A Dram Good Time With...
In our opinion the association between Jack Daniels and rock is old and tired and that’s why Simply Whisky feels compelled to re-introduce whisky into the music scene by profiling contemporary bands talking about their interest, opinion and experience of single malt whisky.
Simon and Franchi of Simply Whisky caught up with Brandon, Charles and Marco of San Diego band Crocodiles during their tour of Europe as support to London band White Lies. Crocodiles blend indie rock and noise pop which some have likened to Echo & the Bunnymen, and Spacemen 3. We can also hear a bit of the Ramones and elements of cult pop punk band Screeching Weasel.
“I have whisky nights, where that is what I want to drink, to get fucking crazy, get in trouble and raise hell.”—Brandon
Lubricating the band for their first question Franchi pours a round of Auchentoshan Three Wood. Fresh and fruity with long lasting oaky sweetness this whisky has an unbelievable nose, best experienced when the glass is almost empty.
An unbelievable nose, best experienced when the glass is almost empty!
Dae ye ken?
Auchentoshan meaning "Corner of the field" in Gaelic, is the only Lowland distillery to source its water from the Highlands
American oak bourbon casks finished in Spanish Oloroso and Pedro-Ximenez sherry casks
Malty, biscuity notes, blackcurrant, brown sugar, orange, plum and raisin aroma
Maple syrup and baked apples in a vanilla, butterscotch and caramel sauce
Fresh and fruity with long lasting oaky sweetness
When local corn merchant and distillery founder John Bulloch was bankrupted he negotiated a condition of sale that enabled him to live on site for the rest of his days he died in 1846 at the age of 87!
When did your band come of age?
“As individuals, or as a band? I think as an individual I came of age on my 20th birthday at a family event” says Brandon. Easing himself into the question Charles is more reflective “I need some time to collect my thoughts, I need to take my jacket off.“ Take your time, that’s why you’ve got a whisky. Questioning whether he is allowed to drink it yet Brandon subsequently downs it in one forgetting the benefits of savoring it awhile. We would recommend you keep it in the mouth for longer than you just have. “It’s hanging around in the back, I can make my tongue like a cat, you know… its delicious actually’ counters Brandon, and so we pour him another.
Comfortable in a sofa in the corner Marco pipes up “Well, as a band I would say Primavera as one show. We were really nervous to play, it was big and it went really well. It definitely boosted our confidence.” Agreeing Charles adds, “We came of age around the time we recorded the video to Hearts of Love. That was a kind of a pivotal moment.”
What is the best moment you have shared together, and how did you celebrate. What did you drink?
“Minnesota” says Marco straight off the bat. “You should tell that story” offers Brandon. “It’s a long story… we were in St Paul Minnesota on tour with band The Horrors from here in London and we played our own show a night before and this girl gave us opium. We decided to save it and share it with them because we knew they liked to smoke. So after the gig we ended up going in their van and smoking opium; Brandon left the van throwing up, and got lost in the club basement so we went out to go find him, we were all just fucked. Marko (not the current bass player), our drummer at the time decided he was ok to drive”.
“He hadn’t drunk alcohol, he had only smoked weed” Brandon points out.
“Yeh, but he was fucked up and we had told him over and over that he wasn’t driving but he was like ‘No I can drive, trust me’ so he gets behind the wheel and we get going and a cop car pulls up behind us. It pulls us over, and Marko freaks out. He had an Italian driving license, but it had expired and was ripped in half and taped back together. He was super anxious telling the others to ‘shut up!’ and then the cop comes over and starts questioning us… Marko did pretty good but then another cop car came.”
Knowingly Brandon adds “when multiple cop cars come you are in trouble.”
“Yeh, and as soon as she left, literally 2 seconds after she left Brandon was throwing up in the back seat.”
Justifying himself Brandon explains:
“well, I was holding it in my mouth. I was just waiting for my opportunity.”
Marco continues “The cop comes back and Marko turns to the others to say ‘OK brothers, my American dream is over, I don’t know when I will see you again, but I love you and I’ll see you someday’. He is then asked to step out of the car to do a sobriety test. Charlie is meanwhile in the front seat of the van saying ‘we got to do something’, and so gets out. Then the cops are all ‘woah woah woah!’ with their hands on their guns, shouting ‘never get out of your vehicle unless you are asked to!’”
Slightly taken aback by this tale we wonder whether the band was drinking whisky that night, and if so whether whisky is going to get the blame for their misdemeanours?
“We were drinking Jack Daniels”, remembers Brandon. Quizzically Charles comments, “I think I had Jamieson”. “I’m sure it was the copious amounts of opium!” Brandon confirms. Marco adds “But the thrilling conclusion of the story is that Marko passed the sobriety test and we got off! The cop came back over and asked if we would like to follow her to the hotel, we said no, but all the same ended up pulling the van over and taking cabs to the hotel. It was an incredible moment, we felt as though we had escaped danger.”
“More like cheated serious trouble. It was a moment of salvation where everybody called friends and family” Brandon adds stone-faced.
So who we wonder is driving your van to France tonight?
“I think I’ll be behind the wheel” jokes Brandon. Marco is keen to point out “we really learned our lesson, it is something we always think about when we are leaving a club”. “Yeh, how much opium have we had, are we at our threshold?” they all laugh.
George Orwell, author of 1984, travelled to the Island of Jura for creative respite, which drink enhances your creativity and is your writing companion?
“Irn Bru! Its just the bubbles, they go to my head” Charles enthuses. “When we were working on the last album (Sleep Forever which was recorded with British producer James Ford) we drank a lot of beer” Brandon remembers. “And I drank a lot of Irn Bru! I always have a flask of Irn Bru” quips Charles.
