Interview: Crocodiles

Crocodiles - Photo by Alex Kacha

Crocodiles – Photo by Alex Kacha

Although the band Crocodiles hails from Southern California, the members are no strangers to Berlin.

“Last year we returned, and that was when we fell in love the city,” guitarist Charles Rowell said.

He is, of course, referring to the band’s summer residency, when, last July, the five members packed themselves into a Prenzlauer Berg apartment and set about to recording the third album, “Endless Flowers.”

Unlike the band’s first two albums, 2009’s “Summer of Hate,” and 2010’s “Sleep Forever,” “Endless Flowers” was a producer-less endeavor. Additionally, it was the first time when the duo of the aforementioned Rowell and guitarist and vocalist Brandon Welchez – who have been playing in bands together for more than a decade – brought on additional official band members, in the form of bassist Marco Gonzalez, keyboardist Robin Eisenberg, and drummer Anna Schulte.

And admittedly, the thought of the process of making the album this way was a bit daunting for Crocodiles. However, when it came down to actually doing it, the members found that it was easier than they’d expected.

“At first we were a bit nervous to go into a potentially stressful situation where time and money is a concern, [as] we are both spectacularly inept when it comes to time keeping,” Rowell said, referring to himself and Welchez. “Anyways, we did our homework and wrote detailed notes on what we wanted the songs to sound like and it all went well.”

Not only that, but the presence of the new members was felt, and made a difference in both the overall feeling and the resulting sound.

“In the past, [Welchez] and I had to play the individual instruments and record them isolated, but on this record, everyone was in the same room,” Rowell said. “There was a terrific amount of energy going around.”

Even where the older songs were concerned, he shared that the five seemed to click without any kind of uncomfortable transitions or awkward growing phases, and there was no stepping on toes during the recording experience.

“There was no struggle getting them and ourselves acquainted with the songs. They are excellent musicians and beautiful friends. Personally it was a relief having them to bounce ideas off of,” he said.

Now, with the band size more than doubled, it makes sense to expect that the intensity Rowell and Welchez are known for will too. And in spite of getting older and moving on to new projects, Rowell admitted that it’s simply part of what they both want to bring and communicate to the audience.

“[Welchez] and I will probably never change,” he said. “[Our] live show is based on energy and spit and sweat and volume and what not.”

Currently, the band is touring Europe, and tonight will be the Berlin celebration of the “Endless Flowers” release. But once the tour is over, the core members will retire to their respective cities, one in New York and the other across the sea in London.

Yet even with the distance, Welchez and Rowell both find that it doesn’t put a damper on the creation of new material. In fact, in many ways, this arrangement encourages it.

“We spend a lot of time now in two very exciting cities, [and] they are both very conducive to being creative and cultivating new songs,” Rowell said. “We send each other demos and poems often and at this point are constantly working on new albums…[but] we don’t conceptualize anything really, so however the songs come out, and the art too, is just a natural conclusion. We travel and we write poetry and sometimes even we are faced with death. These things all find their way into our lyrics and artwork.”

But it’s the drive to produce something both honest and pure, as well as entertaining and gratifying, with someone who values the same things you do, that keeps bands like Crocodiles – although separated by distance – intent on making music together.

And even with a somewhat discouraging state of things in the music industry, Rowell is convinced that it’s one that separates those who have a passion to create from those who don’t.

“Independent labels will always have a mountain to climb, but that is probably why we form labels and bands, because it’s difficult and selfish to want to live your life by your own creative means. It’s a struggle for freedom,” he said. “[Welchez] and I nearly gave up for a moment in 2007, but quickly after, we pressed our first single and bought a car and booked [our] first tour, [and] everything fell into place. It’s only until you’ve lost everything that you can gain something.”

Crocodiles play tonight at Bi Nuu in Berlin. The show begins at 21.00.

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