Just around last spring, a spur of the moment decision to cover a low-key rock show in New York City immediately became my one of my all-time favorite experiences as a music writer. In the sweaty barrels of the legendary Webster Hall, this Pennsylvania act known as Crobot turned the Big Apple into Robert Johnson’s crossroads and reignited my sense of optimism for the future of rock n’ roll. In an effortless fashion, these four young musicians embodied the riff-rattling chord progressions of early Aerosmith, the soul-bearing funk of Stevie Wonder, and the ’90s heaviness of Rage Against The Machine. I’m fortunate enough to cover a plethora of live shows but Crobot’s ability to merge the exhilarating thrills of vintage and modern rock demonstrated something euphoric and transcendent that is severely missing in music nowadays. This band embodied an organic innocence that touched upon the feeling of discovering Black Sabbath for the first time. There were no magic mirrors or gimmicks involved; Crobot came fully prepared to sweat out every ounce of their bluesy energy for the twenty-something attendees. Think about how many bands would mail in a performance by the shear sight of a small audience, meanwhile, this group proceeded to jam away as if the apocalypse were bound to occur tomorrow.
Only a year later, I’ve already seen this band perform five times as very few music acts consistently perform with such blissful abandon quite like the boys in Crobot. Whether it’s headlining a small show at the Brighton Bar or opening for Volbeat at the Hammerstein Ballroom, each band member relentlessly hurls their body across the stage once the opening notes of “Legend of Spaceborne Killer” shift into full gear. The experience of witnessing vocalist Brandon Yeagley strut across the stage like a primetime Elvis Presley or bassist Jake Figueroa completely immerse himself to the stampeding rhythms is worth every single penny. Let me also mention how guitarist Chris Bishop invokes Hendrix style emotion in his note selection as he swings his guitar across his body or how drummer Paul Figueroa adds a massive layer of groove by holding down such a ferocious backbeat.
There’s an old saying that goes, “Hard work pays off.” This exact quote defines the rise of Crobot in the mainstream rock world. The years spent mastering their craft in the clubs of Pennsylvania and New Jersey paid off after the band inked a deal with Wind-Up Records. Just last October, the band released their first full-length LP Something Supernatural and the train has been rolling at full speed ever since. Honestly, it’s been a very long time since a hard rock record left such an indefinable mark on me quite like Something Supernatural. After teaming up with renowned producer ‘Machine,’ the band created a 12-song masterpiece that fully captures the essence of their live sound and spans across several genres including hard rock, heavy metal, funk, and blues. In my opinion, tracks including “Legend of the Spaceborne Killer,” “Cloud Spiller,” and “Wizards,” sounds like the continuation of a rock n’ roll blueprint established in the 70s, revived in the early ’90s, and recently dusted off for a much-needed reconstruction. Whether you’re a fan of Led Zeppelin, Alice In Chains, or Red Hot Chili Peppers, Crobot’s charisma pours through the speakers because there’s life, hunger and most importantly, soul. And better yet, the band is already gearing up for a highly anticipated follow-up as we speak.
For those who believe rock n’ roll is dead, Crobot is the middle finger to the naysayers. As I previously mentioned how I saw them perform in small clubs, this band has since opened for heavy hitters including Volbeat, Anthrax, and will share a bill with heavy metal royalty Motörhead on the upcoming Motörboat cruise ship. On behalf of Pop-Break, a few of us have interacted with the band over the years and we not only recognize their special talents but we also appreciate them for being class acts. Their success is beyond well deserved and we could personally attest how very bands possess the inner-drive to lash out infectious jams quite like Crobot.
For anyone in the streets of Gotham, Crobot is set to headline The Studio at Webster Hall on Wednesday July 15th. Take advantage of this opportunity – this show cannot be missed, as I believe the group is destined for much bigger venues in the near future. In an exclusive interview with Pop-Break, I spoke with Crobot vocalist Brandon Yeagley for a must-read conversation about the band’s transition from the underground to international recognition. Believe me; keep your eyes glued to the screen as we also discussed a range of topics including the writing process behind Something Supernatural and the early seeds for the band’s next LP.
Take us through the last two years of your life. Have you been able to process all that’s been happening or even reflect upon all the opportunities coming about for this band?
