Crocodiles Getting Messy

The San Diego band bring mature, but not fussy, rock anthems to 4Knots

On A humid Wednesday evening in Hoboken, Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell—the two minds behind the San Diego–based band Crocodiles—crack jokes in the front room of Maxwell's.

"I grew my armpit hair out and then braided it," Rowell says, dramatically lifting his hands and pointing to his underarms. Quickly, Welchez chimes in. "We'd wear two knit hats, one on each shoulder," he says, chuckling. But before Welchez knows it, Rowell takes the baton: "Then we'd draw little faces on each shoulder!" Both smirk. The quips they toss around center on the time they spent in Berlin making their fuzzy power-pop LP Endless Flowers (Frenchkiss Records, US/Souterrain Transmissions, overseas), which came out last month.

Welchez met Rowell when they were 17; both of their "crappy teenage punk bands" were hired to play a gig at a local Mexican restaurant's anniversary. Welchez remembers seeing Rowell for the first time and immediately feeling so drawn to the way he played guitar—and on a "superficial" level, just "how cool he was."

"[It] was like watching a 17-year-old Pete Townshend or something," Welchez says, taking a sip of beer. "I was like, 'Fuck, I want that guy in my band.'"

And so the two cycled through various punk bands and projects throughout the next decade. Their long-term partnership isn't too surprising, given the way their brains seem to intertwine.

"When [Welchez] brings a song with no guitar leads planned out, I can hear it instantly," Rowell says. "If there was a time when we were more selfish or more stubborn, we went through that period a long time ago."

Eventually, they settled into Crocodiles, and in 2009, they released their debut, the bedroom-recorded, grungy Summer of Hate. And even though Endless Flowers is only the band's third full-length, their maturity is evident. They've grown in membership: Endless Flowers is the first album to be recorded with their five-piece touring band. The group's sound has similarly evolved from hollowed-out, scratchy guitars and sometimes-inaudible vocals to full-fledged—and at times anthemic—power rock 'n' roll.

To start the album, the title track launches behind a furious, fleeting guitar riff, which seamlessly flows into explosive drums. "I'm waiting here; waiting my dear, on a crooked staircase with this melody," Welchez cries. A few moments pass, and he goes on to lead the refrain, practically begging the listener to sing along: "Our endless flowers will grow." Later, on the swooping "My Surfing Lucifer," Welchez uses a blitz of throbbing guitars to abandon all regard for poetics, leading a simple yet catchy chant: "Yeah, yeah, yeah! He's my Lucifer!"

But Crocodiles don't simply pump out beach-appropriate tunes: Endless Flowers takes a darker turn halfway through. "Hung Up on a Flower," a song dealing with heartbreak and loss, rumbles through a deep, brusque, and industrial refrain: "I'll get by; I'll just get high," Welchez mumbles on the track. "Wait around to die." Moments like this, he notes at Maxwell's, make music human.

"Things sound bad when they're too clean, you know?" Welchez says. "Nothing is that clean, so why should music be?"

Crocodiles play the 4Knots Music Festival on Saturday, July 14.

 
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