INTERVIEW: Brandon Yeagley of CROBOT

Three years have passed since we last heard new music from Crobot. But with a new lineup and label (Mascot Records), the Pennsylvania-based band hasn’t missed a beat. Its upcoming fourth album, “Motherbrain” (Aug. 23, 2019; pre-order here), is its best work yet, packed with the grooves Crobot fans know and love, but also sporting a darker, heavier sound, mixing ‘90s grunge with classic rock influences, plus a little bit of the funk sound the band has embraced from the beginning. Four days before the record’s release and two days prior to the start of a run of special album release shows in the United States, vocalist Brandon Yeagley spoke to Live Metal’s Greg Maki about “Motherbrain,” hot sauce and more.

LIVE METAL: It’s a big week for Crobot—release week. The new album, “Motherbrain,” comes out on Friday. How are you feeling right now—excited, nervous, some combination of those two?

BRANDON YEAGLEY: I think it’s more happy anxiety than anything. When you’re really proud of the product, I think it’s not necessarily any sort of bad feelings. Thankfully, we’re really proud of the record and can’t wait to just get it out there so people know the songs that we’re playing in the set. (laughs)

Yeah, because you’ve been playing shows all summer, right?

Yeah, yeah. We never shy away from playing new material, no matter how many weird looks we get. (laughs)

What is the meaning behind the album title, “Motherbrain”?

“Motherbrain” started out as a demo song. It was a song title, and from the time of that song’s inception, we were like, “Man, that’s a great name for the album,” just because I think that’s a good synopsis of what this record is to us and what it means to us. We’ve had a little bit of a hiatus, and we’ve got a new label behind us, and it’s kind of a rebirth for us. So “Motherbrain” was just something that stuck. Thankfully, I kind of force fed it into one of the songs, into the lyrics of one of the songs, and it fits. I think it just kind of sums up the last couple years for us. We really think this is kind of like an afterlife for us, if you will.

Between the previous album and this album—I guess during that hiatus period you mentioned—there were some lineup changes in the band. How did that affect this new album?

It’s been so easy to write. (Guitarist Chris) Bishop and I, we never really stop writing. The silver lining in the time we had in between the last record and this record is we just had so much time to write and really become better songwriters. It was a lot easier to get in a room together and have no boundaries, no walls set up and just write whatever came out. This album really is a best-of the demos. It’s fun again.

It’s kind of interesting to hear you say that, because as you’ve said before, it’s a darker album. Also, to me it sounds heavier and just bigger sonically. Were those all conscious choices you made?

Yeah, conscious, but at the same time, I think that’s just kind of how everything fell into place. Like I said, we’ve written so many songs for this record, and we went through all different phases. Like, a week of demos, 10 songs sounded like Dio, and then the next week, it was like these sound kind of like ‘80s synth pop—what happened there? And then all of a sudden, we’re into the Soundgarden and Melvins, the ‘90s grunge influence. I think that’s just where the album fell into place, kind of furthering the songs that delved a little deeply into the ‘90s grunge sound. Working with (producer) Corey Lowery lent its hand to that, as well, ‘cause he’s such a melodic musician, and he really pulled from those influences. It’s great to have a fifth member, like Corey was, in the sessions. It really helps when you have close to 100 songs to be able to have somebody else say, “No, I like this one.” It just kind of fell into being a darker album for us.

I guess kind of following along with that, the lyrics are more reality based. There are no wizards or monsters. Does that, like I said, just go along with the darker theme?

Yeah. And I think I definitely paid attention to that this time around. Usually on the whole, there’s some sort of story arc or conflict that goes on in the records. They’re not necessarily chronologically concept albums, but there is a concept in the record. “Something Supernatural” was very otherworldly, and “Welcome to Fat City” was another planet, and now “Motherbrain” is back to Earth and back to reality and all the things that are a part of being human.

You’re also doing some different things vocally on this album. Through a good portion of it, you’re singing in a lower register than we’ve heard on the past couple albums. Is that you just wanting to explore what you can do and expand?

Yeah. And I think time has just made us better songwriters and made me a better songwriter, and working with Corey has definitely upped our game in those regards, as well. I love the past material, but sometimes it’s easier for other people to sing along, certainly, when I’m not singing like a dying cat all the time. (laughs) We definitely wanted to take things to the next level while still maintaining our identity, specifically my identity as a singer. I also wanted to make things more digestible, make things a little bit catchier for anybody to be able to sing along to.

All of these songs, I’m sure, are your babies and very close to you, but do you have any favorites that really stand out to you?