You know, honestly, it’s crazy to think back over the last two years. Even to think back over the last year, to start our first major tour with The Sword and Clutch, it just seems like years ago since it’s happened. Bishop and I started the band back in 2011. After the whole period of going through the member changes and trying to find our groove and trying to play as many shows as we could, we found our identity as a group. Once we got the Figueroa Brothers, everything started snowblowing like crazy. I think it was January 2013 when those guys moved into my house and slept on my couches. We showcased for Wind-Up records a month later and we ended up inking up a deal with those guys eight-months later. In the meantime, we furthered the recording process while we waited for the deal to get done. We continued to just road dog it. We recorded the album and than I think we went on the tour with Clutch. We been touring the wheels off this van and we’re just trying to keep this train rolling. It’s pretty wild to think of everything that happened.
Once the Figueroa brothers joined the band and you played the Wind-Up Showcase, is that when you realized you had something special at your hands?
Oh yeah, definitely. We have always worked really hard. We wouldn’t have stopped regardless of anything with the labels or whatnot. We would’ve kept things rolling in anyway we could. Once we got those guys on board, I don’t know if it was the energy but the heavens sort of opened up for us and crazy stuff just started happening for us. I’ll backtrack a little bit – it was February of 2013 and we were sitting at my kitchen table. We said to each other, “You know what – with this whole Wind-Up thing going on, let’s just make a dream list of producers. We have no idea what’s actually realistic or affordable but let’s conjure up some names and see what happens.”
The first name we came up with was Machine. We went to South By Southwest and played the Wind-Up showcase that they had set up. We were on a roof and there were 20 maybe 30 people in the audience. After the show, this guy approached me to say how he was a huge fan of what he just saw. He had no idea who we were. He had no idea if we had a label or management or anything of that sort. It was actually Machine. He said, “I don’t care what it takes, I want to work with you guys. I don’t know who you are. I really like what you guys are doing and I love what I just saw and I really want to work with you guys.” It turns out that he was actually there accidentally. He’s an East Coast boy just like us and he had all of his alarms set for east coast time. Once he got to Texas, all of his phone alarms went haywire. He ended up at our set an hour earlier than expected and accidentally caught our Wind-Up showcase. It’s just a crazy occurrence. If that didn’t happen, I don’t know who we would’ve worked with. It’s a crazy thing to think about.
Even down to how Wind-Up found us, they were looking at some sort of contest we entered to play – it was for the Grammy’s or something like that. Our video was mixed into this playlist and one of the guys at Wind-Up, one of his buddies told him, “Hey, check this contest out. My band is on there so why don’t you listen to our stuff out and let us know what you think?” He went to check out his friend’s video from this contest and our video just happened to be next. He heard it, walked back into the room, clicked the back button and said, “What the hell was that?” He found all of our videos and that’s how Wind-Up discovered us. For all the crazy things that happened to us, it’s been a lot of luck and a lot of being at the right place at the right time. It’s also been us working our tushes off (Laughs) but a lot has happened over the past two-years (Laughs).
That’s absolutely mind blowing to think about how you came into contact with Machine. Your showcase at South By Southwest, I think the full show you mentioned is actually on YouTube.
We played a couple of shows that weekend. The rooftop show you mentioned was another one that we played during a Sony showcase. I think we played a matter of four shows and we only played the first two days of the festival that year. But yeah, we did another showcase for Sony and that’s the video you were talking about on YouTube. That was a very fruitful year for us and it was an amazing experience.
You mentioned how Machine recruited you regardless of management or being signed to a label. Once this collaboration came to fruition, which of Machine’s suggestions were most critical in taking your sound to the next level? What was the most difficult challenge or welcoming advice he provided for you from a vocal standpoint?
You know what, his animation in the room was enough to inspire us sometimes. I think he really honed us in. During those moments where we would get too much of something whether it was too bluesy, too sludgy, or too much stoner rock and it wasn’t benefiting the song per say, he really focused on making stronger songs as opposed to us being Willie Nille and really throwing it down without thinking about it. And that’s really cool sometimes because that’s where the best ideas could come from. He did a really good job of honing us in.