If your band were a drink what would it be, and why?
Without hesitation Brandon offers “Buckfast” a drink we regard as being a little shabby around the edges, but strong and forceful. “Yes, exactly. It gets the job done!”
As fans of Robert Burns we decide to share a poem called ‘Scotch Drink’ as we feel it perfectly describes our enjoyment of whisky. Standing up to deliver this Burns masterpiece Franchi recites a stanza from memory:
“Food fills the wame, an' keeps us leevin;
Tho' life's a gift no worth receivin,
When heavy-dragg'd wi' pine an' grievin;
But, oil'd by thee,
The wheels o' life gae down-hill, scrievin,
Wi' rattlin glee.”
Brandon looks confused, laughs and asks, “Can I actually read it?”
We translate it as follows:
Food fills the belly, and keeps us living;
Although life is a gift not worth receiving,
When heavy dragged with pine and grieving;
But oiled by you,
The wheels of life go down hill, careering,
With rattling glee.
“Oh, that’s beautiful!” exclaims Brandon.
Do you have any favourite poets that reference the enjoyment of alcohol?
Keen on his prose Charles has published a book with Cold Cave front-man Wes Eisold. Brandon meanwhile cites laureate of American lowlife the German-American poet Charles Bukowski for his references to the joys of alcohol, and 20th century American novelist, poet, and short story writer Richard Brautigan. “He is one of my favourite poets. Yeh, off the top of my head these are the two poets I would think of. Without alcohol there wouldn’t be Bukowski, right?”
Our favourite Crocodiles song is ‘Hearts of love’. In the video you appear to convincingly murder yourselves, what is going on there?
Looking over at Charles who wrote the lyrics Brandon comments “It’s a love song.” Charles concurs “I guess it is a love song, but about everything - life and death as best as can be summed up in 16 stanzas. As mentioned the time we recorded the video to Hearts of Love was a kind of a pivotal moment for us. A moment of breaking out.”
Noticing a few empty glasses Franchi ventures around the room with the second whisky of the evening, the Lagavulin 16 from Islay. A peatier whisky this stroppy middleweight, flavour-packed yet delicate, can be described as ‘a punch in the chops’. Poised to pour Marco his new dram Franchi wonders if he enjoyed his Auchentoshan Three Wood?
“Great! That was really good. Not too sweet, I liked it!”
Brandon, a little surprised points out that “the Auchentoshan went down very easily for a whisky.”
Turning now to Charles Franchi enquires as to whether he prefers the Lagavulin 16 and whether he has much prior whisky drinking experience?
A powerful, bear-hug of peat
Dae ye ken?
The name means "Strange Horse of Suinabhal". Traditionally there has been legal battles with neighbour Laphraoig over rights to the water course
American oak bourbon barrels
Massive peat. Ultraintense iodine carries a shade more spice than of old. The fruity-sherry notes are clean, vanilla is much deeper. Beautifully layered. Lapsang Souchong and fruity sherry
Oily, grassy, and, in particular, salty notes emerge in a long, sustained, aggressive, attack. Peat so thick you could stand a spoon in it
Long and lingering. A huge, powerful, bear-hug of peat
The aristocrat of Islay whiskies, it has an unmistakable powerful peat-smoke aroma. The distillery dates from 1816 and like all those on Islay was built on the shoreline to make possible the easier receipt of supplies and dispatch of whisky in small coastal vessels
“I do like the smokier ones, my Dad always had a bottle of Laphroaig lying around, or a Glenfiddich or Jameson when he couldn’t afford the other one.”
Brandon interjects “we do have access to whisky in San Diego if you go to a liquor store. Whisky is not necessarily my primary alcohol. I do like it. Maybe I’m one of these people with the problem of getting too rowdy with it.” Developing his point Brandon explains that “there are definitely times when I am in the mood for whisky, when I want to get into the state that I know it gets me in, but I always get cheap shitty whisky, you know? So this whisky (we are trying tonight) is actually quite nice. I stomach the cheaper stuff because I want the high that I know it's going to give me.”
“Yes, this Lagavulin 16 is great, really good!” reckons Charles who is clearly loving this particular dram.
At this juncture we see fit to explain that by savouring better quality whisky you still get that high, but that it takes a little longer than if you were to ‘down shots’, an experience we liken to shovelling junk into the trunk, and that with quality single malt whisky you can wake up the next day with a clear head.
“I don’t experience that with the whisky I drink in America” laments Brandon.
Seeing that nobody has added water to their whisky we dispel the myth that you should only add water to your whisky when it is raining, explaining that still water at room temperature can reduce the alcoholic sting of a stronger whisky and help stir the flavour compounds.
Brandon proffers that “both whiskies we have tried tonight are actually delicious, not much of a sting. It seems that the cheaper stuff has more of a sting.”
What is your future whisky journey?
Their response to this question confirms our own experience of single malt whisky which is that we all drink it at different times, and on different days for different reasons, and that this is a drink for people who know their minds and how to live.
“I have whisky nights, where that is what I want to drink, to get fucking crazy, get in trouble and raise hell” enthuses Brandon. For Charles meanwhile “whisky is one of my preferred drinks. When I have something like this (gestures to his glass of Lagavulin 16), or a Jameson or Bushmills, generally I am treating myself because I feel like I deserve it. I will go to the bar and order a whisky if it is a good night and I feel like I deserve a bit of whisky.”
Well Crocodiles, we think you deserve a whisky every day!