On Body War, Birth Piece, and Black Country, New Road: a Chat with Crochet

text by digital-media

19 March, 2024

KCSB’s Winter ‘24 Assistant Music Director Ailiyah Gilliam sat down for a talk with Zach, Jake, Abby, and Gavin of Crochet, to speak about inspirations, forming their band, their upcoming sophomore album, and more. Read on for an inside look into the creative process of this Las Vegas-based skramz band. 

Ailiyah: How and when did you guys start Crochet?

Zach: We started four years ago now, I guess. We started like, mid/late 2020. I started playing guitar in February 2020 because one of my favorite bands, Floral, was in town and played a show, and they inspired me to play guitar, among other things. So in February 2020 I played some guitar, and then I was like ‘Okay, I’m going to start a band.’ I tried really hard to find some bandmates until I remembered this kid Airon from my high school who said he was down to do it with me, and he knew someone who could play the drums named Mario Garfias. We had a couple other members coming in and out but we eventually settled on that lineup for a while; we had a violinist and a bassist play a few shows with us, then they resigned, I suppose, and then back in June 2022 is when Jake and Abby joined.

Abby: My Instagram handle at the time was ‘skramz00’ and I got a DM from ‘skramzstrongestsoldier,’—no, ‘puddlesplashers.’ Zach DMed me and was like “Do you wanna go to Denny’s?” I said yes, then I got there and then they asked me to be in the band. And then I was like “Yeah, but can my friend play rhythm guitar?” and they were like “No, but he can play bass,” and I was like “Okay!” and that’s how we did it. 

Jake: At the time, the idea of someone else in Las Vegas having a username with ‘skramz’ in it was very crazy because that was before skramz was quite what it is now, this whole emo thing on the West Coast, so that’s why they reached out to Abby, just Instagram name alone containing the word “skramz” was enough to be utterly shocking. Then Abby asked if I could be in, then I joined, and it was at that moment, that sort of initial Crochet five piece lineup, that it became something that fully clicked, and our first show with that lineup was on July 17, 2022. That’s the same lineup that is on Birth Piece and stuff. So, that was kind of the moment that we clicked into place, and the band has gone through a few metamorphoses, but that’s true, OG Crochet: Zach, Me, Abby, Airon, and Mario, and that’s everyone who was on Birth Piece, and now we’re here. And that’s Crochet. 

Ailiyah: How do you think Body War and the viral TikTok posted of it affected you guys?

Zach: Well I suppose Jake and Abby can talk about—they were there when that Tiktok was taken.

Abby: Watching Body War that night though, like, solidified our decision in joining Crochet. 

Jake: Yeah, the show that clip is from was from sometime in late June of 2022, and that was my first time seeing Airon and Zach who were in both Body War and Crochet. That was before I was in the band and after Abby had agreed to be in it, but like, was feeling, I don’t know.

Abby: I was just like, “I can’t do it without a friend.”

Jake: Yeah, and watching that show that night was kind of the moment when I was like “I definitely want to do music with these guys,” and being at that Body War show changed my life in pretty profound ways. But for your actual question, as for how it affected Crochet, probably marginally, but it was insane—

Gavin: It was crazy to be on Rolling Stone.

Jake: Yeah, Body War blew up into a really surreal moment, but Zach was more actually in it, so he can talk about that. 

Zach: The band was essentially a collaboration between me and my good friend Nicholas Wagner, and there are many ways it played into things. For one, it was the first time I jammed with Gavin technically, and that was pretty big. But most of the ways in which it played into things was personal. Because from the outside, it does just kind of seem like a funny thing that happens to your friends, but when you’re the person who’s getting plastered on the Rolling Stone and everything, it’s obviously extremely surreal, especially if you’re a little neurotic like me and Nick are. Yeah, it caused a very big seismic shift in our personal lives, I guess. If you want more information on that, you can look to the lyrics on the new album coming out. 