Speaking for myself, having him right next to me when I laid out the vocal tracks; that was something really cool to experience. I have never laid down vocal tracks like that. It’s always a very stale environment and it’s sort of like sitting in the fishbowl and looking out and you could watch everyone’s mouth move without quite knowing what they are saying (Laughs). You could really get hard on yourself sometimes because you don’t know what’s going on. However, the way he recorded my vocals – he was right there next to me and there was no separation. It was just the both of us in the room and we would talk about different ideas. The way he analyzed every little detail was really cool. He would pick apart my lyrics and say, “What does this line mean? How does it benefit the rest of the story?” It was a great experience all around and he was so good at feeding into what we’re about.
Working with bands like Lamb of God and Clutch, you definitely know stepping into there as Crobot, he understands what we want and what sound we’re going for. We knew he wouldn’t pull us in the wrong direction and not the wrong direction necessarily but a direction we didn’t see fit. We knew he certainly had our best intentions in mind and I don’t think we could’ve worked with a better producer. Once we go back for round two, it’s going to be another great experience. We have learned so much from being in the studio with him and now going back into writing mode is definitely a better process for us. We definitely became a stronger band because of working with him.
Do you think Machine’s back and forth communication for your vocal tracks was critical in maintaining the full essence of your live sound? The album sounds so loose and it’s like hearing the band perform in person. It doesn’t suffer from any issues like the loudness wars.
(Laughs) That’s awesome and that’s what we want to hear. It’s so hard to get to that point especially during the recording process. It’s always something that we found lacking per say. It’s so hard to capture the live element of who we are as a band. So yeah, I think his presence had a lot to do with it. I will say – the monitor mix that he had in my headphones was sick! I have never heard my voice the way he had my monitor mixed. It was like every little slap of saliva in my mouth – I could hear loud and crystal clear. It was incredible. It really helped me focus on my technique and really hear what was going on inside my throat. It was really wild and mind-blowing. On top of that, we actually went back once the tracks were done and recorded again in the live room. All the guys got into the live room and set their amps up and we played along to the tempo map. That’s a layer on top of what you are hearing on the album. Some of Bishop’s solos were even done that way. I think that really helped as well. Machine had seen us quite a few times before we went into the studio and that was so crucial for us.
You touched on this before – you guys have performed a handful of new songs during this last tour. Some of those songs surfaced on the deluxe edition of Something Supernatural but will any of the other tracks appear on the next album?
Yeah and yeah (Laughs). Some of the songs are on the deluxe edition and we might’ve played all of the songs off the deluxe edition but I think we played two brand new songs as well. We got a little bit of both in there. I think we’re trying to get into writing on the road as well. Our period of writing has been so few and far between since we’ve been on the road and haven’t been home too much. We’re trying to adapt to the situation. We’ve been writing a little bit out here on the road and those new tracks you heard – we wrote during those little packets of a week here or there that we had at home and could lock ourselves in the jam shed. We love to write and that’s our castaway almost. Once we come back, we seclude and hypnotize ourselves and release the jams. We’ll lock ourselves in the room with a few beers and a few joints and go to town. We’re really excited about getting back into the writing shed. The songs you heard – I think we played everything. We played “Full Moon Howl,” “Back at the Blackwoods,” “Weigh Me Down” and “Upon a Pale Horse,” which are all off the deluxe edition. We also played two new tracks “Huntress of the Thrones” and “Welcome To Fat City.”
Since you’re still touring behind Something Supernatural, the actual title “Something Supernatural” correlates with lyrical themes about mythological legends. Take me through the lyrical inspiration behind songs like “Chupacabra,” “Wizards,” or “La Mano De Lucifer?”
I think it’s one of those things where I listen to a song and Bishop usually has a really good way of putting me into a place when I hear his guitar tracks. I think it depends on what I’m into at the time. It’s kind of a snapshot of where my mind is at the moment. “Chupacabra,” it’s always been something I found very intriguing because it’s a cultural myth but it’s so different in each culture. Every culture has their own version of the “Chupacabra.” It’s one of those ever-escaping beasts.
