INTERVIEW

Not Meth Heads. Not Fascists. And definitely not The Jesus & Mary Chain Mk II

crocodiles

“Crystal meth, do you have that here?” inquires Crocodiles’ Brandon Welchez. On paper, those words – next to that image – suggest that this Cali duo are taking the Velvet Underground aesthetic and running all the way to Warhol’s loft with it. They’re not. Clever editing on our part has it that Brandon is sat at the Loud And Quiet drug bar, checking our junk list before settling for an old faithful tipple of smack, providing there’s no meth in the cellar, that is. This must be what cutting Big Brother feels like. In truth, the naturally mellow singer is explaining how his hometown of San Diego is so boring that it inspired him get out via 60 garage pysch (of the future), not the city’s thriving narcotics scene.

“Where I grew up crystal meth was fucking huge,” he says “and I think that shows how boring a place is. I’m sure it’s the same in the UK, in the boring towns there’s nothing to do but take drugs, have sex and get into trouble. Growing up I was in rock bands because at 15 I knew coke-heads addicted to meth and shit, and I thought, ‘I don’t wanna go down this road’, so I’d just play music and skateboard, and shit like that.

“San Diego is very spread out,” he continues “I didn’t grow up in the city, I grew up in the suburb, and the town I grew up in was quite‚” white trash, really. Erm, yeah, I hated growing up there. Maybe I hated adolescence in general but it just seemed like I was surrounded by racists and idiots, so as soon as I was 18 I left and moved to the city.”
A military town between glitzy LA and hedonistic Tijuana, San Diego, it seems, isn’t as “classy” as Ron Burgundy had us believing. Brandon admits that on the surface it’s a beautiful place to live (“there’s the beach,” he nods) but there’s also a darker undercurrent there, like the sinister suburbia found in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. All local-boys-Blink-182-running-naked-through-town it is not.

Brandon first met his eventual fellow Crocodile, Charles Rowell, at various anti-fascist rallies in the area (yeah, they even need those on the west coast of the States). Charles too is the relaxed-without-the-need-of-chemicals type, his louche Cali tone an aural Xerox of his bandmate’s. Although ‘bandmate’ seems far too formal for the friendship these two have.

“I said yes [to joining his band] because he was a great drummer as well as a great frontman,” reasons Charles of how two teens became musical partners “but anyway, we were playing in this band together and it became apparent that we were the leaders and the songwriters in the band. Slowly people would fall away or quit and, y’know, we’d keep forming bands together, and we’ve formed a really strong friendship – we’re like brothers who’ve toured the country and world together, been into a world of shit, and had some great times.”

Becoming a two-piece was as natural as rallying against Nazis, so last year the pair decided to stop looking for bandmates with Spinal-Tap-drummer lifespans and began playing/recording as Crocodiles. June 1st saw the release of their debut album on Fat Possum Records, and ‘Summer of Hate’ has quickly become a blog-conquering hit, because it’s quite brilliant.

The sharpest cracks from any drum machine; the 60s-sounding reverb of their unmistakably American vocals; the droning, hazy walls of sound. It’s an album of a hundred moods, and a record that’s been made over the course of the band’s lifetime, reasoning why one minute you’re being jarred by Rapture-esque disco punk (‘Soft Skull (In My Room)’), the next being invited to stomp about like Oasis wish they could (‘Flash Of Light’) – “We were just happy to get any of the songs out as a 7″,” says Brandon “so a lot of them were written as their own thing, as singles.”

It’s not stopped many latching on to one track in particular though. Maybe it’s because it’s the first song proper on the album, or perhaps it’s simply due to its nihilistic pop sing-a-long chorus, but ‘I Wanna Kill’ is ‘Summer of Hate”s attention-stealer, and has the band constantly being labelled ‘that band that sound just like The Jesus and Mary Chain’.
Certainly one of the record’s highlights – for my money because of the continual girl group guitar chime – ‘I Wanna Kill’ doesn’t sound dissimilar to Mary Chain, no, but what we have here is a severe case of Oasis-being-compared-to-The-Beatles-itis. The world heard ‘Whatever’, slapped a ‘The New Fab Four’ sticker on Noel’s forehead and we’re still convinced today that the oom-pah farce that is ‘The Importance of Being Idle’ is just like something Lennon and McCartney would have penned. Fortunately, unlike the Gallaghers, Crocodiles can admit similarities without courting them.

“We admit that that song has a Jesus and Mary Chain element to it,” says Brandon “but‚” we like that band but obviously we don’t want to be like them. A majority of people that think that have only heard that song, y’know? On the whole album there is nothing else that sounds like that song. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wearing influences on your sleeve once in a while, as long as you’re not basing your own career on being someone else.”

And when this already tired comparison is delivered as a swipe, the band put it down to envy.

“I think people don’t recognise that we’ve been playing music for 10 years,” ponders Brandon “so I think the fact that we are able to do things and come here [to the UK], put out our music, there’s a bit of jealousy from other people who think we’ve not worked hard enough for that, so they want to slag us off.”

But don’t listen to them (the haters, not the band). Shrugs and huffs miss dirty machinegun punk (‘Refuse Angels’), ‘Here Comes The Sky’, which sounds like Spiritualized and The Beach Boys swaying arm in arm, and the band’s proudest song – the closing 7-minute-er ‘Young Drugs’.

“I’m really proud of ‘I Wanna Kill’,” explains Brandon “but it’s a little bit bitter sweet because of the criticism it’s caused. And I’m pretty proud of the last song because it’s so‚” patient, which is something neither of us‚” like a weakness of both of ours in the past was writing really A.D.D. type music, so to be able to make something that takes a long time to build was great.”

Album closers often stretch to twice the length of all preceding tracks, and so do they suggest the direction the band are heading in. Musically, that hints that Crocodiles aim to slow down and take their time from now on, but the attention on them tells a different story, far more in line with their “A.D.D. type music”. After their current European tour they’re touring the States with The Horrors (at the request of the Southend band), then California with Graffiti Island and PENS before arriving back in the UK for‚” wait for it‚” the first ever Dirty Bingo Vs Loud And Quiet-hosted tour, in October. That we’ve been waiting for the right band to hit the road with for as long as we can remember is a testament to how highly we regard this duo. It’ll be a nice, clean tour mind, we’re completely out of crystal meth.dot

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