from the heart, from experience; that's how we need to connect'. And you know what, I think we might just have done that."

The band returned to Vada Studios – built in a 1260 chapel near Alcester on the Warwickshire /Worcestershire border – to work with producer Matt Terry and mixer Dan Austin, as they had for Salem. "Apparently it's called Vada Studios because the owner is obsessed with Star Wars' Darth Vader," says Conrad, whose band stayed in one of the outhouses.

Teaming up with Terry for a second time proved fruitful. "He's worked with bands like The Prodigy and The Enemy and he has really good ideas for pop sensibilities," says Conrad. "I was always against 'pop', but there's a real skill to it. There was a chance for us to go with another producer, but we felt we could do more with Matt to develop our sound."

Holy Moly made the record "song by song". "Usually you’ll record all the drum tracks and then all the bass tracks, but this time we recorded one song at a time and completely lived it," says Conrad, who recalls one session highlight in particular when working on Can’t Get Enough.

Matt Terry decided to create an immersive Sixties' vibe for that Byrds-influenced folk-rock number. "Matt’s mad!" says Conrad. "For that one he made us dress up in Sixties' clothes, bandanas, suits, flares, and it was really silly, but it really got us to live it.”

Holy Moly put the album together very quickly around an intensive touring schedule. "The songs came out really easy as we'd been having a lot of conversations with Matt, and the band had been listening to a lot of music," says Conrad.

" If you're a maker of any art form, I think you should surround yourself with it. For me, what inspired the writing on this album was discovering Jack White [of The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather], who I'd ignored when listening only to acoustic guitar music. I discovered him about a year and a half ago, and I love how he is so enthused by music in the folk tradition and Americana in general."

Highlighting how Take A Bite differs from Salem, Conrad says: "There's more honesty in terms of both the songwriting and the production. Matt and the band were new to each other on the last album, but now, whatever we did in the studio, we wanted to be able to do it live too; it had to be transferable.

"We've achieved that, and the whole band feel we're only really starting now. The first eight years were our foundation years; now is the time to put the foot to the floor."

They will be back on the road soon, putting that foot to the floor, for album-launch shows in Hull and Sheffield some time in April, and more British dates will follow in October. "It's going to be another busy year," says Conrad. "You just have to keep taking deep breaths."

Holy Moly & The Crackers play Helmsley Arts Centre, February 15, 7.30pm; Pocklington Arts Centre, February 16, 8pm; both sold out.

Charles Hutchinson