“La Mano De Lucifer,” was one those songs that had picked up and put down a few times, which we’re not really used too. We usually try to work on songs that are very free flowing and we tend to feel those are our strongest tracks. “La Mano De Lucicfer,” we kind of digested it for a little while. We joke around about it, “Oh, everyone says you have to write a ballad at some point.” “La Mano” was our attempt at writing a ballad. To justify that, I had to make it about the devil (Laughs)! But really, we’re not religious by any means but I just think the devil is the greatest protagonist in literature. The whole story of the devil is something I’ve always been fascinated with.
Songs like “Wizards,” that song came from one line of a description from this old 1970s cartoon called “Wizards.” I was thinking about this plot between a wizard of technology and a wizard of organic/old knowledge so to speak coming to battle each other. It would be a battle of epic proportions. I stumbled upon this cartoon called Wizards, which was so much of a coincidence. I read the first line of the description and I forget what it was exactly but it was pretty much the plot that I had thought of in my head. I have yet to watch the movie from front to back but it’s just weird.
“Legends of the Spaceborne Killer,” was something that just rolled off my tongue and I just ran with it. There’s a hodgepodge of different ways of sitting down and writing the lyrics. We’ll be in the jam shed and maybe I’ll say one word that I think fits into a certain place where I said it and nothing else will sound as good as that word. I’ll try to base something around the word I like.
Like I said, “Legend of the Spaceborne Killer,” just rolled off my tongue. Sometimes it takes me a little while though and I’ll have to really dig into a song so I could get it to take me somewhere. Sometimes it’s a little tricky dealing with on the fly inspiration but I think it’s better that way. It’s true to who I am. I’m not one to wear my heart on my sleeve when I write lyrics. It’s definitely buried deep in there if it’s even in there. I love Neil Fallon from Clutch and the way he tells a story is magnificent. I’ve always been really captivated by his lyrics. Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age is so fucking clever as well (Laughs). He’s so punny and clever and I love his lyrics as well. I think I bounce back and forth between Neil Fallon and Josh Homme for inspiration of lyrical sorts. It definitely depends on the circumstances for where the inspiration comes from.
That cracked me up when you mentioned the inspiration behind “La Mano De Lucifer” (Laughs). You mentioned how “Legend of the Spaceborne Killer” rolled off the tongue but would you say “Skull of Geronimo” or “Cloud Spiller” came from similar moments of spontaneous inspiration?
“Skull of Geronimo,” I was really into Native American mythology at the time, which I still really am and always will be. That’s like my A number one go-to source and I’m really fascinated by Native American mythology. It certainly something that hits home for me. For “Skull of Geronimo,” I was in that mindset and I was also in a conspiracy theory mindset. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the ‘Skull and Bones’ but there’s a secret society based out of Yale called ‘Skull and Bones’ and there are claims that the country’s elite are pretty much seated and grown in this ‘Skull and Bones’ secret society within the college. To be initiated into the ‘Skull and Bones,’ you have to kiss the “Skull of Geronimo,” which some of the alumni claim to have stolen from the grave of Geronimo. That’s sort of where it all came from. “I come from a long line of those who give the blues,” is poke of fun at the elitists of the country being put wherever they want to be. “The Skull of Geronimo/ The key is the kiss once you take hold,” that’s pretty much where that one came from. “Cloud Spiller” came during the same time period. I was really wrapped up in Native American mythology and it’s kind of a hodgepodge between different Native American stories, which I believe the main one is called Cloud Spewer. It’s a different story altogether. I kind of took the main character and put it into our own storyline – this lady of the lake sort of storyline. It’s my look on that with a Native American twist.
One of the reasons I loved Something Supernatural was the album’s musical diversity. Is it just natural for you guys to blend all these different styles and influences together? Whether it’s incorporating funk, blues, classic rock, or metal, you make it work and pull it off.
I honestly think we’re products of our environments. We grew up listening to the same bands but very different ends of the spectrum of the same stuff. Bishop grew up listening to Lynyrd Skynrd and Cry of Love (the band) and very southern twangy rock. We all up grew up listening to that stuff as well but he was really deep into that stuff whereas I was more into the Dio stuff, Uriah Heep, and Corrosion of Conformity. I was more into the fantasy end of things there. The Figueroa Brothers – Paul is a huge fan of Grand Funk Railroad and Jake likes Santana a lot. We pulled all these influences from the same place but their different ends of the spectrum put together in a song. I think we’re really good at tug of warring with the different styles. I think we have the ability to meet in the middle in parts where sometimes a track will go funky but perhaps the vocal melodies will have a classic rock vibe or a metal vibe. We kind of meet in the middle of what Crobot is and I think we just let it out.
