San Diego BTW Crocodiles evoke Jesus & Mary Chain, VU, and the Spacemen 3 with their stripped-down, dark noise-pop, but the duo is one of our favorite new bands because they write super songs, not because I’m obsessed with Darklands: It’s one thing to own a good set of influences, another thing entirely turning them into a kick-ass collection like Summer Of Hate. Vocalist/programmer Brandon Welchez and guitarist/synthesizer player Charles Rowell are here today because Welchez works as a substitute teacher at a Special-Ed school and Rowell works in a bakery. After our discussion, take another listen to them working together on “I Wanna Kill.”
STEREOGUM: How long have you been subbing?
BRANDON WELCHEZ: I’ve been subbing at a private special-ed school for 5 years. I started as a regular teacher’s aide with a class load and schedule of my own but I was late or calling in sick really often because of music. I knew that I was on the administration’s shit list, so I had a talk with my boss and explained myself and sort of apologized. I figured I was about to be fired, so it’d be smart to leave on as good of a note as I could so I could still try and use them as a reference. When I explained everything to my boss, she was really cool and told me that I was good at the job and she could probably get me included in the sub pool. She did, and I’m lucky because I would have been either telemarketing or flipping burgers this whole time otherwise.
STEREOGUM: How often do you go in? They call you now and then, as needed?
BW: I go in everyday that I’m home or haven’t had a show or something the night before. There are a ton of employees, so there is usually a class load for me to cover. If for some reason no one is absent, I float around and cover people’s classes for a period or two at a time so they can catch up on paper work and whatnot.
STEREOGUM: Have you ever worked a full-time teaching job?
BW: Well, for the first six months I was there I was technically a full time teacher but I was realistically only there like four out of the five workdays at the most because I was busy with music stuff.
STEREOGUM: Do you have an Education degree?
BW: No, I dropped out of college before getting a degree but I had enough classes under my belt and enough experience with children that I was hired. Since it is a private school there is different criteria for getting hired. I had already worked with kids for a few years and I guess I seemed intelligent enough at the interview that they weren’t bothered by my lack of a degree. Mind you, I don’t get paid nearly what the people with Master’s degrees or even Bachelor’s get paid. You go through a really rigorous training where you learn all the philosophies and methods that go into working with developmentally disabled people and then it’s basically a baptism by fire. You shadow someone else while they are teaching and slowly you start to take over for them. After about a month, you have your own class load.
STEREOGUM: Can you explain the school some?
BW: We serve a wide range of students with special needs.There are many different theories on how to best educate people with developmental disabilities and our school’s philosophy (based on research of course) is that the most effective way to adapt behaviors and to educate children is through positive reinforcement. We have a really long track record of success and it’s really cool to see it work with the kids. It’s rewarding to see an autistic child who arrives at our school unable to speak eventually be able to say full sentences or use an electronic device to effectively communicate. Or to see a kid with a serious conduct disorder, who automatically distrusts us or is violent with us — what most people would associate as a “bad kid” — graduate our school a generally likeable person who is able to hold down a job, have relationships and live independently.
STEREOGUM: How many students usually per class? And you teach whatever they happen to need teaching?
BW: There are a few different programs at our school that serve children with different needs. For example, there is a program for higher functioning children who maybe have mild autism or a conduct disorder. In this program there is much higher focus on academics then there is in other programs where the focus may be on more basic life skills like cooking, grooming or basic money management. For the lower functioning students, sometimes teaching things like being able speak or properly communicate feelings and needs is the focus. It is all pretty individualized for each student. The parents, administrators, case managers and doctors work out education plans together for each student.
Typically a class is three children. As the philosophy of our school is positive reinforcement, small class sizes allow the teacher plenty of time to praise students for doing the right thing. And as some of our students have pretty intense problem behaviors, small class sizes afford the teacher the ability to deal directly with a problem without ignoring a huge class.
STEREOGUM: Any particularly memorable teaching moments?
BW: Oh man, ha ha — so many. I’ve been punched in the face, bit, spit on, and called every name in the book. There have been a lot of gnarly experiences and a lot of really positive, rewarding experiences as well.
STEREOGUM: Have you ever found a way to bring your music into the classroom?
BW: Definitely — with the higher functioning kids, just being into music or knowing how to play an instrument is a fast track to building rapport with them. If I can talk to a kid about NWA or Tupac or the Beatles or anything like that, it instantly makes me more likable and in turn makes it more rewarding for the student to try hard and perform well for me.
There is a cool music program too that a good friend of mine teaches. They have a full set up and Pro Tools and they write and record songs and score the video yearbook. When he is absent, I cover his classes and other times he and I will jam with the kids or play the instruments while they sing. In the summers we have a camp and I usually run the music portion of it.
STEREOGUM: Do you model your teaching approach off of any teacher you’ve had in the past?
BW: Not any one particular teacher though I do find that I’ve adopted some of the mannerisms of teachers I liked in school. I just try and maintain a good sense of humor and treat all the kids with respect.
STEREOGUM: What kind of teacher are you? I mean, how do you imagine your students describing you — taskmaster, fun, etc.
BW: I think they regard me as one of the cooler teachers because I’m young and into music and joke around with them but I’ve never taken a poll. And since I’m a sub they usually have to do less work than normal so they probably associate me with that as well. They always tease me about my clothes and hair and stuff too, so I’m probably regarded as one of the funnier looking teachers.
