Crobot är ett av de senaste amerikanska banden som gjort rejält väsen av sig världen över. De har nyligen skrivit på för tyska Nuclear Blast och debutalbumet “Something supernatural” har precis landat på skivdiskarna. Rocksverige ringde upp sångaren Brandon i New Orleans, där han och bandet “vilade ut” under några dagar. Samtalet kom bl a att handla om nya skivan, bandnamnet, lokala byfånen, svenska Truckfighters och det där med att “röka på”:
We don´t get crazy and we don´t do crazy things, we just look for that different perspective of things and it gives you a different thought process, that you maybe wouldn´t put yourself in otherwise. I mean, stoner rock music is called stoner rock for a reason. I don´t know what it does to the old neurons, but I dig it!
What´s going on?
Brandon: We´re chillin´out in New Orleans. We´ve got a couple of days that we were able to spend here and it´s the last day tomorrow. We´re soakin´it all in! A few days off and we had to experience some debauchery. (laughs)
How long did it take to come up with the name Crobot and is it the words crow and robot put together?
Brandon: Actually it´s not that cool of a story, but coming up with a band name is like the worst. You´re trying to find something that you´ll fall in love with or something that can really tell what the band is. We were searching around and nothing was sticking and we had some pretty cool other ideas, like Robot Johnson, I think was one and that was pretty cool. Then we had Dirtbox and a few other cool ones, but nothing that really stuck. Then (Chris) Bishop was hanging out with his buddy and said “I´m trying to come up with a name!” and one friend said, “Well, what do you guys sound like?”. Bishop answered, “Well, we´re kinda riffy like Crowbar and we use robotic effects.”. Then his friend went, “What about Crobot?” When we first started, we were a lot sludgier and heavier and then it definitely evolved into something a little more on the groovy side of Crowbar. It´s Crowbar and robot. And what better place to talk about Crowbar, than right here in New Orleans?
You guys come from Pottsvile, Pennsylvania, and as I understand it, it´s a pretty small town with about 15.000 people?
Brandon: Yeah, it´s very small! We´re not actually from Pottsville, but it´s the only place people can relate to when we talk about where we´re from. We´re actually from a place that´s even smaller than that and I´m from a place even smaller than that place. (laughs) I come from a town with about 20 houses and that´s not a lie. We definitely all come from small roots. I´m actually the only guy from Pennsylvania. Bishop is from Tennessee and the Figueroa brothers (Jake and Paul) are from New Jersey. Right now we´re collectively all in Pottsville, whenever we are “home”.
Well, you´re on the Wiki page for Pottsville and that´s pretty cool!
Brandon: That is pretty cool! I did not know that! (laughs)
You´re among the celebrities that have come out of Pottsvile.
Brandon: (laughs) That´s awesome! I have to check that out.
The album´s called “Something supernatural”. Have you ever come across something supernatural in Pottsville?
Brandon: Oh yeah! There are quite a few, we call them minions. The street urchins, if you will. You´ll see some supernatural stuff. There´s this guy called Jesus Joe and he´s one of the town crazies. Crazily enough we were having breakfast one day and Jake and a few of our buddies went outside to smoke some cigarettes. While they were standing out there, a car just shot off the road and went on to the sidewalk and boogieing down the sidewalk and going pretty fast, from what I understand. This guy Jesus Joe was on the sidewalk and as this car was coming down the sidewalk, he pushed a toddler out of the way. It was almost like he was Superman, you know. (laughs) That´s just one story that comes to mind, but there are a lot of those. A lot of haunted history and a lot of tales of certain roads. There´s this place, it´s not really in the Pottsville area but in the general area of central Pennsylvania and it´s this road called Gravity Road. They say that a bus full of cheerleaders went off the side of the road and they all died. If you go to this road now and push your car in reverse, it looks like it goes down, but even though you put it in reverse, it actually goes up. It´s like an optical illusion or something. That´s another cool story! There is a lot of Native American mythology. A lot of that culture is around. And the Amish are pretty supernatural too! (laughs) Then there´s the Susquehanna River and I think they believe that the body of John Wilkes Booth (Lincoln´s killer) might be in it.
