It took some time to track down CCR Headcleaner
. Messages were left, mailboxes were full, emails went unread. Finally, on a crisp San Francisco afternoon I got a hold of drummer Nick Givens, who blurted out "Every member of CCR Headcleaner is officially homeless! Can we meet at nine at the Punk Club?"
I arrived on the familiar turf of SF Punk Club to find the band in good spirits. Guitarist Alex Cargile was slinging a bottle of whiskey in an armchair, hair shaven except some braided strands in the front. He smiled sedately, passing a joint to Givens, who sat beside their wide-eyed guitarist, Justin Flowers, who was nursing a forty.
CCR Headcleaner may not have fallen on your radar yet, but these three long-time friends, with the new addition of bassist Mark Trisey, are no strangers to making the thrashy, noisy, spazzy jams San Francisco seems to love. Having been in the Hospitals, Long Legged Woman, and numerous other punk-influenced projects, these guys are pros at creating loud, fierce walls of sound. Their sonic output is also reflective of their distinct characters. One could describe both their music and the producers of it as disheveled, nonchalant, erratic and unpredictable, while also mirthful, sweet, and remarkably genuine.
The band has yet to release any recorded material aside from a "cassingle," but it has created quite a stir with its live shows in recent months. These long time thrash-noise provocateurs give audiences an absolutely un-refined sonic experience. Their unbelievable heavy on-stage sound, paired with their striking presence, has kept crowds returning to witness the guys smoking Salvia on stage, or Cargile stripped down to his tighty-whiteys, wearing a motorcycle helmet and dancing around.
I sat down with Flowers, Cargile, and Givens to talk about their weed tattoos, frequent nudity, and Twitter fights with Girls.
Tell me a little bit about how you guys first met. Are you all from Athens, [Georgia]?
Justin Flowers: Yes. I met Nick when he was 15. He kicked me at a party and knocked me to the ground.
Nick Givens: You were trying to get Papa Johns at like, four in the morning.
Alex Cargile: I became friends with them from just hanging out. We always just saw each other around.
What other bands have you guys played in?
AC: Me and Nick have a band called Vichno.
JF: It's fake German for "Night of the Witches."
NG: It's a black metal band. We've played 10 shows in two years. In Athens, I was in a bunch of hardcore bands...Nicholas Cage Against the Machine and a bunch of others.
JF: And Al and I were in Long Legged Woman.
And you were both in the Hospitals...how was that?
AC: It was really fun. We played one show and then Adam [Stonehouse] broke up the band.
JF: I think he said he had to go to the Giants game.
How did you guys decide on the name CCR Headcleaner?
NG: We were almost called KRS 420.
AC: One time I pulled some shit out of Justin's head.
JF: We were getting on a different channel and I was shaking violently and Al reached into my head and pulled out this ball of light.
AC: We help each other out.
JF: No matter what.
You can't understand anything that you guys are singing about. What is going on in most of your songs?
AC: I try to write almost personal spells; stuff I want to happen, metaphysical ideas. I'm reading a lot of books on alchemy. I'm very interested in making positive things happen, rather than just writing songs about the negative shit. I think Justin and I balance off of each other in that way.
JF: Yeah, I tend to write about things I don't like and how I'm feeling.
Do you guys do improv at all during live shows?
JF: We've started doing improv where we give Mark, our bassist, the mic. We really like to do it because it loosens things up.
NG: Usually things fuck up so we have to improv.
JF: It also depends on how drunk we are.
AC: Sometimes we've been so drunk that people have seen us play nothing but songs and people didn't know that they were songs. But if something breaks, we don't like to stop a show in the middle, we like to work around it. We like to keep stuff loose.
NG: It's really gratifying to make cool things out of nothing, especially when it's a necessity.
JF: When we were on our first tour of the US, we did improv every night. We didn't have a single song.
AC: ...except a cover of REM's "Everybody Hurts." That was the only real song we ever played on tour.
How do you feel like this city has embraced you or not, influenced your sound or not, etc.?
NG: Everybody came to this city to do something...
JF: Yeah, you have to hustle in this city. I feel like we've all had less jobs and less stability here, but we're trying more to push to get stuff done. We can do more here than anywhere else.
NG: The scene is also more cohesive. Everyone is friends.
JF: Yeah, I've noticed that even in Portland and places like that, people are griping at each other and they get really into, like, "Well, we're a noise metal band, and you're a stoner rock band." People aren't as divisive here.
NG: It's small here, so there's no need for in fighting. Everyone sees each other and parties and likes each other.
What about in regard to your actual music?
AC: The music we make hasn't changed because of geographical location, it's just that here we are in a more supportive environment to do what we do. This is like a garden where we can blossom.
NG: We've started to talk like hippies now that we moved here.
On that subject, do you guys feel like drugs are an essential part of your creative experience?
NG: We obviously love marijuana. I got a weed tattoo last week.
JF: But don't legalize it! The last thing we need is white collars in the black market. But yeah, I hope to god that I don't ever feel like I have to have drugs to be creative. That would be counter-productive.
NG: At the same time though, it is kind of essential that we smoke a joint together before we play because it gets everybody on the same wavelength. That's important. But drugs are a shortcut that isn't totally necessary. You can get there other ways.
JF: Maybe we should start exercising.
NG: We exercise like motherfuckers! No one's walking more than us! Our band motto is "Poorer than the Germs."
Al, you're often seen around, out and about, naked...
Have you always been a frequently naked dude?
AC: I enjoy my free body. There are definitely emails from Justin's parents from three years ago about naked pictures of me on the Internet. It's just a part of my life.
What's the hardest part of being in CCR Headcleaner?
AC: Getting to shows.
NG: None of us have cars or houses, but we have heart!
AC: Justin and I just got guitars this week and I have an amp now. Justin doesn't.
NG: I have 45 percent of a drum kit. It's Justin's.
AC: Days we have shows though are the hardest. We have everything except the resources.
Do you guys think about the future much or do you take things one day at a time?
JF: Well, we want to get a record out. I want to tour a lot.
AC: This band just started at the beginning of this year, so we're all about hitting the ground running.
What bands are you most excited about in the city?
NG: The Baths, Dadfag.
AC: Sister Fucker.
JF: Culture Kids. Girls. They're my favorite band in San Francisco (laughs).
NG: Oh yeah, should we make fun of Girls in this interview to get back at them?
Oh yeah, I heard about that. They tweeted about you guys...
NG: Yeah. Twitter? Really?
JF: I love them. I'm at all their shows. I pay 15 dollars to see them every chance I can.
NG: We clearly aren't pros at talking shit. We're too polite.
JF: We're Southern gentlemen.
You can catch CCR Headcleaner for the last time until they return from tour on Saturday, May 8th at Amnesia with Culture Kids and the Baths.