Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Jun 5th 2012 2:15PM by Kenneth Partridge
In the howler of a press release bearing his byline, the possibly fictitious 43-year-old describes meeting the Crocs soon after they arrived in the German capital. It was serendipitous: Katzenflugen needed entertainment for Ficken 2000, the seedy nightclub he manages, and the the fuzz-loving fivesome needed a place to rehearse its new material. Just like that, the band had a 20-hour-per-week, Beatles-in-Hamburg-type gig.
So, how much of that -- and the comically short-lived Ficken residency Katzenflugen goes on to describe -- actually took place?
"It's 100 percent true," singer and guitarist Brandon Welchez tells Spinner, keeping a straight face as he and guitarist Charles Rowell sip coffee in New York City's Lower East Side.
It's all a bit suspicious, but one can imagine the Crocodiles getting mixed up in such a scenario.
As the story goes, they were fired from Ficken because their music proved too captivating for the house dancers: sexy young things paid to dance and flirt with the clientele, not watch bands. Since forming in San Diego in 2008 -- initially as a duo featuring Welchez, Rowell and a drum machine -- Crocodiles have made a darkly sexy pop-goth racket likely to excite late-night weirdos. But as new tunes like "Bubblegum Trash" -- an apt description of the overall sound -- suggest, the quintet is as likely to appeal to the non-vampires of the world.
"With every record we do, we're just trying to write the kind of stuff we want to hear," Welchez says, agreeing with Spinner's assessment that Endless Flowers is poppier than past releases. It's also the first to feature keyboardist Robin Eisenberg, bassist Marco Gonzalez and drummer Anna Schulte.
"The longer we do it in this incarnation, and the longer [Rowell] and I write songs together, the more in-tuned it gets to something that's uniquely ours," Welchez continues. "I'm not saying we're there yet, but it's all going down that road."
As for why the road led this time to Berlin, rather than, say, the California desert, where Crocodiles recorded their 2010 sophomore effort, Sleep Forever, it was a matter of timing. The summer of 2011 brought a string of European festival engagements, and from a geographic standpoint, it made sense to set up in the city. It didn't hurt that Berlin is responsible for classic records by the likes of the Birthday Party and David Bowie -- both Crocs faves -- and that it's far from the distractions of New York and London, where Welchez and Rowell live, respectively.
Berlin's influence is audible throughout Endless Flowers, nowhere more than on closer "You Are Forgiven."
"It's a mellow acoustic song, so we just miked the room we were in," Welchez says. "The windows were open anyway. You can hear church bells and birds and cars. To us, it's really special, because it's the sounds you'd hear everyday if you went out to smoke or were walking to the studio or walking back. It's what it sounded like to be there."
Even when the band, which handled production duties itself, wasn't recording street noises, the city had a way of seeping into the mix.
"If you go out and get fucked up until 4 in the morning and then wake up hungover and go to practice, your songs are going to come out a little different than they would if you went to bed at 8 o'clock," Welchez says. "We knew we'd be experiencing Berlin, and we wanted some of that hangover and whatever else to make it into the record."
Apparently, there were ample opportunities for boozing and debauched behavior, as the band claims to have befriended a strange group of local ne'er-do-wells.
"They were really tough," Welchez says. "They were really petty criminals, but they were at least ambiguously gay as well. They were interesting. The circle of people they had around them and the parties we went to -- it was all very eye-opening.
"That scene, things that are a little more occult, we've always been into that," says Rowell, elaborating on the kind of curiosity that comes with being raised in the suburbs. "Characters -- people who are interesting and a bit wild -- we naturally gravitate toward it for inspiration, for kicks."
Given that both lead Crocodiles are family men, things probably didn't get too crazy. During the German adventure, both of their wives -- Dee Dee of the Dum Dum Girls and Holly Cook, the daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook -- came to visit, and they even sang backup on "My Surfing Lucifer." The album also includes "No Black Clouds for Dee Dee," a sweet pick-me-up Welchez wrote for his missus during the rough stretch following her mother's death.
Balancing music and married life can be a struggle, Welchez says, and had Dee Dee and Cook -- an artist in her own right who collaborated with Rowell on the recent Psychic Dancehall project -- come into the picture sooner, things could have turned out differently. The gang might still have wound up in Berlin, but the story may have been part Ficken 2000, part Fleetwood Mac.
"In a perfect world," Welchez says, "we'd have started a band with the four of us."
Watch Crocodiles' Video for "Sunday (Psychic Conversation)