Hard rocking bassist tells the Crobot story, including new album, tours and what they do in their down time!
Exclusive interview with FBPO’s Jon Liebman
December 29, 2014
Jake Figueroa is the bassist for American hard rock band Crobot. The band also includes Brandon Yeagley (lead vocals, harmonica), Chris Bishop (guitar, vocals) and Jakes’ brother, Paul Figueroa (drums). FBPO’s Jon Liebman caught up with Jake during the band’s current North American tour.
FBPO: How would you describe your musical upbringing? Where are you from?
JF: I’m from northern New Jersey. I grew up in a town called Franklin. My parents encouraged us to start playing music in the school band, so I actually started out playing the alto saxophone in 4th grade.
FBPO: Were your parents musicians as well?
JF: My father is a musician. He’s a guitarist. My mom was more of a theatre type, very into the singing and dancing show tunes type deal.
FBPO: So, alto sax, eh?
JF: Yeah, yeah. I played alto sax for a long while, but really when I got into high school, I started playing more guitar and bass, started a band and everything. That’s when Paul started playing the drums too.
FBPO: How did you make that transition from the sax to the bass and the guitar?
JF: I ended up getting a guitar and trying to learn that, you know. Then I met this kid in school, Rob, and he was way, way better at guitar than I was and I said, “Man, maybe I can find something else to do!” [Laughs] We figured we were gonna start a band and he was, like, “Well, we’re gonna need somebody to play bass.” I actually started out playing punk rock! Very teenage angst style!
FBPO: Who were you listening to? Who were your influences once you discovered the bass?
JF: I really dug a lot of the classic rock artists. When I started, I was really getting into the punk rock thing. There were actually some pretty good punk rock bass players out there. The guy from Rancid. I remember listening to the solo thing they had on their album and it was like, “If I could ever learn how to play bass like that, I could do a little bit of all right!”
FBPO: Matt Freeman? Is that who you’re referring to?
JF: I’m not sure. I haven’t listened to that stuff for so long.
FBPO: How about Mike Watt? Were you ever into Iggy & the Stooges, fIREHOSE, the Minutemen, any of that stuff?
JF: Oh yeah, definitely! I love Iggy & the Stooges! We were actually listening to some other stuff, Iggy Pop, afterwards. Some of it’s pretty weird!
FBPO: How did your career get rolling? What kinds of gigs were you doing initially?
JF: As we tried to progress with the band, we changed our styles and whatnot. We had been doing a lot of just chuggin’ along to local bars and local clubs, just trying to play anything and everything that we could. We rarely said no to a gig.
FBPO: You and your brother?
JF: Yeah. Even when we first started with Crobot, we were just kind of gig hungry. We’ve been that way pretty much ever since we started. It was just like, “Where’s the gig? Where can we play? How can we make sure to do this more?”
FBPO: How did the Crobot gig come to be? You and Paul joined the other guys at the same time, didn’t you?
JF: Yeah. We joined Crobot just about two years ago now. They had been a band for a year, year and-a-half, before that. We had met them at a gig and we hit it off with them, so we would swap shows. Since we mainly got shows in the Jersey area, we’d call them up to come play the shows with us. They would get gigs in the Pennsylvania area and we would go out there and open up for them. We played similar music. We all ended up getting along a lot. We were always either burning after the show or slammin’ down whiskey, ya know. We always discussed the shortcomings of the other members of our bands. And then, one day we figured why don’t we just slam it together, ya know, put our dream team together, so to speak.
FBPO: And that would have been about when?
JF: Around January of 2013, I’m guessing. We had been discussing it before that though, around the end of 2012, though the first discussions had come up around August of 2012. I was getting tattooed by Bishop and it was just said on a side note, jokingly. Then, as the months went on, it was like, “Hey, man, let’s actually really do this!”
FBPO: Where did the name “Crobot” come from?
JF: It was actually made up by a friend of ours known as “Cousin Dave.” Bishop was describing the band to him and he said it was riffs that are like crowbar, but more robotic, with the effects. And he kind of just slammed those two words together and made “Crobot.”
FBPO: When people describe Crobot’s music, the words “riff” and “funky” come up a lot. There are also references to bands like Rage Against the Machine and Clutch. How would you describe the band’s music?
JF: I would definitely describe it as funky and “riffy.” It’s just kind of like good groovin’ music. We like to get heavy at times, but you can be heavy and still have groove.
FBPO: Tell me about the new album, Something Supernatural. That grew out of an EP, didn’t it?
JF: Yeah, we released an EP that has four of the tracks from the album on it earlier in the year. We recorded it at the Machine Shop in Belleville, New Jersey, which has actually now relocated to Austin, Texas. It was a great experience. We had a lot of songs going into it. We would periodically take songs here and there to see if we could rearrange them or slam them together. It was just a really cool experience, finally getting to get those ideas down and concrete, solidified for the album.
