There’s no one way that the song can begin. Interview with Crocodiles
Crocodiles are Brandon Welchez (vocals and guitar) and Charles Rowell (guitar) from San Diego, California, sometimes defined as noise pop/indie pop/post punk band.
Crocodiles gained exposure when the Southern California noise pop band No Age included one single of them, “Neon Jesus” in a list of the year’s best songs. After that comes a meteoric career, with their first album, “Summer of Hate”, in April 2009. Then, by the hand of the British Producer, James Ford, comes a second album, “Sleep Forever”, in 2010.
Their third album, recorded on Berlin, Germany, “Endless Flowers” come out on September 2011, and was self produced by Charles Rowell and Brandon Welchez. On April 2013, Crocodiles released their fourth studio album, “Crimes of Passion”, produced by Sune Rose Wagner, frontman of The Raveonettes and recorded on Los Angeles, California. His fifth album “Boys” was released 2015 and recorded on Mexico City.
This is an interesting band. Always testing new rhythms and working with a lot of personalities. The Echo Music interviewed them to know a little bit about his creative process.
Question: When did you discover that are you going to dedicate to the music? How started everything?
Brandon: I’ve been pretty obsessed with music since I was a kid. In the 7th grade I discovered punk which was very liberating for me because it seemed like music easy enough to do yourself. I started my first band at 14 and have been in bands consistently since then. In my early 20s I tried going to college but realized it had nothing to do with what I wanted to do with my life, which was play music and travel and have experiences, so I dropped out and it’s been music full time since.
Charles: There have been many moments in my life where I’ve felt that I was making a significant choice which would lead me to having more freedom as a musician. Most of the moments, I have been lucky enough to share with Brandon. When we were teenagers, we drove out of town for our first tour, in a broken van that was billowing smoke. I knew then that we were both prone to haphazard adventuring. I remember receiving a text message from Dean of No Age saying that he was excited for our new single “Neon Jesus”. That’s when I felt like we were on the right path. It’s a struggle, in any country, to make it on your own as an artist but if you’re dedicated and sharp, I believe that you will find stability.
Question: When are you gonna create a song… where do you start?
Brandon: Sometimes it will come from a phrase or something I think up or see somewhere. I’ll have the words in my head for a few days and a melody for a chorus might take shape. Other times I start from scratch just fooling around on a guitar. Both of us write our songs on acoustic guitars in general and once the chords and melody and words are sorted out we start writing riffs and bass lines and stuff.
Charles: Usually, with the guitar. I find a riff and then begin to map out the changes. Lately, I’ve sampled a lot of drum breaks to help with the creative process. It’s a way of replicating the studio sound, in order to have a more broad perspective on the direction that the song could possibly take.
Question: What is first? Music or lyrics? Do you believe in the inspiration or in the work daily?
Brandon: For me, usually the music comes first but I’ll usually have some type of phrase or something I work off of. Occasionally words come first, but not very often. In terms of inspiration vs daily work – obviously if inspiration hits and a great song just appears out of thin air, that’s great. But in general we work daily, even when we have writer’s block. Song writing is a muscle that you have to exercise.
Question: Are you thinking about the album as a whole thing or song by song?
Brandon: Song by song. I think our albums tend to be a little bit schizophrenic because we don’t conceive the whole thing. We write a bunch of individual songs and then pick our favorites.
Charles: We almost always think of the album song by song. Our connection is cool enough that we tend to find themes in what we each contribute to the album. Whatever the theme is, we then use to shape the aesthetic
Question: How do you order the songs in the album?
Brandon: Typically just by mood. Start an album with one of the best songs and then just follow each song logically.
Charles: It’s a matter of feeling. How do we want the album to flow. Normally, we finish with a ballad, something slow and somber, however, on the new album, we’ve ended with something quite happy, sinister but happy.
Question: How do you know when a song is finished?
Brandon: I don’t haha. You can work on a song forever but at some point you just have to sign off on it and let it out into the wild, otherwise you’d never get anything done.
Charles: That’s hard to determine, especially because the song goes through many changes after it’s written. We will edit the parts and the lyrics and once we are in the studio, the producer will have ideas too.
Question: Do you usually start and finish a song, then go to the next one, or do you tend to be working on many tracks at the same time?
Brandon: I think we both tend to have multiple ideas going. If I have a good idea that I’m having trouble with, I’ll maybe obsess a bit over that particular song but I won’t ignore other ideas I also have.
