It began, as these things often do, with a night of alcohol-induced insanity and goofy boys-will-be-boys stupidity. But this time, sobriety and sunlight didn’t end the questionable decisions. The members of Crobot — singer Brandon Yeagley, guitarist Chris Bishop, bassist Jake Figueroa, and drummer Paul Figueroa — are scarred for life…with one another’s faces tattooed on their bodies.
Initially, the Pennsylvania-based band, together since 2011, simply wanted to celebrate their 2013 signing to Wind-Up Records.
“It started as a joke,” begins Yeagley.
“We were really, really hammered and trying to figure out what would be good,” adds Jake. “Obviously, we wanted to go bowling.”
“I forget who brought it up, but we were just really tanked, and it was like, ‘DUDE, I’ll get your face tattooed on me if we get a record deal, because that’d be awesome!’ ” remembers Paul.
“We should get tattoos…our own faces tattooed — NO — we should get each other’s faces! And we should pull names out of a hat!” recalls Paul.
“We ended up drawing out of a hat to see who got who. It’s funny to hear the different reactions from different people,” Bishop says, nodding toward the Figueroa brothers. (The Figueroas’ parents did not approve.)
On this broiling early-summer day, Crobot have returned to the scene of the crime. The band is standing on 43rd Street off Times Square, with the caricature artist who may or may not have done the portrait renderings that ended up permanently inked in the band members’ flesh. He doesn’t speak English and can’t remember. The band does speak English, but they can’t remember, either.
While there is no proof that marijuana causes memory loss, this may or may not be a contributing cause to, uh, what were they saying? Crobot take their “stoner rock” tag very seriously.
The quartet do know who has what tattoo, and where, however: Bishop sports Paul’s face on his right leg, and drops trou to prove it. Paul has his brother’s face on his calf. Jake has Yeagley on his upper back, while Yeagley has Bishop on his left shoulder.
No one even tried to weasel out of the bonding exercise — as Bishop notes: “I’ve got worse tattoos than that!” Bishop, who’s a tattoo artist when he isn’t playing guitar in Crobot, drew two of the tattoos himself. “I did Brandon’s and Jake’s [tattoos], so I got to tattoo my [own] face, which was phenomenal,” he laughs. “I hope it’s the first and last. It’s not that pretty.”
Fortunately, the band did put some limits on their body art. “The only thing we backed out of: At first we were saying that you get to pick out where your face is going on the body the other guy has to get it. But, ya know, you can’t force somebody to get a neck tattoo of somebody’s face.”
Of course. But what about an ass?
“Oh, I already have one there,” Jake offers. “It says ‘Happy Birthday.’ I got it for myself on my 22nd birthday. Yeah, I was hammered.”
As if on cue, a man weaves unsteadily toward the band, whose members are sitting in a breezeway adjacent to the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on West 43rd Street.
“I’m sooooo fucking high…” the man mumbles, veering left. Then right. He’s holding a sign that seems to say “I Need Money for Weed.” However, upon closer inspection, it actually reads: “I Meed Money…” Clearly, he’s gotten some cash already.
The gent, smelling more of booze than kush, plops down in the midst of the band, and his own tattoos — a stoned Stewie from Family Guy; Brian, the martini-swilling dog from the same show; and Betty Boop — are inspected. Suddenly, the newly minted stoner pal spits his upper teeth into his hand. Everyone is hysterical. As he goes to leave, he introduces himself — Chris — and fortunately remembers not to shake hands. “I just pulled my teeth out. But if you want some good sour — I’m not saying that you guys smoke, but…”
As Chris makes his way toward Times Square, Crobot reminisce about other New York memories, from their first show in NYC — the label showcase at Arlene’s Grocery that earned them their deal — to Brooklyn’s famed St. Vitus to Webster Hall, where they’re playing on their upcoming headlining tour in support of 2014’s Something Supernatural. They’re not shy when it comes to admitting that they write their music and play their gigs high, a process that has yielded songs such as the one that first caught the attention of their a&r guy, “Legend of the Spaceborne Killer,” as well as “La Mano de Lucifer.”
“That song actually started as ‘El Mano De Lucifer,’ ” explains Yeagley, “and the engineer where we recorded speaks Spanish and told me that’s actually pretty close to the ‘Monkey of Lucifer,’ which is not exactly what the song’s about,” he laughs. “I’ve loved the literature of the Bible — I’m not religious by any means, but the Devil is the greatest protagonist in my mind, and what better story than the fall of the Devil? That song started out as our attempt to write a ballad, and the only way I could really justify a ballad for Crobot is to make it about the Devil.”
Later in 2015, Crobot will hit the road opening for Motörhead, and also hope to start a new record this year. Jake notes that they’re constantly trying to write as much as possible, and Bishop pipes in to stress the importance of variety.
“Not too many funky, not too many stoner songs. Right now, we’re just acquiring the badass ones,” they laugh. And where do those spring from? “Straight from the loins!”
As the afternoon wears on, it’s time for the band to finish packing to leave for tour the next day, and the beginning of this tour happens to coincide with Paul’s 30th birthday. Older, yes, but far from grown up, as their backstage show rider indicates: Apparently it currently consists of “Baby wipes, booze and cigarettes. Booze and cigarettes leads to baby wipes.
“We try to put hummus on there, but no one eats it. We were getting veggie trays, but that just turned into something else we can throw at each other.”
So now, befitting their green proclivities (smoked often out of super-healthy homemade apple pipes), they request “M&M’s and gummy bears. So there’s just shit all over the floor,” notes Bishop of their dressing rooms.
Stuff frequently winds up in Jake’s unruly mop of hair, too. “If I get stuff in my hair…or when I wake up and there’s chocolate running down the back of my ear…that’s just not cool.” Indeed, as one of their stoney predecessors noted: “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” Only for Crobot, it’s just the beginning.
Crobot play with Wilson at the Studio at Webster Hall on July 15.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 15, 2015