Photo by Charley Crespo
Reaching For The Sky:
The Brandon Yeagley Interview
Crobot frontman Brandon Yeagley talks to Dr. Music about funk, falling, and a future gig on the moon.
I had to do some quick homework to prepare for this one. Crobot, a raw hard rock band out of Pennsylvania, was something very foreign to me when I heard I would be talking with their charismatic frontman, Brandon Yeagley. Having just heard their first full-length LP, Something Supernatural, I was excited to learn more about the quartet. As I took to Google and YouTube I came to find even more raw energy than I found on their impressive debut. I saw live performances that had Yeagley twirling and swinging the mic stand like a young and pale James Brown, while his three bandmates lay down a crunchy groove just a tad smaller than the Grand Canyon. I saw candid band interviews injected with plenty of humor and conviction. I got the feeling that these guys live and breathe their band and each other. The fact that each guy has a fellow bandmate's face tattooed on them is pretty damn convincing to me. At the beginning of this interview, I felt like I was ready to ask some good questions to a guy that I was just getting to know, but already liked. And now, as I sit here after talking to the respectful and well spoken Yeagley about everything from funk to Wal-Mart, I have tremendous respect and admiration for the person that he is, as well as the musician. Yeagley had a vast knowledge of a wide range of music that came way before him. His mention of a great, but little known 90's band called Cry Of Love told me I was dealing with someone with an ear to the ground. His growing up with Corrosion Of Conformity's kick ass Deliverance album as a "go to" was another thing that explained a lot. Yeagley is a "student of the game," an explorer. His ears are open, his eyes are wide, and his head sits squarely on his shoulders. After our conversation, I have no doubt that Crobot and Brandon Yeagley will be around for a very long time.
Dr. Music: Hey Brandon! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today!
Brandon Yeagley: Hey Scott! No problem!
DM: I hear a Chris Cornell vocal style, mixed with the funk metal groove of Rage Against The Machine, mixed with the raw indie attitude of bands like Clutch and Monster Magnet. How would you describe Crobot music for someone that's never heard the band?
BY: I'll tell you what, you hit all of those in there. They are all definitely an influences on what we do. You can pretty much say any rock band that came out of the seventies, and you'd be right in saying that they have influenced us in some way - the Zeppelins, the Sabbaths, Dio. I personally take a lot of influence off of what Dio has done, both in Sabbath and in Rainbow, and of course his great solo career on top of that. Clutch, like you said. Monster Magnet, I grew up listening to them. Corrosion of Conformity, another one in that vein, was definitely a huge influence on me. I remember, Deliverance was one of those albums that my mom used to have in her car, and it was sort of like a "go to" CD when I was a kid. You definitely hit the nail on the head with all of those bands.
DM: I should really ask you the most important question first. When can I get some Crobot hot sauce?
BY: (laughs) You know what, to be honest with you, I'm actually out myself. We just got a new batch in, so we'll definitely have some hot sauce with us on these next couple ventures. We got a new flavor coming out too, I think in February we're going to be releasing that. We had a fan competition to design the new label for the hot sauce, so we're gonna be rolling that out with some really cool things in February - maybe some bonus tracks, nudge nudge, wink wink. (laughs) Stay tuned for that!
DM: What one song would you say sums up what Crobot music is all about?
BY: You know, I gotta say "Skull of Geronimo". That song, to me, is everything that we can do in a nutshell, and absolutely from start to finish, what we're all about. Keeping the head bobbing, the groovy riffiness to it, and at the same time being sludgy and doomy, and meanwhile, things about conspiracy theories and the occult. So it's definitely what we're all about. I think "Skull of Geronimo," in a nutshell, pretty much sums up the Crobot sound from spectrum to spectrum. Every song that we have has its own little place for me, but I'd have to say "Skull of Geronimo" is the "nutshell" track.
DM: That's so great to hear, because I know it will always be in the live set! That's my favorite Crobot tune.
