Crobot recently rolled into Chicago roiling crowds, opening for Anthrax and Volbeat. Yet despite being pretty young in term of band years, the rockers took to the stage with a swagger and reinvigorating confidence. If there is any doubt that rock may be on life support in the face of button pushing, Brandon, Chris, Jake and Paul are the force of rock righteousness. When they hit your town, do yourself a favor and get back to good ole guitar-driving, harmonica-laced rock.
In sitting down with the dudes backstage at the Aragon, the interview kicked off with what’s been on the mind of my girlfriend each time she hears the songs off their stellar album.
What is in the hand of the Spaceborne Killer?
Brandon Yeagley: It’s something that just rolled out of my mouth when we were jamming the song and it stuck. Always been a fan of Godzilla and Pandemonium horror sci-fi flicks.
Chris Bishop: But if you had one guess, what would you think it’d be?
Brandon: We don’t know. No one really knows.
Paul: It’s definitely something.
Brandon: It’s probably PCP. [laughter]
Chris: I’m gonna go with meth pipe as my answer. Final answer. Tin foil.
If there ever was a legend of hidden gold on a desert island, and you had to fight off attackers and mazes in jungles to reach it-like the Goonies-who would be other musicians on your team to reach that gold?
Brandon: I would say these guys. We know each other so well that I feel like we wouldn’t have to talk.
Chris: And we would recruit Zakk Wylde.
Paul: I was going to say good ole Bruce Dickinson because he knows how to fly planes.
Chris: I was thinking about Bruce Jenner. [laughter] You know to spice it up a bit! Variety! You wouldn’t be able to catch him!
Brandon: He’s more aerodynamic now.
How’d you pick up harmonica? Where’d that come from?
Brandon: I’ve always loved “The Wizard” and Black Sabbath putting a harmonica in a riffy-ass song. I thought that was so cool. It’s like a lost art anymore. Just the ways it pulls the spectrum and adds bluesy rock’n’roll. It’s hard to fuck up a harmonica since it’s in the right key, mostly. I play cross harp so I play it a little differently. Just an interest in it, for sure. I started playing the harmonica 3-4 years ago.
When did the rest of you pick up instruments?
Chris: When I was 9, I begged my mom for a guitar for the rest of the year until my birthday. She got me one. It was because Chattahoochee was everywhere. I really loved that song when I was a kid. That’s the reason I got a guitar.
Paul: It was in 4th grade elementary school. We got to pick an instrument for the first time. I really wanted to play drums. My mom was like, “No. You’re not playing drums.” She didn’t want me to grow up, grow my hair long, join a rock band and all that shit. So I started playing trumpet instead. I started playing drums when I was in high school. I joined a punk rock band when I was 15 years old. I had a bunch of money saved up from a summer job, so I bought a drum set. I was playing trumpet and trombone by day, and punk rock drummer by night.
Why do you play bass up so high?
Jake: Because I usually get really high before I play. [laughter] That’s why I play high, because I am! It’s really because the bass I was mainly playing was an old EB-3 and top heavy. Every time I let go, it would just fall. I’d have to hike it up, but that didn’t work. I can rest my arm on it, so that’s where it rests.
What were the first bands you were in?
Brandon: I was in a 3-piece cover band in high school. Somebody called the cops on us one night when we were playing a gig. In Pennylsvania, you can’t be under 18 and playing in a bar so we got shut down until we all turned 18-which sucked.
Chris: First band I was in was in middle school, we played a talent show. It was me and 3 other guys. Our name was “4-20”. They announced it over the speaker. Everyone in the school heard it and somebody told the school. So they made us change the name to “Steinhoff,” which means Rock On in German.
Paul: My first band with Jake was called Phonics Monkey. We were a local punk rock band. When I went to college, we went our separate ways. When we went back to New Jersey, we jammed with a bunch of people after that. We started another band called Thick Leather Brick. That’s the band that led us to these guys. We started playing shows together.
We were based out of Jersey, and they were central PA. There aren’t a whole lot of cool rock bands to play with in that area. We met each other through those channels.
Chris: Have you ever heard of Parlor Mob? We went to one of their shows one time. We were trying to hit our demos off like young kids do. You know-small bands. We handed our demo to the guitar player. He said, “You guys need to play with these guys.” He gave us a thing he produced. They were awesome, so we played with those guys. Us three bands started to play together and slowly kicked out the rest of Crobot.
Jake: The first band officially was Phonics Monkey. We change the name a couple of times. It was Amber Alert for a short period of time. [laughter] The logo was the sign of a person crossing a crosswalk holding the hand of a kid. [laughter] We called ourselves Band-er-snatch for a week. Megan’s Law came out so we came up with the name Spying on Megan.
I like how you had to wait till you were 18 to play, and back then you probably couldn’t play in front of high schools or schools with that.