Yeah, “Alpha Dawg.” “Alpha Dawg” kind of stands out like a sore thumb on the record, but we couldn’t have a Crobot record without having something funky on there. It’s my favorite song we’ve ever done, because I got to take a hard left turn into the Frank Zappa, George Clinton influences that I hold near and dear. I’m always a fan of the funkier stuff. I think this record as a whole and individually song by song is the best thing, the best songs that we’ve ever written. But I think “Alpha Dawg” has topped my list from this point forward being my favorite track that we’ve ever done.

Starting this week, you’ve got about 10 shows here in the U.S., album release shows. Are you going to be doing anything special at these shows?

Yeah, we’re gonna be playing a lot of new material—not that we haven’t been for the last couple months. We’re gonna test the waters on some of the songs from the record that we haven’t played yet. We usually like to throw in a cover that we learned for tour, so I know we’ll be pulling something out of that bag, as well. It’s just gonna be cool to get out there and finally have the physical copy to be able to present to people. It started out as let’s have a show here in Pennsylvania, let’s have a show in New York City, and then we were like, maybe we should do one in Jersey, too. Then we got a call to do a festival, Taste of Madison. WJJO invited us out to do the festival, so we might as well play some shows on our way out.

Along with the new album, you’ve got a new hot sauce, Motherpain, coming out. Are you into hot sauces and spicy foods and stuff like that?

Absolutely! That’s where this whole hot sauce thing came from. This is our fourth different flavor of hot sauce. It just started out as a way to be like, “Hey, how can we get free hot sauce?” (laughs) We were like, “Oh, we’ll make our own hot sauce. That way we’ll have an unlimited supply.” It’s caught on, and everywhere we go—whether it’s here in the States or England or Europe—everybody always asks us about the hot sauce. So we just kept it going. (laughs)

So how hot is it?

Honestly, I have yet to try it. I can’t tell any fibs and say that I tried it. We were a little concerned that it wouldn’t be spicy, because we’re all about the spice, we’re all about having it hot. We saw the flavor profile and were like, “Oh, I don’t know if it’s gonna be hot enough.” But rumor has it, it is pretty spicy. I’m super excited to try it.

What is the spiciest thing you’ve ever eaten?

Ghost pepper jerky. Yeah, 45 minutes of sweating from the eyeballs. (laughs)

That sounds like fun.

(laughs) Always, always. No better way to clear your sinuses.

You’ve got so many things going on, it seems like. The second issue of your comic book, “Legend of the Spaceborne Killer,” is coming out. How did you get into doing that?

Honestly, it just started as something I’d do in the back of the van to pass time. I just scripted out, probably four or five issues right away. I’d go back and revise them and try to tie up the plot holes. It was all just a journey for me to become a better songwriter and storyteller. I’ve always loved comics, but never did I imagine I’d be writing my own comic. But it started as something to pass the time, and we have a local comic book artist here. He would drink at the bar my fiancee works at, and him and I would talk about my ideas, and he was really into it. Sean (Stramara)’s done an amazing job of working with me and bringing the stories to life. I’ve always been a fan of bands that take things to other mediums. We’re not just about the music. We bring our identity to everything. It’s really cool to be able to be on issue two. Like I said, I’ve always been a fan of comics, but never did I imagine that I’d be writing one.

What were some of your favorite comics, the ones that got you into it?

I think my first allowance when I was a kid I spent on “The Amazing Spider-Man.” I bought a lot of “Amazing Spider-Man” comics. I still have them. I’ve always loved Spider-Man. I’m such a terrible nerd, though, because I don’t know the current storylines or where the Marvel and DC universes are at, per se. But what kind of got me back into it was this resurgence of sci fi, altered physics-based realities and altered realities comics. “Federal Bureau of Physics” is a great one. Anything Alan Moore’s ever done, too. I love Alan Moore. He’s probably my favorite comic book author.

There are so many movies being made from comics. Are you into those?

Like I said, I’m a terrible nerd, so I couldn’t tell you the last Marvel movie I watched. I don’t know if I saw the last Batman. I’m just so bad at that. (laughs) My attention span is so short, and the time that I have to actually sit and watch a movie is very limited, as well. Actually, “Guardians of the Galaxy” probably was the last movie that I watched (that is) part of any kind of universe. So I gotta catch up a little bit. 

Yeah, there’s been a quite a few since then. And I guess, especially when you’re out on the road, it must be really hard to keep up with anything like that.

Yeah, it’s tough, unless I prepare for it, unless I download something. And even then it’s fairly tough.

OK, so you’ve got the shows coming up soon. What are the plans for the rest of the year heading into next year?

We’re just gonna tour as much as we can, and hopefully we’ll have some good opportunities to do so. Now that the album’s gonna be released this week, it’s sort of a rinse and repeat for us, which is a great feeling. Being off for so many years and kind of being out of that whole process, we certainly have the itch. So it’s gonna be a lot of fun to get back on the horse and play shows for a while.

Crobot YouTube channel

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