How did you end up working with Machine (Lamb of God, Clutch) as producer?
Brandon: That´s a crazy story in itself. We played SXSW in Austin about two years ago and we had a deal with Wind Up Records (US) at that point and they set us up with a showcase down there. It was one of those gigs where there were maybe 15-20 people in the crowd, but to us it doesn´t matter if there´s 5 or 5.000, we still put on the same show. Machine lives in New Jersey, so when he went to Austin he had all of his alarms, for the bands he was supposed to go see, he had them set on east coast time, so when he went to Texas all his alarms were messed up. He accidentally caught our set and after we played, he approached us and he said, “I don´t know who you guys are and I don´t know where you´re coming from or what your deal is, but I really wanna work with you guys! I´m really diggin´what you guys have put down and we really need to have a conversation about putting an album together!” It was like one of those “Wayne´s world not worthy moments” Oddly enough, before that, in February, we were sitting at my kitchen table, the four of us, because the label said that we should start thinking about producers we´d like to work with and Machine was the first guy we put on that list. It´s really a lot of synchronicity that has worked in our favor. It was a crazy occurrence! We hung out with him the whole week at SXSW, checked out bands with him and really got a sense of who he was as a person and not only looking at his track record and all the awesome bands he´s worked with. We knew that he understood where we were going and the sound that we were going for, but getting to know him on a personal level made the sessions and the studio so much more comfortable. We were able to joke around with each other and yell at each other. It was really a comfortable experience for us. Machine is part of the family now and we´ve evolved as a band from working with him. “Earth rocker” (2013) and “Blast Tyrant” (2004) are some of our favorite albums of all time and he continues to build that track record that´s just geared towards our sound. We had a blast working with him and we still talk to him on a regular basis and we still meet up with the guys that helped on the album. Alberto, the engineer that we worked with is an awesome guy and we call him our next stepdad. Working with Machine really made us evolve as a band and understand our strengths and weaknesses, we put our sound under a microscope. He really helped us progress and didn´t sacrifice our sound, which is most important. We think we´re doing something a little different and we don´t wanna change that and he certainly wasn´t trying to stear us in any direction that we didn´t wanna go in. It was really cool to put to bed, all the warnings of an overproduced album. We´re also a live band and that´s our bread and butter and to try to capture that on a record is mostly a hard thing. We´re super excited about the product.
You have a really cool looking artwork for the album. It kinda resembles Clutch´s “Earth rocker” a bit?
Brandon: Actually, the person that does all of our artwork, is Bishop. He does everything from our t-shirts to album covers and he´s also done a piece for each song as well. What we ended up doing with that is that we sent his pieces away to get animated, much like the Queens of the Stone Age videos that came out right around release time. That´s what we did with Bishop´s artwork and for every song there´s a visualizer as well and when the album comes out, we´re gonna have a video album to go along with all the songs and you´re gonna be able to watch it from start to finish. It´s really a cool thing to have such a masterful artist in the band. It adds more to the atmosphere of what we´re all about. The dude free hands drum heads in the van while going over bumpy roads at 70 mph and it just comes out in one shot and looks incredible! He´s super talented, so there will definitely be more things to come with that. He and I are throwing ideas around for like a graphic novel sort of thing. I don´t wanna say graphic novel, but it´s gonna be something different that we´ve never seen before and we don´t even have a name for it. Stay tuned for something like that, but it might be a year or so till it surfaces, but it´s definitely something that we´re into.
Will that include music as well?
Brandon: I´m sure that it will lead to other things, but mostly just delve into the stories of the songs that are already there. Every song is a concept inside a universe of characters that I´ve created and with the graphic novel it´s just a further exploration of the inner visual stories of the songs and the characters involved and the crobot universe as a whole. It´s really gonna unveil a lot of the stories, it´s almost like a modern mythology.
When are we gonna see Crobot on the cover of the magazine “High Times”?
Brandon: (laughs) I don´t know, but were trying really hard and we´re practicing a lot. We´re ready! (laughs)
You toured with Truckfighters. Did you teach them to smoke?
