San Diego’s Crocodiles are all yours tonight, D.C. But two weeks ago, they were mine for a night, playing a dazzling show in front of an eager crowd in Paris. I sat with Brandon Welchez and Charlie Rowell, as they had dinner amid gorgeous sunshine on Flèche d’Or’s patio, in preparation for their RED PALACE SHOW TONIGHT (with THE FRESH & THE ONLYS).
BYT: In honor of this beautiful weather, I thought you could each choose a song of yours that reminds you of summertime.
Brandon: “Summer of Hate”
Charlie: “Hearts of Love”
Brandon: Summer’s in the title.
BYT: Too easy.
Charlie: When we recorded the “Hearts of Love” video, it was a nice, sunny day. Now, whenever I think of the song, I think of the filming of the video.
BYT: So, growing up, what’d your parents play –
Brandon: My dad played soccer.
BYT: Ha. What’d your parents play around the house?
Charlie: Oldies radio, The Righteous Brothers, lots of doo-wop…
Brandon: My dad listened to 50s and early 60s rock ’n’ roll, and he also listened to a lot of Spanish music. My mom listened to 50s and 60s, but also, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow…guys like that.
BYT: I think middle school years are a significant time in people’s lives for music.
Brandon: I agree.
BYT: Were there any bands that you remember loving really hard?
Brandon: The Sex Pistols in 7th grade was the band that changed the course of my life, for sure.
Charlie: My dad had a really big record collection. So, there was every kind of music imaginable around. But, definitely, middle school was when I started to take an interest. There was always a record room in our house.
BYT: A record room…
Charlie: Yeah, dedicated to his records.
Brandon: His dad had fucking thousands and thousands of LPs.
Charlie: Middle school was when I asked for a guitar, when I started to actively hang out in the room with him, you know? It was his sanctuary.
BYT: When did you two meet?
Brandon: It was in the late 90s, and we were teenagers. In San Diego, there used to be a lot of Nazis that used to go to shows and beat people up. So, there was this loose organization of kids, and its motivation was to defend ourselves against these guys and enjoy shows again. But also, through that, we got into politics. Living in a border town, we got into immigrant rights…gay rights, police brutality…We would just organize benefits, protests, and shit like that. Not us personally, but we were part of something bigger.
Charlie: There’s a venue called Ché Café on the UCSD campus in San Diego, and we both began spending a lot of time there, because they had a lot of great shows. That’s how we met, just hanging out and volunteering at the venue.
BYT: When did you realize you had similar tastes in music?
Charlie: The first time we kissed.
Brandon: The first time we slept together was when we really realized how much we had in common. No, I mean, we were both already playing music – bad music – but still playing music, and I went and saw his band play. I didn’t really know him, but I thought he looked cool. I was instantly attracted to him.
BYT: Love at first sight.
Brandon: Yeah, in a platonic way. Like the way you might have been attracted to people who are friends of yours now.
BYT: A platonic way, after you slept together.
Brandon: Well, when I say slept together, I mean we shared a tent on a camping trip.
Brandon: Yeah. I stole him from his band. He started playing in my band.
Charlie: I played in both of his bands.
Brandon: We broke both of those bands up and started a new band that was our vision.
Charlie: Through the years, we’ve always seen eye to eye. We’ve been on the same wavelength – no pun intended.
BYT: How did the recording of “Summer of Hate” differ from that of “Sleep Forever”?
Brandon: When we first started, as we’d write a song, we’d go to our friend’s house and record it with him. So, I think “Summer of Hate” has a cool, scatterbrain aspect to it, because it was recorded in the span of nine months. We’d write something, record it, and we’d be done with it. Whereas with this, we wrote everything before we recorded it, demoed it, then, we were able to sit and listen to the demos, and then, we recorded it for real with a producer.
BYT: How was it working with James Ford?
Charlie: It was great. He’s very knowledgeable, really easygoing. He’s a good kisser….and he was able to reproduce the sounds we could only describe obtusely.
Brandon: He has a lot more technical know-how than we do, you know?
Charlie: We’re a little bit wary of letting someone else into our creative zone, but he fit in like he was a member of the band. It was good.
BYT: How do you two work? Who does what?
Brandon: We both do everything. He’s written whole songs, I’ve written whole songs. He’s written lyrics that I’ve put the music to, I’ve written lyrics that he’s put the music to. Just everything…we work on the art together. If one of us writes a full set of lyrics, it’ll go through an editing process with the other one. It’s the same with a song. It’s very loose.
Charlie: We help ourselves and each other create something and eventually have our names attached to it.
BYT: You’ve been touring for a long time. Do you have a favorite place to play in the States?
Charlie: There’s a place in Birmingham, Alabama called the Bottletree that’s a great venue…It’s always exciting to play The Bowery Ballroom in New York.
Brandon: San Francisco, in general. Our shows are fun there. Also, Empty Bottle in Chicago.
BYT: What is it about these places? Is it the space itself?
Brandon: It has to do with the space and the staff. Most clubs treat you decent, some clubs treat you like shit, and others treat you really, really special. And the ones you remember, like Bottle Tree, are where the minute you walk in they treat you like a friend, with a lot of respect. They take care of you, make you feel comfortable and want you to have a good time.
Charlie: San Francisco crowds are just fun.
Brandon: They’re not so shy. Some cities are just really shy, you know?
BYT: How’s Europe been?
Charlie: It’s been great.
Brandon: France and Italy are really good.
BYT: The crowd?
Brandon: Czech Republic and Poland, as well.
BYT: You’re playing in D.C. soon. How do you like it there?
Charlie: I love D.C.
Brandon: Are you a Washington Redskins fan?
Brandon: I guess you don’t love D.C. that much.
Charlie: My dad is from there. He was born in D.C.
Brandon: We both Fight For Old DC.
Charlie: Yeah. We Fight For Old DC.
BYT: You’re on a plane, and it’s about to crash – yet you have time to hear a song. What do you listen to?
Charlie: The Walker Brothers’ “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore”.
Brandon: Probably the same…or “Dream Baby Dream” by Suicide.
Charlie: That was my other one.
Brandon: And “Bird On A Wire” by Leonard Cohen.
BYT: Which one?
Brandon: Any of those three.
BYT: You can only pick one.
Brandon: I don’t know…I’d listen to a third of each one.
BYT: You know how people ask about spirit animals? Who’s your spirit rapper?
Charlie: Ghostface Killah.
Brandon: Kool Keith.
BYT: I really respect the lack of hesitation on both of your parts.