Ailiyah: How would you guys say that you balance your time to collaborate with each other and travel for shows?

Jake: We are an extremely unorganized band, and almost never are functioning as a unit.

Gavin: We just practice the day before a show and then drive up to Cali the next day. 

Jake: Even working on the album is a very, like, schizo, and disorganized process. That’s kind of how we do things. I think we definitely used to function more as a unit, but at this point, it feels like more than ever that we’re five separate things that just kind of come together when necessary. 

Zach: One of the reasons we don’t practice that much is kind of an intentional decision on my part. Gavin, for example, because of his relationship with Roman as an artist [for the band Pudgel] has come to be quite a perfectionist, but my philosophy of doing things is that even though I’m in a math rock band technically, I’ve always been attracted to a very specific subset of bands inside the genre, like Steve Albini-adjacent things. Big Black, Don Caballero. These are all bands that have a punk rock quality to them, and I want to carry that into my music. I don’t want things to be overly polished. Lots of people think that the word “technical” and the word “polished” have enormous overlap, but that’s not the case. Although we play very technical music, I still want to have a human sloppiness to it. 

Ailiyah: How did you guys start booking shows? Would you say that the buildup to opening for bands like Vs Self and Your Arms Are My Cocoon was gradual or sudden?

Jake: For me and Abby, there was no buildup whatsoever. We joined in late June 2022, and within a few weeks we had our very first show ever on July 17th, and the turnout for that was ridiculous. So we were very privileged, we kind of shot to the top at a moment’s notice. There was one more show that was kind of a random show, and then our third show ever we’re opening for Your Arms Are My Cocoon. Zach is the one who really experienced the grinding for years, but as for me and Abby’s experience, we were very privileged. Like, third show ever, less than a month after our first show we were opening for Your Arms Are My Cocoon. But as for widowdusk and Vs Self, the December 16th show and stuff, that felt earned, and something that came as a result of a lot of fucking hard work. 

Zach: I will say, overall, one cute thing about Crochet is that we are a kind of success story. There was no skramz astroturfing like there is these days. We only played three shows before Jake and Abby joined. I consider widowdusk to be our sister band, which is a funny thing to say because they are a lot more popular than us at this point, but we were growing around the same time and I think the same thing happened to the both of us where we were coming onto the scene at the time where our music wasn’t necessarily having an automatic foothold, there wasn’t much of a precedent. But regardless, people just really kind of resonated with us as people I guess, because we’re all just a bunch of children, essentially, mentally, even though we’re too old to be doing that anymore. People came along and saw the shows and we felt like we were on their level rather than below them. I think the same goes for widowdusk. I think it’s really special that widowdusk can headline a thousand-person, sold-out venue in LA and afterwards Kurt can just go into the audience and hang out with fans and tell them about the next thing he’s working on. 

Jake: That’s super true. After Crochet kind of first hit in full force around summer of 2022, shortly thereafter, a sort of whole scene moment followed in Las Vegas of emo bands and stuff. I’m not saying that on some ego business, but I think a big reason this scene unfolded was because after we initially played it was just so apparent that we were such a strange group of people, and that we were coming from actually nothing. I think other people,  around Las Vegas especially, could see that you really can do this. You just have to do it, and it’s really that simple. Anyone can do this shit, for real. It’s not intimidating. There’s hardly a learning curve.

Ailiyah: Any best or worst show experiences?

Zach: The worst show we ever played was before Jake and Abby were in the band. It was in late May 2022 and like five people showed up. But, two months later we played the same venue and it was completely packed. 

Abby: Your Arms Are My Cocoon still might be my favorite. It was just crazy to have them there. 

Jake: When we played with Cocoon, that was not even a month after our first show, and me and Abby were just going through this unbelievable shock. We were very privileged to just immediately be shot into a certain position. And the Cocoon show was probably the most—

Abby: One of the most energetic shows.

