Crocodiles — Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell — have had a nearly 25 year history: After initially becoming acquainted at a local Anti-Racist Action meeting, Welchez and Rowell found their respective teenage bands booked on the same bill at a punk gig hosted at a Mexican restaurant in their native San Diego. As their mutual friend Russell Cash, who wrote their bio describes it, “Young Brandon watched in awe as a teenage Charlie clambered up a confused family’s table and proceeded to bash the living hell out of his cheap guitar. When his set was through, young Charlie melted back into the crowd and found himself awestruck as the pubescent Brandon took the ‘stage’ (floor) and proceeded to shriek, croon, howl and spit his way through his own band’s allotted 20 minutes. Once the noise was over, the two found each other, expressed their mutual admiration and over a shared Coca-Cola agreed to dissolve their respective bands and join forces.”
After a few false starts, the duo found their footing with the noise-punk outfit The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower. They spent five years traversing the country, building up a cult following, while playing every backwoods dump that would have them. They met and inspired other like-minded freaks — an occasionally they’d get beaten up by feral rednecks. Eventually, the band imploded in a cloud of poverty and addition. But Charlie and Brandon agreed to keep their partnership going.
After a year years experimenting with their songwriting and sound and trying out various lineups and names, they decided to kick out the half-committed losers and jokers they were working at the time, and replaced them for a beat up, old drum machine. Immediately, they set to work on the batch of songs that would become Crocodiles debut album, 2009’s Summer of Hate.
Over the course of the band’s 15 year history, they’ve released seven albums and a handful of EPs while going through a flurry of changes: Their recorded output has seen them change their sound — art punk, psych rock, 60s-inspired pop and trashed-out glam. They’ve changed personnel several times, starting out as a duo, then they were a quintet, then they were a duo again and more recently as a quartet. They’ve also relocated multiple times — residing in San Diego, New York, Paris, Mexico City, London, and Los Angeles. But two things have remained the same: they’ve toured incessantly, bringing their unique brand of rock to fans in almost every corner of the globe — and the band’s core duo have never wavered on their teenage mission to help each other escape a life of drudgery, boredom and expectation through music, art, friendship and of course, adventure. After all, why not do something really fucking interesting and perhaps kind of crazy with your best friend, right?
Crocodiles’ eighth full-length album, the Maxime Smadja-produced Upside Down In Heaven was released yesterday through Lollipop Records. After a prolonged hiatus, the band finally reconvened at St. Jean de Luz, France’s Quicksilver Studios to put their eighth record on wax. Atef Aouadhi (bass) and Diego Dal Bon (drums) were recruited to flesh out the material for teh sessions. The album sees the band continuing in their long-held fashion to zig-zag cohesively from one style to the next and back again. As Russell Cash describes the album’s material, “The songs are direct, cut to the chance and leave listeners thirsting for more.”
Upside Down In Heaven‘s third and latest single, album title track “Upside Down In Heaven” is a pop-inspired anthem, rooted in the duo’s unerring knack for pairing melody, scuzzy guitars. and razor sharp hooks with lyrics that express heartache, regret with a weary and bitter, lived-in burn.
“Maybe I was chasing that elusive Stiff Records sound or simply trying something that would make Westerberg smile,” Crocodiles’ Charles Rowell says of the single. “Either way it’s pure pop for heads who appreciate lyrics and melody. It’s a little sad but triumphant and true. If you’ve ever felt like you’re a little too far from home, like you’ve chased the dream until it’s turned into a nightmare, then here’s another song burning with regret and wasted wisdom.”
Directed by Sam Macon, the accompanying video for “Upside Down In Heaven” starts off with an old Pizza Hut commercial and quickly takes the viewer to an 80s-influenced tele-evangelist show featuring the band’s Brandon Welchez as a Jim Baker-type preaching to folks as they get the Holy Spirit. Naturally, our preacher has an angel and a devil on both shoulders whispering to him (the band’s Charles Rowell). But eventually Welchez’s preacher listens to the devil, and things take a playfully satanic turn — as it should!