Interview with Crocodiles
Following on from the critical and commercial success brought on from the much-lauded Sleep Forever, San Diegan two-piece Crocodiles are currently hemmed up in the studio recording their much-anticipated third album Endless Flowers. With the pair having since left their West-Coast roots behind to explore the wider world and with a newfound wealth of knowledge under their belt, Endless Flowers could well be THE album to look forward to in 2012. We caught up with half of the band, in the shape of Charles Rowell, to discuss the city they were brought up in, it's most famous citizen and the coincidental connection we share with Neil Warnock.
How big an influence was San Diego on you two growing as people and as musicians?
It definitely influenced us to get the hell out of there! There was just something about Brandon and I; we didn't really accept the sort of culture that is in San Diego. Growing up, there was one musical venue that we'd go to and there was one scene that we were involved in and it was just quite small and it's a conservative city; a quarter military, a quarter rich, well-to-do families and there's also a large gay community and a large homeless community and there's a lot of gangs as well. The dichotomy of the city is one that is pretty extreme and I think if you're a kid into punk and also a creative soul, you're gonna just seek other places - you're gonna want to rebel against your hometown. I think every artist does that at some point in his or her life. So I guess it's influenced us to work hard; our goals and our aims for our music was to take it to other people and get as far as we could and travel as much as possible. San Diego's a great place if you're young, it's a great place if you're really old but when you're in your twenties and thirties. all I wanna do is hangout in New York and hang out in London and go to watch male strippers and take drugs until the morning time. We also just want to play music to people who are intelligent and challenge people and be a part of a creative scene. San Diego doesn't have that unfortunately. They have a few bands who are really cool and we're always trying to bring them on tour with us so they get an opportunity to see that there's a lot of great cities out there where people really do appreciate your music, because up until No Age talking about us there wasn't any other bands anywhere to play with. Nobody cared for us - we were selling out in New York City before anyone really came to our shows in San Diego that was just a sign that maybe it was time to move. Or at least spend a lot of time outside San Diego.
Being from San Diego. I take it you're excited for the upcoming Anchorman sequel that's based in your town?
(Laughs) I don't know, I didn't know that was coming out! Hell yeah, I'm excited! I think that's the only thing that San Diego has going for it so I think that's a good thing. I've lived in London for about a year now, and Brandon lives in New York now. We don't really go back to Cali(fornia) unless we're absolutely one hundred per cent obligated.
How do you find London?
I think it's great! I prefer West London where I live in Shepherd's Bush because there's a lot of life. It's pretty mellow compared to most of London and it's right next to Loftus Road where the mighty Queen's Park Rangers play so I'm not exactly sweating it. I mean, I'm sweating relegation but that's a whole other matter. You're in Leeds aren't you? You've got Warnock (Neil) up there now don't you?
Yeah he's hardly worked wonders for us yet but.
You never know! You gotta give it time these days.
Back to music, it seems a lot of the time you get compared to The Jesus and Mary Chain or Velvet Underground. Do these comparisons ever become irritating to you or is it flattering to be compared to such artists?
I don't know. I mean, there's two ways to look at it really. I don't want our band to be just characterised as one big rip-off, of being derivative of something else but at the same time they're good bands. If people are saying we sound like them then we must be doing something right, you know what I mean? We don't look at other bands nearly as much as people would think we do. We just write songs and I think at this point in the band we're on our third album, we've been around for about four years we don't really pay that much attention to musical influences at this point. We write songs, I play guitar in a certain way, Brandon sings in a certain way, we write lyrics in a certain manner and they just come out. That sort of derivative sort of stuff is more, I don't know, I think maybe for the most part it's more reserved for bands that are just beginning and don't quite have an identity yet I suppose.
Who did you listen to the most growing up?
Everything really. My father was a record collector so he had a record room in the house - a room that was dedicated to his records, it was covered in posters. So yeah, I had everything! With that being said he'd introduce me to everything from Sonic Youth to Public Image Limited to Richard Hell to Lead Belly to The Supremes, Velvet Underground - everything! Everything that's good in music he had in his collection. I was a little bit reluctant at times because of age - at times when you're young you just want to listen to what your friends are listening to but I remember him showing me Richard Hell and Iggy Pop and The Who.
Sounds like a pretty decent sound to be brought up to!
Yeah, so it was always there. It's kind of cool and it's kind of fortuitous in a way that I live in London now where a lot of these bands were from so I feel lucky for that and I feel lucky to have had a father who got me into all that. I've always had a pretty defined musical vocabulary but it's not anything I've ever really thought about, it's just kind of been there in the house.
If you could pick, say, one defining album from your life, what would it be?
I guess I'd definitely say Iggy Pop Lust for Life. That was just a game changer as a kid. I just felt that putting the needle on the record was like breaking a window or something. It felt really dangerous, I felt like a criminal for having that record. I couldn't describe what it was and the feeling it gave me at the time, but it just felt dangerous. It was melodic; you could dance to it but. I don't know how to dance but I can wiggle around like a freak, but I liked it. It kind of had a Motown feel - I knew about Motown through Temptations and Four Tops.
You worked with James Ford on Sleep Forever, did you find that his electronic-links rubbed off on you and on what you started listening to when you recorded the album?
Well, given the position we were in and as a two-piece at the time, things were kind of laid out almost in a looped repetitious way because we didn't have a band like Brandon or James who played a drum. It kind of looped things. In a way, I think that James brought that to the recording. He's a keyboard wizard and he's also help out band that he produced before (Arctic Monkeys and Klaxons). He comes from a different musical background to us and for one it's academic in a way so it was fun collaborating with him. He filled in places where we hadn't the knowledge to do it ourselves. And plus, he gives really good massages.
Will you be working with him again on your new album?
We asked him but the timing didn't work out. So we self-produced our new album.
You were championed by No Age earlier on in your career. Were you friends with the group before this happened?
Oh yeah! Myself, Brandon and another friend of ours used to book all the punk shows in San Diego; or at least the majority of them; so when No Age were in Wives, their previous band, we had them down all the time. They've always been friends of ours, so that was really nice of them to do. That's just the kind of guys they are especially if you come from a punk background. It's not as pretentious, it's not as conceited in a way than if you were to be a group that just found stardom and everything straight away. Those guys had to struggle to get where they are now and they're willing to just be selfless and help out their friends.
You're signed to Fat Possum and they recently just signed Mellow Hype. Are you guys fans of hip hop? Do you endorse labels like Fat Possum signing artist that go against the grain of usual signees?
Yeah, that's fine! I pretty much enjoy anything that Fat Possum does. I think that they're an American treasure; an independent music treasure. I think that they're smart and they're risky. They're intelligent guys albeit they're Southern. Brandon and I listen to heaps and heaps of rap and hip hop. In fact, I think that a lot of rap and hip hop is kind of punk in a way. It can be dangerous, it can be threatening, it can be really subversive as well. So yeah, of course, we like all kinds of music for sure.
What do you make of the current state of hip hop? Do you listen to much current hip-hop?
It appears as if there's a renaissance, yeah. I mean, growing up listening to Wu Tang (Clan) and all those offshoots and NWA, all their offshoots. but yeah, it appears as though there's a renaissance going on. To be perfectly honest with you, I don't listen to enough to really have a full grasp on it but from what I've seen on the Internet, it seems like there's a really excellent resurgence. We listen to Odd Future, but we also listen to Ghostface (Killah) who really falls under a totally different sub-genre. I think it's great but at the same time, there's a million styles that have been mutated and turned into flavour of the month.