[laughter] Jake: We were playing this bar called the Phone Booth down the street. Our first show was when I was 13 years old.
Jake: We used to come up with fucked up names.
Chris: Rod Johnson and the Peckerwoods.
Jake: Turbo Cobra. Dragon Zero. That’s going to be our strobe people anime band. It’s going to be awesome.
What’d your families say when you signed to Wind-Up?
Chris: Ahhh, they didn’t understand! I didn’t try to go into detail. I told them that it’s legit. But there’s how many times I told them that I was going to be in a big rock band and nothing happened.
Paul: My mom was the exact opposite. She thought I would be playing huge shows in a month. She thought she was going to turn on the TV and we’d just be there. She didn’t get it, but thought the polar opposite way. She gets it now.
Brandon: It justified a few years of cleaning toilets for a living. “See? I told you! I told you!”
Chris: My brother is super excited. He thinks it’s really cool. I can tell he gets sorta pissed off when my mom, who’s a rock chick. She’s super excited, super proud of me. He’s like, “Well, what about me, who finished college? Who’s a contribution to society?” He’s cool. He makes a joke about it.
What did Machine bring to the table? How’d you choose him?
Brandon: A month before we first met Machine, we sat at my kitchen table. We’re like, “Alright, we just signed a record deal-which we never thought would happen. Who would be the dream guy to work with?” Fast forward a month later, we were playing SXSW with maybe 15 people in the audience. He was one of them. Apparently he set his alarm for Eastern time, and we were in Austin so all of his alarms were messed up. He was early, saw us, and was blown away. “I don’t know who the hell you guys are or if you’re signed. But I dig it. I want to work with you guys.” We hung out with him the entire week. Got to know him, check out a bunch of bands that week. After that, we scheduled studio time. It was a very comfortable situation. He’s worked with Clutch, Lamb of God-some of our favorite records.
Chris: Every Time I Die. Really cool shit.
What were your impressions of SXSW?
Brandon: The first year was awesome. We played two shows early in the week so we just partied for four days straight.
Chris: The second one was pretty cool. It’s super corporate and very touristy now.
Paul: It was fresh to us the first time around. The second it was glaring.
Chris: It’s sort of just a pain in the ass to be honest. [laughter]
Brandon: It’s not really our scene either. It’s a lot of indie.
Chris: But there’ll be a random stoner rock nights in one club. There’s only a couple of us. We did have one really awesome show right on 6th Street in the window of Bird’s Eye. The street was packed. The club was packed.
Brandon: Somebody walked up to me in the last two weeks and said it was the first time they ever saw us.
Chris: That was one of the shows that I remember saying we kicked the shit out of it. I was so happy we made a great impression on so many people.
Brandon: I feel we had a smaller stage than this room.
Paul: We were playing on this crappy, tiny drum kit.
Chris: I have to say, I’m excited to go back into clubs. We have such an energetic band that packs a punch. When you have a huge stage, you have all the production. It’ll be more fun. It’s easier to get into autopilot on arena shows.
Brandon: The drives can be hectic.
Chris: Can you imagine if we didn’t have a driver? I feel like shit right now. I’m so tired! [laughter]
Paul: I didn’t even realize we had to go on stage today. I have stage clothes that I put on. These guys get up and are ready to go. They’re like, “We’ve got five minutes to get on stage!” I was a total zombie today.
Chris: I feel like I played decent tonight.
Well Brandon did hop on your shoulders.
Chris: Last night, it was almost really bad!
Brandon: We were talking about that. “Do you have health insurance?” ’Well no…so let me jump on Bishop’s shoulders.” [laughter]
You have a hot sauce?
So one, did you try waffle chicken and how’s it playing in Louisiana?
Brandon: Both are great culinary experiences.
Chris: We went to this one Hooter’s in Louisiana. We had the dumbest girl in the entire world. She asked me, “Why are you bald?” I said, ‘I dunno-maybe my bad genes.’ And she thought I was talking about my jeans. [laughter] When we were leaving, she was like, “Hopefully you get some better jeans!”
Brandon: The food though. I would eat myself to death in New Orleans.
Chris: We go to this really touristy place and I don’t even care. It’s Chupacabra on 6th Street.
Is that where that song comes from?
Chris: Nooo, they have great margaritas. We saw this place the first time we were there. I always get their pork tacos that I love with pineapple salsa and a vinegar-based slaw. We do that or hit up Ironworks or BBQ.
But we just love hot sauce. We really wanted our own hot sauce. This dude Harry makes it with habanero and jalapeño. I try to sling it at the end of the night. I give people a taste of hot sauce!
What’re you looking forward to next?
Chris: Motorboat’s gonna be fun. Our next tour is gonna be fun. Our European tour is going to be awesome. Writing the rest of the second album. Tomorrow. The day after that. The day after that.
Paul: Four days from now.
Chris: …is going to be awesome!