In the Cut: The Original Crooks and Nannies

By: Q.D. Tran

June 02, 2016

As Sam Huntington and Madeline Rafter's high school friends started to set their focus on colleges, the two bonded over their desire to continue making music and bypass the academia route. The duo began recording under the moniker The Original Crooks and Nannies, a play off Thomas English Muffins' commercial tag line. While the recording of their debut album Soup For My Girlfriend might have been a learning lesson of "how to write songs together," Huntington and Rafter have taken a giant leap forward with their sophomore LP Ugly Laugh, The Deli Philly's April Record of the Month. They'll be performing this Saturday afternoon outside of The Fire as part of the Sundrop Music Fest, but first, get to know The Original Crooks and Nannies and their Ugly Laugh below!

The Deli: How did you meet, and what made you decide to start writing songs and recording together?

Sam Huntington: We went to high school together in upstate New York, but never knew each other too well. I played drums in a band that Madeline had opened for a few times as a solo act, and we were mutual fans of each other's music. It was our senior year, and the other members of my band had started applying to colleges, which sort of left me wondering what to do - knowing that I wanted to continue making music and had no interest in college. The initial plan was to relocate to a city and try to make music as a solo act, until Madeline told me that she had been considering the same thing. So after hanging out a bit and writing a couple songs together, we sort of just joined forces.

TD: Where did your band name come from?

SH: Thomas English Muffins!

TD: Did you have any type of musical training or band experience before coming together?

Madeline Rafter: I was in the school band and jazz band since 4th grade, playing the alto saxophone then baritone saxophone. I started very casually learning guitar in high school, and it stuck! I didn't get very serious about guitar playing up until a few years ago though

TD: What’s your songwriting process like? Do you each write separately and then come together to work on songs, or do you completely work on them together?

MR: For most of Ugly Laugh, we did the songwriting separately, but the production together. There's a few on there that were a complete songwriting collaboration, but for the most part, one of us would start a song and come to the other person with a skeleton of a song that we would flesh out together.

TD: What was the most important thing that you learned recording Ugly Laugh in comparison to your debut Soup For My Girlfriend?

SH: I think we were both much more confident going into the studio this time around. We had a clear idea of what we wanted to do and how we wanted the project to sound. Our approach for Soup was more like, "let's just record these songs," but we hadn't thought too much past that. Personally, I feel like Soup is us learning how to write songs together, and Laugh is us learning how to make an album - if that makes sense.

TD: What do you consider to be an "ugly laugh," and why is it the title of your album?

MR: A lot of our songs are about being sad and anxious, but with funny lyrics and layers of silliness to break up the sad stuff. Ugly laugh is accepting that you're feeling bad and deciding to make a joke of it and laugh about it. Or when you're crying real hard, then your BFF tells you a joke, and you try to laugh, but your sinuses are too clogged, then you laugh anyway and get snot everywhere.

TD: Where did the idea to shave your heads and create makeshift wigs out of the shavings in the “Carry Me” video come from?

SH: To be honest, I don't remember where the idea initially came from, but we had kind of become fascinated with it before we even started making the record. There's just something so ridiculous about cutting off your own hair only to make it into a worse version of your own hair. I love it. Also, people are generally very protective of their hair - I suppose because of the time it takes to grow back - but there's something very cathartic about just chopping it all off. 

TD: You seem to be folks that don’t take yourself too seriously. What gets you all serious?

SH: I think I have a tendency to take myself very seriously - as most people do. I think it's part ego and part anxiety. But I try to remind myself how ridiculous that all is, and basically just laugh at how seriously I take myself. Because you can't control the impulse, but you can choose what you do with it. Something I do take very seriously though are the feelings of others. I think that communication is incredibly important, as is the ability to listen - both in personal relationships and in your interactions with the world in general.

TD: What are you listening to lately?

SH: I've been trying to get into some of the "important" punk music from the 70s and early 80s... It's not going so well, but I'm determined. Everything Kendrick Lamar does is incredible. And I can't wait for the new Mitski album! I'm sure I'll be listening to that a lot once it comes out. 

MR: Lately, I'm mostly listening to YouTube videos of middle-aged men unboxing and demoing their new effect pedals.

TD: Share a secret that your partner has no clue about.

SH: Oh, wow, this is tough... I think we know most things about each other. It would have to be that I'm a major lame-o and very uncool. I always exude a seemingly effortless air of nonchalance and undeniable coolness. But in reality, I'm just a big phony. Chump of the week and uncool to the core.

MR: I used your shampoo for like 6 months in our first apartment.