When we started the band, we just really wanted something that we didn’t have to think about too much. We didn’t want to try to be anything that we’re not. We just sort of let it all hang out once we get up there. We’re not reinventing the wheel by any means and that’s for sure but it’s definitely who we are. It’s real, it’s organic, and this is who we really are as people and who we really are as music fans. This is the music that we want to create and have always wanted to create. Fortunately for us, we have a group of guys with awesome chemistry and I don’t think things will be dry in the writing area anytime soon. I don’t see us going into any kind of sophomore slump. We went into the first record with 50 songs and I imagine if we get the time, we’ll just keep ripping stuff out.
We’re also not just influenced by old stuff either. We love Clutch, The Graveyard, Truckfighters, Monster Truck, and there’s a lot of really cool bands out there. Only Living Boys, we’re great buddies with those guys and Only Living Boy has definitely influenced what we do. Especially when we were back home and just playing shows with those guys all the time, we kind of went back and forth in friendly competition – very friendly competition. We saw what those guys were doing and we were like, “Hell yeah! Those guys are really taking things to their spectrum so we have to keep writing and find our end of our spectrum.” I think we’ve really fallen into something that’s really good.
I was at the Brighton Bar show recently and saw both of you (Only Living Boy) perform. That was one of my favorite shows I’ve seen in a long time – just two young rock bands with such powerful sounds.
We love playing with those guys. It doesn’t feel like a Jersey show unless we’re playing with Only Living Boy. Hopefully we could swing things and make it a full American tour or even abroad with those cats. We would love that for sure. Those guys are family to us and it’s always great to play with those guys.
I remember when you guys played Saint Vitus last summer and the guys from Volbeat and Anthrax were in attendance. You eventually toured with both of them on a national scale. Have both bands embraced you guys and took you under their wing?
It was a long time in the making for us. Rob Caggiano from Volbeat has been coming to see us play for probably a year and a half now. Our booking agent is really good friends with him so he would come watch us play and drink with us all night (Laughs). After a longtime of being acquainted with him and eventually developing a friendship with those guys; we played live with them once and Michael Poulsen– the singer of Volbeat – finally got a chance to see us and it was a done deal for him at that point. Once he saw us live, he was like, “Yeah, you guys are in.” Frankie from Anthrax has come to see us quite a few times. They’re such sweet guys. We met Joey Belladonna at Shiprocked. We’ve had different introductions with each of the guys at some point.
In terms of exposure, the Volbeat tour was such a massive opportunity to expose your sound in front of unfamiliar audiences.
Yeah, it’s insane. This was our first arena tour and we dove right into it head first. We roll with punches and we’re going to knock them down. We have a “Fuck it” attitude. Whatever happens, “Fuck it, man” we’re here and we’ll roll with it. We can’t thank those guys enough for taking us out with them. There were thousands of people and I can’t wrap my head around it (Laughs). Thinking about where we were two-years ago, it just blows my mind that we’re here already. It really blows my mind. We still have a lot of work to do and we know that but we’re going to keep showing up. It’s slowly building and it’s our essence and who we are we people and our souls just take us out here. Give us three days at home and we’re ready to get back on the road by the fourth day (Laughs).
You guys received a shout out from Jim Florentine on That Metal Show, opened for some huge bands, and now you’ll be appearing on the Motörboat and playing alongside Motörhead. I think this recent turn of events is a definitive statement for everything you’ve been working towards.
I couldn’t think of a better year for us. Honestly, I really couldn’t. Things just seem to be getting better. The funny thing for us – we’re in the van the whole time. We have no sense of what’s going on out there until we show up to a venue and see how the people react. When you show up to Lithuania and people are singing every word to all of your songs, it’s absolutely crazy to think about how we only signed our deal three-years ago. It is such a fortunate thing that we found the beam in the sky and we all met. We’re going to keep riding it out man.
Crobot performs on July 15th at The Studio at Webster Hall along with WILSON, Mothership and Chasing Carmen. Click here for tickets.