Jake: That was when the energy in Las Vegas was not even in its infancy, it was an embryo at the time. Honestly, playing the December 16th show at 1720 in LA, that felt so good. That was by far our biggest show ever. I don’t know how many people were there for us. That was really nice; we kind of understand our place in the whole, uh, western US skramz scene as being like…I think we have a very strange place in it where we’re not quite widowdusk, we’re not quite tapping into the so-called ‘skater vibe.’ But widowdusk likes us enough, and our sort of kinship with them goes back so far, and our relationship with them is so good. They got us on the show and I feel very grateful for them.

Abby: Shoutout Vs Self, Catalyst…

Jake: But the bad shows, honestly, the last show we played was my least favorite, January 28th. 

Gavin: When you start playing venues, you get greedy. And when you play a backyard show with bad sound, and doesn’t sound good, you’re just like, “Well, now we don’t fuck with this.”

Jake: Well, also more importantly, it was an energy thing, and the last show we played just didn’t have a lot of energy. I kind of fell asleep on stage. That was not a good moment for Crochet, I would say, and I would say that that show served as a pretty profound marking, a fairly substantial moment for the band that will definitely show up on the album.

Ailiyah: Could you guys walk me through your songwriting process for LP2? Is music more of an individual thing you put together later, or are there specific agreed upon influences?

Zach: With the songwriting process, I kind of consider myself to be more of a composer than a traditional rock guitarist at this point. The way I operate is I surround myself with certain worlds of music, and I think of an album as kind of a universe itself, like a fantasy world that can have many qualities to it that are not just technical. I surround myself with a bunch of albums that I see some connection between, and I try to focus in on what kind of connection that is, and through a few weeks of work, and eventually it gets to a point where I feel comfortable enough to start writing songs in that mode. It begins on my guitar, at home, in my room, the same blue Telecaster you see in all the videos, and I just sit down with it and I really try to think about musical structures that would support the emotional world that I am trying to create. I could get more technical about what that means, like the different rhythms and chord qualities that I try to use, and my tuning and my guitar methodology and all that, but if you want that, you can just get the Birth Piece Tab Book. But in any case, with the LP2 songs, I just was getting into certain albums at the time, some of them from Jake, like he put me on Prowler in the Yard by Pig Destroyer, which is the first metal album I’ve really, really enjoyed, because I think it had some very special qualities to it. I was thinking of that next to all of the other things I’d been exploring lately, like how I’d already been jamming with Gavin in a kind of two-piece math rock setting similar to Hella, and I was in these other bands, and I just sat down and came up with this idea to fuse all of it together with a very blistering screamo sound that had sort of a destructive, isolated, dancey quality to it. Very bleak and not very accessible to live in. Like, a hostile musical world. And so, after surrounding myself with that for a long time, I basically just sat in my room for a weekend, maybe three or four days, and then I wrote, like, 80% of LP2 within that span of time, just on my guitar. I brought them to Gavin and there have been minor changes since then, and so on and so forth, but most of it I just wrote in my room and he played on top of. The other thing is that with this album, I wrote it for Gavin, in a way. There’s no other drummer in the world who could have possibly played on those songs, because I wrote them with his style in mind, and that’s why everything came together so easily. The recording of all of the instrumentals took six hours.

Gavin: Little thing real quick, to save my ego. We recorded this album in July, so my drumming is kind of fucked up. I play way better now, so keep that in mind. 

Jake: It is so splintered, honestly. But yeah, the instrumentals were recorded quite a window back and we’re still doing the vocals now. It’s been such an insane time between when it was recorded in July 2023 to now, that now, by February and March of 2024, we’ve definitely arrived at the right time for the album to be getting its final touches put on it. What Zach said is true, about channeling a very horrifying, hostile, inaccessible place, and me and Abby are coming into it with the thought process of giving it the sweetness and pop and shit. So yeah, it should have a good balance. Big influence on this record: In Loving Memory. They’re a skramz band from Iowa, and I’m honestly so excited for them to hear the album because it may come across as the first album ever made that is some sort of In Loving Memory worship, which is so cool because when I found out about them I was like sixteen and they were like completely unknown. So I’m glad they have someone licking their toes now. 

