Just 14 months have passed since the release of Crocodiles’ third LP, ‘Endless Flowers’, but with album number four, the San Diego-spawned duo of Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell seems to have grasped the sound they’ve been searching for since day one.
A delicious cocktail of nostalgic rock ‘n’ roll exuberance, blended with punk attitude, new album ‘Crimes Of Passion’ is a raucous proposition. But it’s one where glimmers of the gnarling lo-fi that flowed through the band’s debut, 2009’s ‘Summer Of Hate’, manage to prevail.
Now residing approximately 3,500 miles apart, one in London and the other New York City, you’d be forgiven for assuming communication between the pair to be problematic. But, Clash experiences no such trouble when asking the twosome some questions about Crocodiles’ present and future…
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Crocodiles, 'Cockroach', from 'Crimes Of Passion' (official video forthcoming!)
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How have you been preparing to tour ‘Crimes Of Passion’?
Charles: First and foremost, we have been in contact with all of the most salacious brothels across Europe and the UK. We’re both looking for a bit of work on the side, if you get what I mean. I’ve also just bought a neck pillow – that’s the first practical thing I’ve ever bought before a tour!
Brandon: Some of these songs we haven’t played since recording them in March, so I’ve begun rehearsing them in my bedroom, I'm sure to my neighbour’s dismay.
And for those yet to hear the album – reviewed here – what should they expect from it?
C: It’s a crass and highly sexualised record, dealing in such lascivious themes as neck pillows, burgeoning brothel scenes, lewd interpretive dancing and psychedelic waistcoats.
B: We spent, pretty much, the entire year between releasing ‘Endless Flowers’ and recording ‘Crimes Of Passion’ writing. When we weren’t on tour we were in our respective homes, demoing every little idea and sending them to each other. By the time we got together last January to flesh out the record we had more songs than we could handle. In my opinion, this is the best work we’ve done, but I’m sure I think that about every new record we make.
It’s released through Zoo Music, your own label, is that right?
C: We wanted to keep it in the family. We’re being selfish this time, because it’s our finest record yet.
B: Our relationship with our old European label fell apart, and rather than go through the whole rigmarole of the courting process with a new set of strangers, we decided to just do it on my label. The timing felt right. The last time Crocodiles needed a label in Europe, Zoo Music didn't have the resources to properly release multiple albums. But things have changed since then, and we’re capable now. I think any musician will tell you that self-sufficiency is the dream. Zoo Music is still a small label trying to grow and always trying to do what’s right by the musicians we work with. I’m proud that we've gotten to this point.
Why such a quick turnaround between albums?
C: We’re going through a somewhat prolific time and we want to capture all of our musical steps as they happen. I am bringing household music back via a hammer and a transistor radio, and Brandon is in NYC mixing up some delicious cinnamon salsa. Our next record may just be the third in our romantic pop music trilogy.
B: It seems like our natural rate is a record a year. ‘Endless Flowers’ would have come out a little sooner if it had been completely up to us. Releasing records also allows us to tour – in other words, put food on our tables. If we get lazy in between records and let time pass we run out of money, and that’s when the illicit shit happens. And we don't want that. We’ll have another album out next year, most likely.
The new album seems to convey a depth that wasn’t so apparent on earlier albums…
C: Well I am a blonde, so depth is quite a challenge for me, and I am half blind so I am up against it, really. Each of our albums conveys a set of emotions and inspirations that are important to us at that time. It’s always a reflection of our personal lives. We’re striving for new sounds constantly as well. It’s safe to say that we will never stop writing and recording together. We’ve already spent 30 years on this earth viewing life, half of it spent together in dingy clubs around the world. We’ll need a lifetime’s supply of analogue tape to transfer all those sights and sounds to you, the avid listener/fan.
B: Nothing about our process has changed. Hopefully we’re just getting better with experience. That’s the idea, anyway.
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Crocodiles, 'Endless Flowers', from the album of the same name
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Do you think that moving out of San Diego has inspired any change in your music?
C: Absolutely. As wonderfully weathered as it is, it’s no place for a young musician to remain. Once we got our first taste of city life, European life, we wanted more, more, more. Now he and I live in two of the greatest cities in the world, meeting all kinds of new people and new situations. Our songs have a taken a remarkable turn since we moved. There’s a lot more positivity on our albums as well, don’t you think?
B: Moving cities alleviated some of the depression that small-town living had created. I don't want to come off like we’re moaning about San Diego; it's a beautiful place and a lot of the people we love the most live there still. It’s just that we both grew up there. There were no more surprises for us. The big city gave us a whole new set of situations, experiences and people to feed off. I can't really analyse myself properly, but I’m certain New York has affected my approach and I’m sure London has affected Charlie’s.
Do you find it harder to produce creative ideas now that you’re living on different continents?
C: Like I said, we’re being exposed and exposing ourselves to many different people in many different darkened underpasses now that we live in two gigantic cities. The exchange of ideas and bodily fluids is what keeps us inspired and medicinally charged. He’s in one of my ears shouting, “Let’s make a salsa record,” and in my other ear is a giant tab of acid. This isn’t our first time at the rodeo. We’ve worked hard and played even harder since we first met in that Mexican restaurant bathroom, both of us on our hands and knees. We are constantly thinking about what the next move is. We’re psychically connected at this point. Technology has also given us several tools to keep us informed.
B: Charlie and I are connected: we’ve been through sex, death, drugs, love, hate, peace, war, up, down, left and right together. I miss not having a daily life with him, but it hasn't affected our ability to communicate our ideas to each other at all.
Were there any direct, resounding influences that went into writing ‘Crimes Of Passion’?
C: I was trying to write perverted soul songs and capitalise on all of the French literature I had been reading. People ask about direct bands, and to that I always draw a blank. We listen to so much in the span of a year leading up to the recording. Songs just come out quite skeletal and then Brandon and I discuss all the neat sounds we’ve heard along the way. Pub rock was definitely on our minds throughout the writing of ‘Crimes Of Passion’.
B: I found Ariana Reines, Alexis Penney/Chez Deep and Punks On Mars to be very inspiring in the months leading up to the recording.
So, what’s next?
C: Tour tour tour, hash hash hash, brothel brothel brothel.
B: I'll be sleeping in your trashcans tonight.
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Crocodiles tour as follows…
22nd – The Compass, Chester
24th – Broadcast, Glasgow
25th – Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh
26th – Arts Centre, Norwich
27th – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
28th – Ruby Lounge, Manchester
29th – Sebright Arms, London
2nd – Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar, Brighton
‘Crimes Of Passion’ is released on Zoo Music on August 19th – find the (9/10) Clash review here.
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Next week, we’ll have a playlist from Crocodiles. Why? Because we asked for one. And we like to share with you what’s shared with us.
From last year: our Crocodiles mixtape.
Words: Jonathan Hatchman
Photo: Jacob Lillis
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