FBPO: Some of the songs, like “Skull of Geronimo” and “Nowhere to Hide,” were written as a collaborative effort, based on riffs and jams. Is that pretty much how all the tunes for the album came together?
JF: Yeah, pretty much. There were a couple of songs that had been previously recorded before Paul and I were in the band that we kind of just freshened up a little bit and rerecorded them, but I think that only makes up a few tracks on the album. Everything else was just us sitting in a room. We’ll jam and listen back to a recording. There’s a riff somewhere, you know. We’ll just kind of keep mulling it over. Everybody usually has really good input on a subtle change to a riff or to a drumbeat or to a vocal melody. We’re all pretty open to bouncing those ideas around. I think that’s what makes the riffs kinda mean more and work together more smoothly. Everybody is more than willing and happy to put those little nuances in there.
FBPO: I heard a lot of this creativity happened in a shed behind Brandon’s house. Is that true?
JF: [Laughs] Yes, that is very true! That’s where is all goes down. Actually, it’s funny because we kind of relocated to a town two towns away and we virtually have the same setup, where we just go out back and jam.
FBPO: I read something about deer heads on the wall or something like that.
JF: Oh, yeah, yeah. There are deer heads all over the walls and turkeys and all kinds of crazy fuzzy animals!
FBPO: Whatever inspiration it takes, right?
JF: Yeah, yeah. Definitely! It also definitely helps if you’re somewhere where nobody’s gonna bother you. You can just lock yourself away for like eight hours and work out everything you want to.
FBPO: Tell me about working with Gene Freeman, the producer. I guess most people know him by his nickname, “Machine.”
JF: Oh, he was awesome! We worked with Machine and a few other engineers, Alberto and Andy. They had a helper, Johnny Knollwood, too. Funny guy! [Laughs] It was an incredible experience. Machine has a very, very good ear for song structures and dynamic builds. He’s not afraid to push you in different ways to really get that unique moment out of you. He’ll jump up and down and yell if he thinks that’s gonna do it. He’ll sit you down and tell you you gotta drink a glass of whiskey before you do it. If he sees a certain emotion, he’ll be able to draw from that.
FBPO: Is there such thing as a “Crobot culture?” I’ve seen plenty of references to pot smoking, almost like it’s a badge of honor with you guys. There seems to be a fondness for sci-fi, too. Maybe those two things go together?
JF: Oh, yeah, most definitely! [Laughs] We’re all kind of a bunch of nerds, you know? I got into the whole sci-fi thing ‘cause my brother introduced me to Star Wars and all that. He’s super into it, so I grew into it. Once we hooked up with Brandon and Bishop, it was like two completely different sci-fi worlds colliding! We all just started showing each other these different movies. Brandon has a bunch of visual comics and stuff like that, just a whole different level of sci-fi. And it doesn’t exactly hurt to sit back and smoke a doob and see what kind of crazy stuff’s gonna fly across the screen. You know what I mean? [Laughs]
FBPO: I guess that answers my question! How’s the tour going, Jake?
JF: The tour’s going great! We’re just chuggin’ along in the band. All the shows have been phenomenal. The Chevelle guys – the members and their crew – they’re all just super nice. They’ll help you out with anything. They’re very welcoming to their fellow road warriors!
FBPO: Who’s coming out to the shows? Is it strictly the younger folks, or are you also reaching a lot of rock fans who appreciate – or even miss – the way things used to be?
JF: There’s actually a large variety that I’ve seen at shows. It’s really interesting, too. There’s definitely a bunch of younger cats coming out to the show who are still young-faced, maybe fresh out of college, if that, you know, ready to party for like four days! You work your way around the crowd and you’ll see some of the cool “old-heads” in the back, showing up with their Sabbath shirts on. You definitely get to meet a wide variety of awesome people. They’ve all been good music lovers too, which is very refreshing.
FBPO: What kind of equipment are you using?
JF: I’m still using my Gibson EB3. My backup is a Mexican Fender Jazz bass. For my bass rig, I’m running an Ashdown ABM 900 though an Ashdown ABM 610 cabinet. They’ve been helping me out really well.
FBPO: How about the future? What’s next for Crobot and what’s next for Jake Figeruoa?
JF: We have a really awesome tour for next year lined up. We start out in February, doing a ShipRocked cruise. It goes from Miami to the Bahamas and back. There’s a bunch of bands on there. It’s gonna be great to be going to the Bahamas in February! Right after that, we hop on tour with Black Label Society and Black Tusk.
FBPO: Do you know (Black Label Society bassist) J.D. DeServio?
JF: No, we haven’t met any of the guys yet.
FBPO: You’ll love him. He’s a great bass player, too!
JF: I’m really excited about that tour. We’ll be over in Europe, so I think it’s like 16 or 17 different countries. It’s gonna be crazy! After that, we’re going on tour with Anthrax and Volbeat.
FBPO: What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?
JF: I think I would just be a lost wanderer. I would probably travel the back woods of North America with my dog, Boots.