Charles: I tend to work on many at the same time. To varying degrees they are progressing. Sometimes you have to just leave an idea alone until you feel like you have some fresh perspective on it.
Question: Do you write the lyrics and all the music, or do you have collaborators in the creation of the music?
Brandon: Charlie and I have always written all the words and music but starting with our last album Boys we’ve given our producer Martin Thulin the freedom to write parts for the songs too. We think alike so we don’t feel weird letting him in. On the new album we just recorded he has a lot of flourishes he added; mainly keyboard parts but also some input on some of the bass lines and things like that.
Charles: We write individually and together. All that is written will be looked at by both of us and the producer to determine if it’s ready to be recorded.
Question: How many hours dedicate each day to the musical creation?
Brandon: Depends how hung over I am haha. I don’t give myself a set work time; there are days when I spend all day playing guitar and demoing and stuff and other days where I do nothing with music at all. If I have writer’s block I don’t torture myself with the guitar, I go take a walk. But if I feel inspired I can spend 15 hours doing nothing but music.
Charles: I think that all day we are thinking of ideas for certain songs, videos, or artwork.
Question: Does have any sense release LPs in a world governed for Spotify and iTunes?
Brandon: It probably makes less and less sense every year from a business perspective but I think the album is the ultimate format for musical expression, so I don’t think we’d ever turn into one of those bands that just releases digital singles every few months.
Charles: There are still a lot of people who listen to albums. Hopefully the art of the album, even the ritualistic idea that you must go to the record store and buy it there, will continue forever. We are album collectors, so we write, record and perform for people who enjoy the overall feeling of an album and it’s aesthetic.
Question: Which is the most important thing that must have a song?
Brandon: I’d probably say a hook, like the catchy part but that’s not necessarily true for all music. I like plenty of experimental stuff that isn’t “catchy”. I guess it’s just easy to tell when a song has passion, whether it’s a pop song or something totally weird.
Charles: It needs to stir something emotionally in the person. Even if it’s hatred. That’s what rock and roll was created for. For the spirit.
Question: With who do you like collaborate in an album?
Brandon: Oh, there are millions of artists I admire who I’d like to collaborate with. It would have been amazing to be produced by Lee Perry back in the day for example.
Charles: Me, Brandon and whoever the producer may be. We often invite friends to come into the studio and record with us too.
Question: In Crimes of Passion you worked with Sune Rose Wagner… How born that collaboration? How was work with the frontman of The Raveonettes? There was any counsel from him?
Brandon: Sune has been a friend for years. We already knew him quite well by the time we recorded together. We had talked about it for years so it was nice when our schedules lined up and we could actually do it. Sune is a pop guy so his main counsel was just getting as much catchiness and hooks out of us. He was far less interested in making something weird or experimental and much more interested in big pop songs. I’m really happy with the work we did together.
Charles: It was one of the most enjoyable sessions that we’ve done. We have very similar ideas about music and song. He’s a sweetheart.
Question: Which musician/group are you listening currently?
Brandon: At this very moment I’m listening to a mix I made for a friend and the song that’s on is Alex Chilton “Hey! Little Girl”.
Charles: Beak> [is a UK based band, consisting of Geoff Barrow (of Portishead) with Billy Fuller (Robert Plant)]
Question: You have an extraordinary relationship with Mexico City, even your last album was recorded there… When started that engagement? What do you love from Mexico City? Why recorded your album there?
Brandon: Well, we record here because we like working with Martin Thulin, who lives and works here. But yes, we have a very special relationship with this city since the first time we came here, in 2009. The fans were just so cool and we immediately started making friends. Now we have as many friends in DF as we do in NYC or San Diego, where we are originally from. DF is great, it’s culturally vibrant, people are friendly, it’s architecturally beautiful, the food is good, it’s inexpensive. What more do you need from a city?
Charles: We are from San Diego, so Mexico has always been apart of our lives. When we first visited and performed, the feeling was incredible. The city has so much life and beauty within it. We’ve made so many friends there, and the fans that we have so heartfelt and significant to us.
Question: Do you have plans for a new album? Of which music style?
Brandon: Yes, we finished a new album here in DF in February. It will be out later this year. Stylistically it’s probably our weirdest album to date. There are a lot of new sounds that will probably surprise people but also plenty of songs that I think our old fans will love too. It’s got some of weirdest work but also some of our best work too.
Charles: Yes, we have a new album out in October!