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Escape Velocity

I Nearly Just Got Run Over: Crocodiles Interviewed
Sophie Parkes , August 3rd, 2010 05:11

Sophie Parkes talks to Chuck Rowell of Crocodiles about lazy comparisons, San Diego and the Dum Dum Girls

You can't help but expect an American drawl, monosyllabic answers to lengthy questions, one or two appearances of 'rad', 'man' or 'totally'.

The kind of music Chuck Rowell of Crocodiles plies, with its reverential and frequent comparisons to The Jesus and Mary Chain and Velvet Underground, comes with its attitude as the purveyor of cool, but perhaps unfairly, not a lot else.

It's the morning of the fourth in a series of eight gigs Crocodiles are playing with Dum Dum Girls, a band that seems to be always mentioned in the same breath as the former. Of course, this could just be for human interests sake - Crocodiles' Brandon Welchez is married to Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls – but the two outfits also have a shared musical history as well as a current understanding.

"We were the first backing band for Dum Dum Girls when Dee Dee was getting the band together about two years ago. It makes sense that we're doing [a headline show together] as we completely complement each other, musically and aesthetically," he says.

"We're like a variety act: fans get really excited about both bands. We're like one big family."

I can hear him grinning down the phone, but it's through pure warmth for his musical clan rather than any effort to convey sarcasm.

And though Chuck and Brandon have many friends in other bands, sharing both the stage and the studio, Chuck feels they can't claim that they're part of any particular movement or scene.

"I see a scene as a number of bands from the same city, or at least the same region. We have friends from all over who have just become friends from playing the same clubs at the same time. We could never call it a scene."

So, devoid of any scene in which to neatly slot Crocodiles, the band has been tagged as a Jesus and Mary Chain sound alike.

"It's just lazy. I don't think we sound like them at all, certainly not the new album anyway. When we started out, we were just two people onstage with a drum machine so I can guess people jumped to conclusions.

"You can't really choose what tags a public forum like the internet will give you, but I really don't care at the end of the day."

The new album, Sleep Forever, will, like its predecessor, be released on Fat Possum, the label Chuck deems rather scriptedly "the ugly stepchild of the American indie record label scene". And it seems like an unusually smooth ride for Crocodiles between pre-record label days to the present. The well-documented support from No Age – the band named Crocodiles' 'Neon Jesus' as one of their Top Ten tracks of 2008 – led to Fat Possum simply getting in touch and asking whether they would care to release their album on the label.

It's the stuff of dreams, of course, but there was no doubt that Chuck and Brandon had worked hard prior to this lucky leg up, recording the album themselves outside of day jobs and 'not expecting anybody to get in touch'.

And, naturally, Crocodiles was not a mere serendipitous overnight idea as the duo had been playing together in various formats for years, brought together by the sterility of their home town.

"San Diego is really serene and beautiful, but really, really boring. I feel like it doesn't hold enough attention for anyone; there's not enough people to sustain a thriving creative scene.

"It doesn't promote its history. There's nothing to it apart from being beautiful. So people long to get out and experience something other than complacency, whether that's moving and leaving your parents behind or forming a band and travelling."

This fear of complacency informs other elements of the band's ideals.

"We like to put ourselves in a different frame of mind every time we do something. I feel – "

Chuck stops talking and there is the kind of audible scuffling and crackling that indicates he is suddenly preoccupied. I strain to listen.

"Sorry, sorry," he returns, breathless. "I nearly got run over, sorry about that." And, without a pause, continues: "I feel we're always looking to change things.

"We're never just a recording band or just a live band. We never want to be completely comfortable or satisfied: I think it's detrimental to bands that get comfortable with the same format or style."

And true to his word, Crocodiles is not the be all and end all of their musical lives. Both DJ, patronise San Diego label Art Fag and Brandon and Dee Dee run their own label, Zoo Music.

"They've got a really great taste in music," he adds thoughtfully. "They're ones to watch."

Sleep Forever is released in September on Fat Possum. Sophie Parkes helps run For Folk's Sake, a monthly night of folk and spoken word about to make its London debut. For more information, click here.