“It’s a bit corny, but sometimes you need to be corny to help a person out.”
Crocodiles may have made their name with noisy garage-pop, but the San Diego five-piece prove more melodic than ever before on their third album, Endless Flowers. There's still a lot of gritty crunch, but the songs are both driving and swooning in the manner of so many underground pop anthems before them.
“We've always written pop songs,” observes singer Brandon Welchez. “I just think it's all come down to production: whether we produce things in a more fucked-up noisy way or whether we do things sort of straightahead. This time around, as we started writing songs and showing them to each other, it became quite clear that we were making a pop record. We hadn't really made one that was so straightahead with this band.”
For all the jangling immediacy of the opening title track and the sleepy romance of You Are Forgiven and Hung Up On A Flower, the album's best songs mingle light and dark both in the music and in the song titles: take Bubblegum Trash, Welcome Trouble and Electric Death Song for instance.
That said, My Surfing Lucifer proves Crocodiles haven't lost their interest in seedy, delirious glam. “I don't think we'll ever completely abandon noisy experimental music,” Welchez reckons. “That's always going to be something that's attractive to us and sounds 'correct' to us, but it's really important to us to have a sense of freedom. That even applies to the strictures we set up for ourselves. We just wanna abandon any kind of rules. Each time we'll try to do something a little bit different.”
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Aside from the sound itself, that something different this time was self-producing Endless Flowers. It happened because they couldn't align their schedule with James Ford (Simian Mobile Disco), who had helmed 2010's Sleep Forever. After some other possibilities fell by the wayside, they worked with engineer Duncan Mills in Berlin, where their European label Souterrain Transmissions is based.
“It became a fun challenge. We approached it as an opportunity to prove something to ourselves, maybe. Now that we've done it, I like it better. I think we'll probably just do it ourselves from here on out.”
It wasn't merely the convenient label connection that brought Crocodiles to Berlin. There were the usual reasons: 1) cheapness; 2) an incredible musical history. Beyond that, it was just the kind of diverse and tolerant city that appeals to the band. “For such a big city,” he explains, “you don't really get fucked with for being a weirdo. There's not much aggression. I never saw one fight when I was there. In any [other] city in the world, all you have to do is go out on the weekend to the downtown and you'll see people fighting in the street.”
Speaking of cities, Welchez no longer lives in San Diego, where he grew up and founded Crocodiles with primary collaborator Charles Rowell. For the past year he's been living in New York with his wife Dee Dee, leader of Dum Dum Girls. “San Diego has a really rich history, especially with punk music. There's always new bands starting that are really interesting. Our whole life infrastructure really is out here. All of our families and old friends. It's always nice to come back, but I'm happy to be living somewhere else at the moment.”
Having cancelled a planned 2009 tour due to a family emergency, Crocodiles hope to tour Australia late this year. In the meantime, Endless Flowers might just alter people's idea of the band. Especially the aw-shucks gem No Black Clouds For Dee Dee, which is exactly what it sounds like: a cheer-up song for his wife. “She was having a pretty bad year,” Welchez admits, likening the song to Buddy Holly's Peggy Sue and Ritchie Valens' Donna.
“It's a bit corny, but sometimes you need to be corny to help a person out.”