Gavin: “Licking their toes.” That’s a good ass metaphor.

Jake: That’s stolen from Abby. All of us, especially me and Abby and Zach, in this exact moment, are more into emo music than we have been in a long time, and whenever me and Zach have spoken about skramz, I think we both lean—well, this is definitely because of Zach’s influence—we lean towards Nayru and iwrotehaikusaboutcannibalisminyouryearbook and In Loving Memory, and this is honestly music that is lowkey scary. But it also has a quality that feels very, I don’t know, without something to prove, and it’s just…When you listen to something like Nayru, it’s really crazy because it’s like, such utterly beautifully composed music, and then there’s this guy, Dakota, on top of all of it, that through the entire album, is hitting the same note, which is maybe the craziest noise any extreme music vocalist has ever hit. I can’t even approximate it or anything. But the intention of LP2, I think, is sort of to make something that is a little ugly, a little disturbing, but ultimately has something with a really palpable amount of heart. 

Zach: Exactly. To me, the one thing that I’ve been so fixated on with music since I started is synthesizing the ugly and the beautiful, the institutional and academic side of the music, with something that is punk, grassroots, and overall lighthearted. I’ve really been into John Zorn, for that reason. One thing that people always tell me about Crochet is that it is a beautiful band, that these songs sound beautiful, which is disappointing because of how horrifying it can be, especially with the vocals involved. 

Jake: When Zach name-dropped Prowler in the Yard by Pig Destroyer, that’s a massive fucking influence. I think that will be pretty obvious. Yes, it’s metal, but they’re tapping into something so much…I don’t even know the word, but…something that almost no metal is tapping into. There’s a lot to say about the album, because it’s been one linking thing through an utterly fucking insane moment in all of our lives, where our lives and who we are is so different now. This album was really the connecting link through such times. I don’t know. I can just say when it’s out, I have a feeling it represents such a period of my life and so many things about my life. And I know that’s such a personal answer, but this album is pretty huge to all of us.

Ailiyah: Lowkey Pinkerton vibes.

Jake: You do not know how true that is throughout this whole album-making process. Pinkerton has crossed my mind so many times from everything to like, potentially alienating fans, to the commitment to being hideous compared to Birth Piece; also there have been certain days I’ve been trying to do vocals, and just nothing is clicking, and I’m like “Great, fuckin’ sophomore slump. Fuck!” So you do not know how many times I’ve thought about Pinkerton through this process. But for the record, I do not think that was their sophomore slump. I fucking love Pinkerton so much and so does Abby. 

Ailiyah: What have been some of your favorite albums recently?

Gavin: I don’t know, I’ve really gotten into Sun Kil Moon this year and Geese, and it’s really a different taste of things because I’m normally so technical. I love black midi and I love Zach Hill. But Geese is the first band I’ve actually liked the guitarist and the singer more than the drummer, and I never have. But Sun Kil Moon is all the writing. I don’t give a fuck about the instruments, I just love the writing, so. My favorite record of all time is the Pudgel self-titled record. Shoutout to Roman Berry.

Abby: I’ve been listening to Sade a lot. 

Jake: I put off Alex G for, like, 5+ years. Okay, here’s the thing: I was born a contrarian. I was a baby and I was already a contrarian. When Alex G was initially popping off in like 2017, I definitely was not listening to that shit because it was popular. So, I’ve been putting that off for years, but now I’m really into Alex G. My favorite album of all time that will probably be with me for my entire life is Ants From Up There by Black Country, New Road. And Black Country, New Road, you cannot understate the collective love for BC,NR in this band. We are obsessed with that fucking band. 

Zach: My favorite album right now is You Must Believe in Spring by Bill Evans, and my favorite album of all time is The Smiths’ self-titled. 

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