STEREOGUM: How long have you been at the bakery?
CHARLES ROWELL: Since 5am this morning! No, but really since August of 2008.
STEREOGUM: What’s it called?
CR: Bread & Cie (Cie stands for Company in French).
STEREOGUM: Is it an old-school sort of place or newer?
CR: It opened in 1996, which seems like yesterday, but it was in fact quite a while ago.
STEREOGUM: What are your duties?
CR: I arrive at 5am, do a whole lot of prep, like brew coffee, prepare bread, stock bread, clean the espresso machine … amongst a lot of other shite.
STEREOGUM: What are some of the specialties? Is there a specific theme, or whatever?
CR: Well, the owner is an older eccentric fellow who has some very wacked-out ideas at times (Like a hangover cure to add to the menu that involved an employee applying whip cream, old wine, chocolate chips, peanut butter and etc into a customers mouth, it didn’t catch on) but he has designed the place to be pretty spot on to what a European cafe in France would appear like. Half of the bread is cooked on site by me and a nice lady named Lorrena and another fellow named Javier. There is a massive amount of pastries and desserts that are baked every morning and sent over from the wholesale factory. It is really special I suppose and it is busy from dusk til dawn. The oven is gigantic and it was sent over from Japan literally in little boxes.
STEREOGUM: Any regulars of note?
CR: An incredible amount of regulars! I would say more than half of the customers are. There are judges, doctors, lawyers, freaks, moms, tourists, grumpy French families, bizarre old Italian musicians, and very cool Yugoslavian dudes. I know all of their orders too. Most know me by name. We get a lot of artists that don’t work and spend their whole day at the cafe eating warm black olive bread with sides of olive tapenade and olive oil and sip Moroccan Mint tea.
STEREOGUM: Do you ever eat Twinkies or other pre-packaged fare?
CR: I don’t like Twinkies but I do like Rittersport (DEU) bars, Yorkie (UK) bars, and Tasty Cakes (USA).
STEREOGUM: So you aren’t sick of baked goods?
CR: Not at all. We have loads of really unique soups, sandwiches, and salads. The chocolate croissants are incredible too. Obviously if I ate our bear-claws and cinnamon rolls every morning I would get fat but I don’t, in the morning I usually drink two cups of English Breakfast tea, eat our granola that we make at the bakery, with yogurt.
STEREOGUM: Any recipes you can share?
CR: I have sworn to not tell anyone any recipes.
STEREOGUM: How do you get flour out of your clothing? Any tips? It can be a bitch.
CR: Yeah, because I work so early in the morning washing my uniform (silly baker hat included) is the least of my concerns.
STEREOGUM: Do you have a background in baking? If not, how did you decide on/end up with this job?
CR: I was drifting from job to job — tuxedo waiter, Greek olive slinger, graphic farts, but then one day I broke down and realized that it would probably be cool if I just asked my sister for a job at the bakery, because she is a manager there. I started, trained and kind of fell into the position, pretty simple.
STEREOGUM: Do you ever bake at home?
CR: I don’t, unfortunately, I leave that aspect at the cafe, however I do eat a whole lot of bread.
STEREOGUM: Has your job at all informed the music you make in Crocodiles?
CR: No, it’s just a bakery. I am like the Dunkin Donuts commercial guy.
03/18 – Austin, TX @ Emo’s Outdoor (Fat Possum SXSW Showcase)
03/20 – Austin, TX @ Ballistic Missle Day Party (SXSW)
03/22 – Austin, TX @ Beerland
03/23 – Hot Springs, AR @ The Exchange
03/24 – Tulsa, OK @ Soundpony
03/27 – St. Louis, MO @ Cafe Ventana
03/28 – Lexington, KY @ CPR
03/29 – Richmond, VA @ The Triple
03/30 – Washington DC @ The Red and Black
04/02 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
04/03 – Philadelphia, PA @ Juanita & Juan’s
04/04 – New York, NY @ Pianos
04/05 – Pittsburgh, PA @ 31st Street Pub
04/06 – Columbus, OH @ Cafe Bourbon Street
04/07 – Kalamazoo, MI @ Papa Pete’s
04/10 – St. Paul, MN @ The Turf Club
04/11 – Iowa City, IA @ The Picador
04/12 – Lincoln, NE @ Box Awesome
04/15 – Baltimore, MD @ Sonar #
04/17 – Asheville, NC @ Orange Peel #
04/18 – Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse #
04/20 – Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live #
04/21 – Austin, TX @ Stubb’s #
04/22 – Dallas, TX @ Granada #
04/24 – Tuscon, AZ @ Rialto Theater #
04/25 – Anaheim, CA @ The Grove #
04/26 – Los Angeles, CA @ Henry Fonda Theater #
04/27 – Los Angeles, CA @ Henry Fonda Theater #
04/29 – San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore #
04/30 – San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore #
05/01 – Portland, OR @ Roseland #
05/02 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox #
05/05 – Denver, CO @ Ogden Theatre #
05/11 – San Diego, CA @ The Casbah $
05/15 – Los Angeles, CA @ Spaceland
# w/ the Faint & Ladytron
$ w/ Spectrum
[L to R: Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell]