It was the middle of an extended quarantine during a surge of Covid cases in England at the start of 2021, and hard rock band Idles were in a lockdown of their own. Holed up for nearly two weeks at Peter Gabriel’s residential Real World Studios in Bath, England, the group was working hard to finish recording Crawler, their fourth album, and perhaps their biggest leap to date from what any listener may consider a signature sound for the band.
Before hitting the studio, Idles had brought in prolific hip-hop producer Kenny Beats (Rico Nasty, Vince Staples), looking for a collaborator to support them in their push beyond their own boundaries. Kenny is an Idles fan himself — he calls them the greatest band in the world — and he went on to co-produce Crawler with Idles guitarist Mark Bowen. What came out of their collaborations was an eclectic mix of more familiar heavy rock songs, along with electronic-tinged tracks like intro “MTT 420 RR,” and the beautiful Motown-style soul of single “The Beachland Ballroom.”
“We’re not some flatline band that plays the same song over and over again. We explore our passion for different genres all the time,” frontman Joe Talbot says. “But with this one, with Kenny and because of the grace of time and an allowance to reflect on things, this was a more playful and indulgent album where we got to really get into what we truly love, which is not just rock & roll.”
Kenny got to the studio 10 days ahead of the band to quarantine; that same week, he found out his father was diagnosed with cancer. Spending those isolated days in Bath with a 27-hour playlist the band gave him featuring music that was inspiring them, while also fielding calls with his family and doctors, he ended up finding the two weeks of recording with the band that followed to be a cathartic escap. “I decided that soon as they got there, I wasn’t going to do anything other than make this a classic fucking record,” Kenny says. “If I were anywhere else in the world except making this record with this band, I might have had a breakdown.”