Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowland are Crocodiles.They’re two friends from San Diego making energetic shoegazy-noise pop wth surfey krautrock feeling. It has hints of the noisy, most distorted phase of The Jesus and Mary Chain and some psychedelic flirtations with Spiritualized, Spacemen 3. But of course, it’s not only that.
Their story starts with ‘Neon Jesus’: an infectious song that took bloggers and music lovers by surprise in 2008. At a first listen, one can see what the fuss was about and the potential of the song. Being from the sunny California, you might expect a bright sound and, don’t get me wrong, is that what you get most of the time, but it’s the kind of sunny that blinds you because it’s too bright. But there’s a twist: a rebel, dark and unsettling feel…
‘Summer of Hate’, the debut album, came out in 2009 released by Fat Possum Records. I disagree with a lot of people that says that the album is too influenced by the bands mentioned before. Maybe the elements that would give more personality to their sound weren’t that present as in their subsequent album (‘I Wanna Kill’ and ‘Here Comes the Sky are a must hear!).
A few months ago, ‘Sleep Forever’, their second album was released. It has, indeed, much more personality than ‘Summer…’.
Songs like ‘Mirrors’, ‘Sleep Forever’ and specially ‘Hearts of Love’ are brilliant.
‘Hearts of Love’ has one of the best videos of the year and expresses perfectly what Crocodiles are: sunny and bright at first with an ‘evil’ and obscure atmosphere that slowly builds up.
Enough said, check our interview with Brandon:
01. When exactly did ‘crocodiles’ started? And how the name came up?
BW: We had our first practice in late March or early April of 2008 and played our first show May 15th, 2008. We were kind of under pressure to figure out a name because we had the show booked. Originally we were gonna call it the Crocodile Tears after the Who lyric "...and now you dare to look me in the eye/those crocodile tears are what you cry..." and because we thought it sounded like a sinister doo-wop group. I don't remember exactly why we shortened it, I think we must have found another current band with the name or something. Our name has nothing to do with Echo and the Bunnymen. Someone, I think Rolling Stone Magazine, made that up and it has since become "fact" haha.
02. If you had to materialize your music in something visual, what would it look like?
BW: A bed of nails with a nice, fluffy blanket on top.
03. Name a few influences (music, film, comic book, historic figures… anything).
BW: Our musical influences are probably easy to pick out. We love 60's garage and pop, first wave punk, UK indie from the 80's, krautrock, dub - stuff like that. Lyrically we take a lot of influence from the French Symbolists, that mix of beauty with ugliness, vulgarity and violence and writers like Richard Brautigan and Stevie Smith. We also initially took influence from Kenneth Anger's films, especially "Scorpio Rising" - again, it's that mixture of beauty, sexuality and humor with violence and darkness.
04. Your first album ‘summer of hate’ launched you to the world. Great reviews from ‘established media’, blogs incessantly speaking about your music… how did you guys went through this period of releasing the album and realizing that people were really into it?
BW: Our first album did get a lot of positive attention, but it also received plenty of negative response as well. We just kept on doing what we were doing, playing shows, writing songs and traveling. It's important to us not to get too wrapped up in what people, especially critics, think - even if it is positive. Obviously, everyone likes having nice things said about them but it's dangerous to let it go to your head because you give yourself unfair expectations or you start making art for others and not for yourself. We're also old enough and have been around long enough to know that popularity, especially in music, is fleeting; so we just try to make music and do things that personally satisfy us.
05. less than a month ago, you released ‘sleep forever’, the follow up. Also extremely strong and as hypnotic and reverberating than ‘summer of hate’ (in my personal opinion, ‘sleep…’ is even better than the debut). Was there any difference between the making of both albums? Since we are all (hopefully) evolving, what do you think it has changed in you from the first to the second album?
BW: I think that we'd become better songwriters in the space between the two albums. The first record was basically the first batch of songs we wrote, recorded with a friend in his bedroom, over the course of our first 9 months of existence. For the second album, we set aside 2 months where we weren't touring and we could just sit around all day with acoustic guitars and play music and listen to music and let ourselves get wrapped up in it. We also worked with a producer for the first time, James Ford, and he had a lot of very valuable input. Still though, I don't feel like it's a perfect record and I know we can top it.
06. now, ‘hearts of love’. One of the greatest songs released this year. And if the song wasn’t good enough there’s the video that is simply beautiful. Talk a bit about the song and the making of the video.
BW: Hearts is some of that 60's pop influence I was talking about coming out. We knew it was a special song because when we demoed it and our label and managers heard it, they flipped out. We didn't change much about it when we recorded it for the album, we just tried to get better sounds and we added a harmony to the chorus.
The video was pretty much our friend who directed it, Sam Macon's, idea. All we told him was we wanted something sunny and dark at the same time. We asked him to come up with a mixture between Kenneth Anger and Annette Funicello's "Muscle Beach Party". It was fun, but very messy, to film.
07. a few days before ‘sleep forever’ an instrumental 4 track ep - ‘fires of comparison’ - was released as a free download. Why did you decide to do so? The original idea was to make something like that or you decided to take songs that didn’t end up on the album and release them separately?
BW: There is always so much time between the recording of an album and when it actually comes out. I think we were just a little bored so we went to our friend's studio and recorded it over a few days, just for something to do. Some of the ideas were things we didn't get to fully experiment with on Sleep Forever and others were just us jamming and fucking around.
08. what is a perfect pop song for you? (in the sense of having a timeless, uplifting, stuck-in-your-head feeling).
Misfits "Last Caress"
Soft Boys "I Wanna Destroy You"
Stone Roses "She Bangs The Drums"
Johnny Osbourne "Come Back Darling"
Beach Boys "Good Vibrations"
The Equals "Michael and his Slipper Tree"
The Clean "Tally-Ho"
The Bad Seeds "Deanna”.
09. do you get to live of your music?
BW: Yes, very frugally.
10. any song(s) you’d like to cover?
BW: We love doing covers, especially for b-sides. We've already covered Suicide, Bob Dylan, Dee-Lite, Elton Motello and the Beach Boys. We'll do plenty more in the future. I really want to cover that Supremes song I was just talking about but I'm not nearly as good at singing as Diana Ross haha.
11. name the perfect place and time to hear your music.
BW: At one of our shows of course!
12. recommend something you've been listening lately.
BW: This week I've been listening to Ken Boothe's first album, "Mr. Rocksteady", "No Man Is An Island" by Dennis Brown and "Halcyon Digest" by Deerhunter.
13. anything else you feel like saying?
(photos by Alex Kacha)
(photos by Alex Kacha)