Monday, January 4, 2016

Touring, Influences, and New Music: An Interview with Bishop and Jake of Crobot

When we heard that Crobot would be able to take time out of their grueling tour schedule to sit backstage with My Music, My Concerts, My Life before their show with Clutch at Philadelphia's Electric Factory, we jumped at the chance!

Crobot burst onto the scene just a few short years ago and have been blazing trails and touring like madmen ever since. They're on a mission to bring the riff back to rock. Since their inception in 2012, Crobot have released their full-length debut, Something Supernatural, on Wind-up Records and have had a brew don their name. Their live performance is legendary, playing a sound they describe as "Dirty. Groove. Rock." You can hear numerous influences in their music and yet it's unique and new.

Lead singer Brandon Yeagley takes the stage with the swagger of a '70s classic rock frontman, with the voice of '80s metal and the energy of '90s grunge.  Guitarist Chris Bishop oozes riffs and offers them up to the God of Morello.  Still, with all of this, the band would be nothing without their rhythm section backbone of Jake and Paul Figueroa.  Their riff-mission train was pulling into Philly and we were getting the chance to meet them at the station.  Along with them for this ride was the headliner, Clutch, and also Valkyrie and King Snake.


Our staffer, Tom Zonkowski, was coming along with me for this one.  He was reviewing the show (read Tom's review here) and I would be conducting the interview.  Our day was crazy and we were arriving at the venue right as the doors were opening.  There was a line around the corner waiting to get in.  We grabbed our credentials, texted the band, and headed in.  Bishop met us side stage but our credentials were wrong and security stopped us.  Clutch's tour manager was running a tight ship on this one and Bishop disappeared backstage to see what he could do.  A few minutes later he reappeared with All Access Backstage Passes and Bishop escorted us backstage.  We would have the opportunity to speak with Bishop and Jake.  We found a quiet place backstage to sit down and started our interview.

Fran Chismar: How's it feel being kind of like hometown guys coming home like Electric Factory opening for Clutch? Is it surreal?

Chris Bishop: This is our first time here, man. I've seen Clutch here numerous, numerous times. So, yeah, it is sort of surreal. We've got a lot of friends coming out to the show and I can't wait to play.

Fran: The band's still in its infancy. You guys have only been together three years?

Bishop: Yeah.

Fran: (To Jake) You've been a part less than that?

Bishop: 2013

Jake Figueroa: 3 years.

Fran: You guys are still young. This is a huge step pretty quickly. Did you see it happening? Did you know?

Bishop: I don't think so. Some people told us that but everyone likes to butter you up.

Tom Zonkowski: You didn't have that moment when you guys were playing together, looking at each other, and man, this is going to amount to something?

Bishop: I don't know....we have a lot of those moments. I think that's why we're successful. We just enjoy what we do. For me, it was one of those things that's just like, it doesn't really feel real, I guess.

Fran: There was a moment, I guess when you got Jake and his brother into the band that ... Was it an instant change for you? Did you see it?

Bishop: Yeah, it was like a complete change of everything.

Fran: (To Jake) Did they really have to convince you or was it-

Jake: We always used to joke about it because before we were in the same band, our bands used to trade shows. We always used to joke about like, "Oh man, we should do like this...join together like a super group and just get drunk all the time."

Bishop: We never wanted to do it because they didn't want to change such a dynamic in their band. For us, we didn't want to change such a dynamic in our band. Then we didn't give a shit because we're having fun with the other guys in the band. We just did it and didn't give a shit and then it turned out to be a good move successfully.

Jake: So far so good.

Fran: Your tour schedule's pretty grueling. Do you think a lot of your success is based on how much work you put into it tour-wise?

Bishop: I think touring is definitely the biggest factor in us getting a name out there and at least attempting to stay relevant. You got to just keep on moving in circles, moving in circles.

Fran: We were curious about Brandon's voice because that's pretty high- powered and Tom was like, "I lived with an opera singer. He sounds trained because he's got a lot in the tank that he's not-"

Bishop: He's learning it all himself.

Fran: Really?

Bishop: He takes care of himself like that. That's something that you've got to do to have a voice like that and maintain it. I've never once heard him lose his voice.

Tom: Certain singers you can really hear it. He's got at least 3 more gears before he's at full power.

Bishop: Even when he's like, "Oh, I feel like shit. I sang like shit." He sounds no different to me.

Jake: Yeah, I'm like, "Whatever man. It sounded great to me."

Fran: For writing [your songs]—jamming or lyrics first?

Bishop: Jamming. For the most part. I'm sure Brandon has like, stockpiled themes and lyrics ready to go sometimes. For the most part, he writes around our arrangements.

Fran: Do you guys have a whole other set already ready to go? Are you writing on the road?

Bishop: Yeah, we've got a whole album's worth, but we try to go into each record with two albums worth.

Tom: Did you say that your singer has the arrangements all ready? He kind of comes in-

Bishop: No, we all sort of come up with the arrangements ourselves and then he writes the lyrics. He'll be like, "This'll be better here for a certain chorus or vocal part." Then we'll sort of mold it together from that.

Fran: Is the new material much different?

Jake: I don't know.

Fran: Like another musical direction or-

Bishop: No. I don't think it's a different direction.

Jake: (Jokingly) It's all rap, really.

Fran: (Laughing) Yeah?

Bishop: Some electronic themes.

Jake: It's a lot of Wu Tang covers.