Brandon: Those guys don´t smoke! They had some inner turmoil in the band with that and I think that sort of spooked them a little bit. They´re pretty strict when it comes to the marijuana. We tried though, we definitely tried. (laughs) Those guys are awesome! Jake still has Dango´s socks and he´s been trying to sell them on eBay. (laughs) I think they had a good time. They were a blast!
Smoking weed is kinda part of the American culture and it´s not as common over here in Sweden, for example?
Brandon: One thing that we had to get used to when we were in the UK, was that they smoke spliffs. They put tobacco in everything. When we rolled joints with just straight weed, everybody´s like, “Holy shit!” (laughs) It was something to get used to. I don´t smoke cigarettes and I´m not a big drinker either. It just doesn´t agree with my body and it does really dry out my throat. It (weed) just makes everything better. We came up with a great slogan last night, “A bag of weed and Sriracha (hot sauce) are very similar in the fact that they just make everything better.” (laughs)
Does the smoking help creatively?
Brandon: Most definitely! Not that we´re not creative when we´re not high, it´s just a completely different perspective and that´s something that I will always search for. That´s another reason why I´m into hallucinogens. We don´t get crazy and we don´t do crazy things, we just look for that different perspective of things and it gives you a different thought process, that you maybe wouldn´t put yourself in otherwise. I mean, stoner rock music is called stoner rock for a reason. I don´t know what it does to the old neurons, but I dig it! (laughs)
I smoked in college a couple of times and I remember one time when my buddy stayed up all night, naked with his underwear on his head, playing guitar and trying to write songs. I just got really heavy in my legs, went to bed and then I became really paranoid for a few days and thought the cops were out to get me.
Brandon: (laughs) Wow! I had a similar experience when I first started. Bishop is the only one of us that doesn´t regularly smoke, because it just gives him such a bad anxiety. When I first started I had similar experiences and I think it´s the building of a tolerance. It´s strange. The one thing I will say about America, as you said it´s part of our culture and we´ve really seemingly analyzed it to the fact, that in Denver you can go into a dispensary and say, “This is the kinda high I want!” and get that. Certain strains will affect everyone differently and it that sense, some strains will give you anxiety and some will make you paranoid. The cool thing about the future over here of the weed science, is that you can walk into a store and say, “I want to be creative, I don´t want to be lazy and I wanna have a very good head high and be alert and don´t get anxiety!” and they´ll say, “Ok, how about the Agent Orange? Or how about this Blowfish?” It´s cool and that´s the part of the culture that I really enjoy. Finding those strains that I really like and those strains that really do make me feel creative. It´s much like beer advocates. You´ve got this big micro brewery explosion going on and people are making their own beers and home flavors. Eventually weed´s gonna turn into that on a grand scale and places like Denver are really on the forefront of that process.
Did you have a 60´s/70´s upbringing or was all this a way of rebellion?
Brandon: My parents were so awesome all the time! I would drink as a teenager and my dad was like, “As long as you you´re not driving anywhere and staying there!”, but I didn´t really smoke weed in high school. I wanted to try it when I was ready for the side effects, if you will, but I started smoking in college and I remember that first time. We parked the cars far away from where the dorm rooms were, so we had to take the bus back and I remember smoking with my roommate and just laughing the entire bus ride and once we got there, I turned to him and said, “Dude, I don´t think I can get up right now and walk to the front of this bus without falling over?” I was super high, freaking out and I hated it, going, “I´m never gonna do this again! I gotta go to sleep and sleep it off!”. Even though I said I hated it and I was never gonna do it again the first three or four times, I charged through, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, which was the end of the joint as well. (laughs)
Can we expect to see Crobot over here in Sweden?
Brandon: Absolutely! We´re trying to get over there and you´ve got the coolest fucking bands out there! Graveyard, Witchcraft, Truckfighters and Blues Pills! They´re awesome! We certainly wanna get out that way shortly. Rumor has it we´re gonna be out there some time next year.
Av: Niclas Müller-Hansen
Foto: Therés Stephansdotter Björk