BY: Yeah, nice! We're on the same brainwave there!
DM: What are your thoughts on streaming services like Spotify, and is it a profitable thing for a band like yourself?
BY: I think it's really a double edged sword. Personally, I'm a huge fan of Spotify. I always thought that I grew up in the wrong era, and maybe Crobot happened in the wrong era. With tools like Spotify and other streaming services, I definitely had a chance to really dig into music on the whole and find some really obscure bands from the seventies. And even today, I'm still finding bands that I'm really into, that I probably would've never heard of had it not been for my ability to just be able to browse through Spotify and other services and find some cool things that kind of got swept under the rug a little bit. So in that aspect I think it turns a lot of new people on to a lot of new and different music. It's definitely an avenue you can't travel otherwise, and certainly the radio won't take you there. the new generation of media and music listeners definitely has a lot broader of a selection. I think you can really individualize your tastes in music much more so today than ever. On the same topic, is it profitable? No, not really. We haven't been seeing much monetary value to the Spotify thing, then again we're a very small artist. Even so, to us it's all about new people hearing the music, and getting it out there. We don't really care about how you hear it, just as long as you hear it. Even if you're sailing the seven seas of piracy, that's cool with us too. I gotta speak from personal experience. Sorry to the artists that I've done the wrong to but I was just too broke to afford music, and that wasn't going to stop me from finding new stuff and really satisfying my taste for new obscure things. So, I think it's a great thing. In itself, it's not a great way to pay the artist, but maybe that formula needs to be reevaluated and maybe that will balance the scale a little bit. To me it's valuable, even if it's not numbers and currency. It's just about hearing the music.
DM: Here's a hypothetical situation for you..... Chris Cornell announces that he's retiring and won't be recording anymore. Kim Thayil calls you and asks you to join Soundgarden, to tour and record in Cornell's place on a full-time permanent basis. Do you quit Crobot and take the gig?
BY: No. No, absolutely not. For me, it's all about the brotherhood. I gotta say honestly, if it weren't to affect the schedule of Crobot then I'd maybe considerate it, as long as the other guys were cool with it. But, no, we're a team. It's all about that chemistry and being able to work so easily with four people. I enjoy the hell out of it, every day. I got Bishop's face tattooed on my shoulder too, that's how committed we are. We all got tattoos of each others faces on us. So, it's for real, you know. It's definitely a brotherhood.
DM: A big corporation offers you a big payday to use one of your songs in a new ad campaign, what are your thoughts? What about getting a company to sponsor your tour so you can keep ticket and merch prices low?
BY: If you were to ask us that about 40 years ago, we would've held the old John Lennon way and said "f" the man, "f" the corporations, and we don't want to be in that company. But today, I think people are a little more lenient on the fact of hearing music on TV and things. People have become a little more welcoming to it. It's another way that people can hear your music. And honestly, in today's industry and world, it's something that keeps you afloat too. When that check comes in it's definitely not a bad thing. And actually, the people over at iTunes and Apple are pretty cool. Now, if you were to say Walmart we might have to think a little bit more about that, even though AC/DC did their whole thing with Walmart. That's just a testament as to the way things are now today as compared to long ago. AC/DC did an exclusive with Walmart. (laughs) I still love AC/DC. I still think they're some of the baddest rock and roll mofos of all time, and that doesn't take a niche to their prestigiousness at all to me. I think its an okay thing, especially nowadays.
"We're a live band at
heart, that's our bread
DM: What was Machine's approach as a producer? Is he a guy that just does magic on the board with the sound and let's you play the song you wrote, or is he a guy that will transform what you bring him. Will he ask you to add verses and a bridge or does he just more or less play with the recording process?