Everyone: (Laughing)

Bishop: It's definitely not a different direction. I think there's different moods and feelings and stuff like that. It's not going to sound like a different band.

Jake: Yeah, definitely still Crobot.

Fran: Ok. When we listen to you, we hear what we think are influences, like we hear a lot of bands [like] Wolfmother, Priestess. We're saying like, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath. What are your influences?

Bishop: Clutch is my biggest influence.

Tom: I was going to say, to me you guys have like a third generation of riff rock. It's not like Blue Cheer and Gong and stuff like that. Or even Led Zeppelin. It's what came after that, and what came after that is like a turbo-charged version of the new stuff.

Bishop: Thank you. Yeah.

Jake: Thank you very much.

Bishop: A lot of Rage Against the Machine influence too. That was my era of riff rock. Growing up with that. Then that leads you-

Tom: How old are you?

Bishop: I'm twenty.

Tom: (Cutting Bishop off) I knew you were going to say twenty-something when you said you grew up with Rage. I'm like, "Fuck."

Bishop: Yeah, you know.

Tom: Fuck.

Bishop and Jake: (Laughing)

Bishop: Same with Clutch. Rage and Clutch were my two favorites.  We all grew up with Led Zeppelin and Sabbath and all the classics.

Fran: Yeah, but Clutch is major. Tom actually introduced me to Clutch probably in-

Tom: (Cutting Fran off) I did? (Laughing)

Fran: Yeah, he gave me Blast Tyrant. (Writer's Note: It was actually a different co-worker.  Sorry, Tom.)

Bishop: That's a good one.

Fran: He's like, "You have to check this out."

Bishop: Yeah. "Cypress Grove."

Tom: I didn't really like them until Blast Tyrant. I didn't like the mess of hardcore. Then I got into their older stuff as I went along.

Bishop: That's what happens to a lot of people I think. You get that one song that turns you onto them and then you sort of dive into the other stuff.

Fran: How was it working with Machine? (Producer who has worked with Clutch)

Bishop: Awesome.

Jake: Yeah, he's a nut.

Bishop: We'll be doing the next album with him, too.  I feel like sometimes he's a hard guy to please, but when you do please him there's a nice big payoff. Makes you feel good, so he pushes for the best songs that he can pull out of us. That's good.

Fran: Which band member brings the funk to the music?

Bishop: We all do.

Fran: Is it all of you?

Jake: Yeah, big time.

Bishop: We all love that...that style.

Fran: That's what I like. There's definitely a funk in there. You don't hear it in a lot of riff rock. You may hear blues, you may hear other things. There's definitely an element of funk that is really refreshing.

Bishop: I don't know if that was necessarily something that we thought about. It just sort of with our favorite kinds of music and stuff like that. There's a lot of funk in Clutch. You know what I mean?

Jake: Grooves. It's all real heavy groove I think. You know?

Fran: What are your top 5 of 2015? Top 5 albums? Like what are you listening to right now?

Bishop: For me, I know that Indian Handcrafts.

Jake: I was going to say because we did that top 5.

Bishop: Yeah. I forget the name of the album. Do you know the name of that album?  The new Indian Handcrafts is a phenomenal album.

Jake: [The] new Giraffes is awesome.

Bishop: The Giraffes from Brooklyn.

Fran: How about someone like Baroness with their new one? Are you into-

Bishop: Yeah, I've only heard the one song that they previewed before they released the album. I haven't listened to the full album yet.

Fran: I was really interested in it considering it's a different lineup than their last album after the accident. It's really progressed. I really was surprised. It wasn't quite what I was expecting but really, really good.

Jake: The new Graveyard is awesome. [The] new Clutch.
Bishop: [The] new Eagles of Death Metal was really good. It took me a few listens to get into it, but I've always loved Eagles of Death Metal.

Jake: There was somebody else that released something-

Bishop: Elder. Elder is super awesome. Sludgy, stoner stuff.

Jake: My phone is vibrating on my balls right now. (laughing)

Fran: All right. One last thing, then I'll let you guys go. Tell me about your beer. (SupernaturAle by Double Barley Brewing)

Jake: It's delicious.

Fran: Whose idea?

Jake: I think it was Mark Kirby's idea. (Brewer at Double Barley Brewing in NC)

Bishop: Yeah, he came to one of the first Clutch shows we did two years ago, and he approached us about doing the beer, invited us to the brewery, and-

Jake: We thought we were going to some guys basement setup because we were all hammered too when we first met him. We go to this place and it's this huge, awesome brewery. They got an awesome tap room and everything. Huge, huge tanks in the back. It's Double Barley Brewery. They got a legit setup.

Bishop: It's in North Carolina. Smithville, I think. 11.2% ABV double brown ale. Delicious. One of them, you'll feel it.

Jake: I have not tasted a bad beer from them.

Bishop: Yeah, all the beers are really good.

Jake: Awesome.

Bishop: Yeah, absolutely.

At this point, as we were ending our interview, Tom received a text that Lemmy from Motörhead had passed.  Kind of shocked and in disbelief, I questioned it.  Bishop mentioned that he had heard the same.  Crobot had just toured with Motörhead this past summer.  It was a very somber moment.  Too somber to end an interview with. Especially one that we were so excited about.  We were about to see Crobot take the stage and that was reason enough to rejoice.  Before we parted I asked the guys if they would take a picture with me.  This is what we got:


See you when the needle drops!


More by Fran


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