Shooting Fireworks into Dark Lands
by Kevin J. Elliott

Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowland have spent many worthless nights together trying desperately to make something out of the nothing that the San Diego music scene has been for the better part of this decade. It took the eventual dissolution of their lesser bands before realizing that what they wanted they could do by themselves, without a bassist, without a drummer, without egos or inner-band strife, and with a gaggle of electronic equipment wired through more traditional tools. To the casual listener Crocodiles might be accused of going for broke in their adoration of the Jesus and Mary Chain, even guilty of copping some of those Psychocandy riffs and pawning them off as their own. If you were to catch one of their magnetic and drone-riddled live shows, you’d also notice they dress like the lost twins of C86-era Bobby Gillespie. There are Velvet motifs, Spacemen 3 inner-mind explorations, and Suicide analog buzzes riddled throughout the duo’s debut, Summer of Hate, but does that make them thieves? Who isn’t these days?

Fortunately for the listening public and the blog-hype hornblowers that perpetuate such accusations, the alchemic end product that’s come from melting down Crocodiles’ influences reveals a day-glo revelry of psych-pop and contorted noise on instant anthems like “I Wanna’ Kill Tonight” and “Neon Jesus” or a more psychotropic ascent into dream-pop on the Beatles-esque “Take to the Sky.” What it comes down to is pop, and despite all their links and desires to be like this and sound like that, Crocodiles can write a hook befitting any of their godhead descendents. The beauty is how self-contained they remain, with only the two of them playing the role of stadium-filling band on a guitar, a few pedals, and some pre-programmed beats. I suppose in the future we’d call that bloom-econo.

I recently got into the head of Brandon Welchez during the Crocodiles recent stint with Ladytron. He declined to divulge any anecdotes on the band’s narcotic intake, though it’s hard to imagine the creation and listening of Summer of Hate without the enhancement of some illegal substance.

I know that Charles and you have played together in bands for a number of years, so what was the motivation to stop what you were doing previously and start again as Crocodiles?

Brandon Welchez: We didn’t stop the bands we were doing before we started what we were doing, that just kind of fizzled out. There were a couple months where we tried to establish a more orthodox band with a drummer and a bass player, but we just couldn’t find anyone to play with in San Diego. Because San Diego is so small in that respect, we became what we are out of necessity.

How did the decision come about to not have a drummer for this experiment? Is the chemistry between the two of you that tight or did you set out to make new music with only electronic beats?

BW: I don’t think we’ll ever need a drummer. I can see us taking on a drummer or a full band sporadically. If we did, it would be more for fun.

I feel like there’s a nice dichotomy between the feel of the music, which one could almost compare to bubblegum/sunshine pop, and the weight of the words (with titles like “Summer of Hate” and “I Wanna’ Kill Tonight”). Is that an intentional aesthetic of the band, or is their some real nihilism embedded in your lyrics?

BW: The lyrics are all written unconsciously. I got through long periods when I can’t write anything. I’m not sure what the impetus is, but when it comes, I can crank out a lot of stuff in one go. I guess that doesn’t answer your question.

Well, there’s so much of a pop element to it, but you balance it with a nicely conceived evil side.

BW: I think I just have an easier time expressing my dislikes and frustrations than I do saying positive things, although there are two love songs on the record. We’re both really into the poppiness of the music, though, and having hooks is very important to us. We’re just like any songwriter in that we are constantly chasing the hooks.

When I saw the live show I didn’t expect as much dissonance and drone as you guys churned out with such a minimal set-up. I suppose this is another of those “chicken or the egg” questions in that I’m curious if Crocodiles started as a noisier project and the songs came out of that, or the two of you decided to add the more abstract elements once the songs were written?

BW: It all came together at the same time. The first song we wrote was “Neon Jesus,” and in that there’s a really abrasive feedback which was sort of discovered by accident when we were fucking around with this pedal we were running the vocals through. We thought it added to the songs. Even at our first show, though, we were doing noise interludes, and as we got more comfortable, we increased the amount of noise we use live.

It’s obvious that you two were influenced a great deal by the Velvets and Suicide—which I think is an excellent mix and you execute what you do with a lot of originality—but are there elements other than music that drives Crocodiles?

BW: We’re real into Kenneth Anger’s films. The two videos we’ve made were influenced by his films. Anyone who does anything creative—writing, painting, music—they’re going to be influenced by all types of media.

I usually don’t ask too many bands about their drug use, but if we broke into your tour van, what would we expect to find? Another influence seems to be Spacemen 3, descendants of VU in their own right, and they made music to take drugs to, so are you hoping to enhance the drug culture?

BW: I think the recreational use of substances can alter the way you hear music. It changes your experience, and it doesn’t make it better or worse. Listening to anything—it doesn’t have to be drug music—listen to Little Richard sober and listen to Little Richard after you’ve smoked pot, it doesn’t make a difference and one is not better than the other. The same goes for making music. You can make a song sober and it could be great or bad, and you make a song fucked up and it could be great or bad.

Now that you’ve toured quite a bit on this side of the States, can you see a big difference in the newer bands from the East Coast compared to California? Are there certain identifiers that you think are indicative of San Diego, or the music being made at the Smell in L.A.? I do think there’s some similarity there.

BW: To be honest with you I’m not as well-versed in new music as I should be. But that being said we’ve caught several bands on this tour that we were really into. Have you ever heard of Cold Cave? We played with them, and I was really impressed with them. Reading Rainbow from Philadelphia has a really playful and serious sound. There are a lot of contemporary bands that we are into.

Do you have any grand plans regarding what the Crocodiles will evolve into, any ideas for what comes next?

BW: We have a couple of split 7-inches coming ou,t and when we get home from this tour, we have about a week to start recording and demoing stuff for the next album. This new one wasn’t recorded at once place in one space of time. It took a while, in a lot of different places, to finish it. That makes a record more alive and spontaneous when you record it in segments. So hopefully album two will be out in the next 10 months. My only goal is to avoid work. Work avoidance. That’s what we strive for.