BY: Well, I will say every avenue that you just said there he has definitely had a hand in. But the thing about working with Machine was, we really were ourself and we didn't sacrifice the sound of the band by any means. He definitely had open ears to everything that we had to say, as did we to what he had to say. It was a really cool experience for us and we definitely learned a lot about who we are as a band, and what are strengths and weaknesses are, and that's really what he played off of in the studio. He was very animated about things if we hit something right. Or, if we hit something wrong he was just as animated in a different way. But it was a cool experience, and we really fed off each other's energy. We're a live band at heart, that's our bread and butter. When we get in the studio we get anxiety to hear the final product because we just want to keep that rawness, that one thing that separates the live show from the studio is very hard to capture most often than not. So, when we were getting into the studio with Machine, we definitely knew it would be a comfortable situation for us. Working previously with bands like Clutch and Lamb of God, his track record is there. Not only that, the way we met machine is synchronicity at its finest. Machine's from the East Coast, as are we, and we played SXSW two years ago. machine had the alarm set on his phone for Eastern Time, so when he showed up in Austin, Texas to check out bands that week, his timers were all messed up and it accidentally brought him to our set one day. After the show he approached me and he really like the band. He told me how he'd love to work with us, even though he didn't know anything about us, not even if we had label support or management or anything of the sort. Luckily we were at our label showcase, so everyone was there that we needed to keep the ball rolling. So our team got right on it, we kept the conversation rolling, we hung out with him that entire week at "South by" [SXSW], and we had the talk of when are we going to do this, when are we finally going to get in the studio and make this happen. We were really comfortable, personally, being around Machine. We definitely trusted all of our tunes in his hands when it came to the chopping block. It was a comfortable situation.He also did some really unorthodox things in the studio, especially for me as a vocalist. I'm so used to being in the vocal booth and it just being such a dry experience for me, I'm in a fish bowl looking out, waiting to hear what everybody else has to say about what I just did. With Machine it was so different. He was 6 to 12 inches away from me the entire time. He was in the room with me. We were bouncing ideas off of each other. Whether it be a word in the lyrics or a tweak on the melody - I often go off on little blues riffs in my melodies, so he really reeled me in and it really strengthened the songs, very much so. I definitely appreciate the microscope that Machine put all of our songs under. It really made for a great cohesive and structurally sound album from front to back we feel, and we couldn't be happier with it.
DM: We have to talk about the video for "Nowhere To Hide." Great stuff! Most artists hate making videos. What's your take on the videomaking process, and did you really fall like we see it in the video?! You take a nasty spill!
BY: Yeah, I really fell. I had to do it a couple times, too. (laughs)
DM: It really looks vicious!
BY: You know, I've been doing it for so long, I can make it look so easy. (laughs) Falling is one of the things I'm good at! (laughs) They just laid a towel down for me and I just took a couple trips and we went from there. (laughs) That was a really cool experience for us. It was two days in Lake Carmel, New York and it was up to about our shins in mud, and it was really cold. The conditions were miserable, but we made the best of it. We had a great crew, and we didn't stop joking around the entire time so, it was a blast.
DM: You guys like to form songs and make music while your together in the same room. A real old school approach. As things get bigger for you, that approach might become more difficult. I see so many bigger bands that barely know each other. They don't see each other until they hit the stage, and then they go their separate ways until the next show. The garage days, the days of hacking out songs together in the same room are long gone. Is that a concern for you at all, and how do you plan on keeping that cohesive bond within the band?
BY: I think at the end of the day, we're still going to be like what we built this band on - the fact that it's something we just love to do, and we don't really think about it too much. We just sorta get out there and do it. I think, as long as we continue to write for ourselves, we're huge Crobot fans. It's really what we wake up for everyday. We really have that chemistry, and it's really easy for us to just get in a room and jam. We went into the Something Supernatural recording sessions with about fifty songs. We definitely have a riff pile that continues to stack up. And, this week we just finished writing two more songs. We always keep the creative juices flowing, and at the very least we'll have riff piles to pick from in the coming years.
You can visit Crobot online at www.crobotband.com