After spending several years toiling away in Austin—both on stage in hardcore bands and behind the scene at venues such as Emo’s—Willow Grove native Pat Troxell moved back to the Philadelphia area in late 2008 to find a significantly different scene than the one he left. But, if you ask Troxell—who now plays drums in the psych-rock quartet Creepoid—that suits him just fine. Prior to tonight’s record-release show at Kung Fu Necktie, Troxell spoke with The Key about blowing off local record producers, the differences between the music scenes in Austin and Philadelphia, and how to maintain your DIY roots while pursuing more widespread success.
The Key: One of the things Austin is known for is its thriving arts and entertainment scene, especially when it comes to independent music. Based on your time there, how is the Austin scene different from Philadelphia’s?
Pat Troxell: I really think the weather affects people—especially musicians. [Laughs.] That’s one of the things I loved about Philadelphia’s hardcore scene. I grew up listening to punk and hardcore, and it’s, like, real negative and real angry. Philadelphia is good at that, because when it’s cold here it’s really cold and when it’s hot it’s so hot. In Austin, everybody was super laid-back and relaxed and comfortable. It’s the weather.
TK: As a Philly hardcore guy living in Austin, how did you spend your time?
PT: I moved down to Texas right after the Killtime and Stalag 13 in West Philadelphia closed down, and Licenses And Inspection was coming down hard on the Church and R5 Productions. One of the things I did right away was move into a warehouse in Austin and open it up as a DIY spot. It was all-ages, and I was running it like a Philadelphia venue. A lot of kids down there had never seen anything like that before, because they already had all-ages clubs and all that stuff. I was like, “This is a lot different. You’re going to pay your five dollars, you’re not going to pay ten dollars…and bring whatever beer you want. I don’t care.” It was definitely bringing a little bit of Philadelphia to Austin. It was awesome while it lasted.
TK: Now that you’re back in Philadelphia, how has the local scene has changed since you originally left?
PT: Well, one of the things is that the bands got a lot better. [Laughs.] I mean, there have always been great bands from Philadelphia. Don’t get me wrong there. There have always been good bands, there have always been good people from Philadelphia who ended up starting better bands in other cities. Philly really breeds a hard-working class, you know? Everyone works really hard at what they’re doing, and it’s really showing now. There are so just many good bands playing right now, getting out there and doing it on their own. It’s impressive.
TK: Can you think of a certain period of time, in either Austin or Philly, when you were working within a scene and you thought to yourself, “This is it, this is what a scene should be?”
PT: That was the Killtime. That was Stalag 13, and 40/40, and the Rotunda. Pretty much mid-to-late ’90s—and even into the early 2000s—there was a thriving punk scene in Philly…I started going to shows when I was really young, and the first thing I’d do was fill my pockets with flyers from the table by the door. Everyone had something to say. And, on top of that, I realized that the guys who where booking these bands I really loved were only, like, two or three years older than me. They weren’t that much different. It was just really DIY. That’s something I learned from Tony Pointless and Sean Agnew and guys like that, who really went out and did it. They put their name on the line, they put themselves on the line. And sometimes they got in trouble. But that’s what punk was and that’s what punk is. I can see it building back up again. Except now we’re going to have to be a little bit quicker than Licenses And Inspection. [Laughs.]
TK: How does the local scene’s growth reflect your own growth and work ethic as a musician?
PT: I feel like this band is one of the first bands where we can do whatever we want, and being in Philly really helps that. Because we can play shows with whoever we want—we can play hardcore shows, we can play emo shows, we can play noise shows. It doesn’t matter. I really love that, and you don’t get that in many places. Philadelphia is definitely one of those places where you can go to a show and see three bands that would never play together in any other city.
TK: For such a newish band, Creepoid has been pretty productive.
PT: That’s how I’ve always been. If I’m not playing in a band and doing that kind of stuff, I have to be booking shows. Or moving. I’ve got to do something other than going to work…I work construction. So anything’s better than work. [Laughs]
TK: How did things lead up to the recording of Horse Heaven?
PT: Well, I’ll start with the Yellow Life Giver EP, because it’s kind of an awesome story and I’m really proud of it. Last December, there was a major snowstorm in Philadelphia. I live in Manayunk, and we got snowed in our house really bad. One of my good buddies, Sean Miller— the lead singer and guitar player of the band—got stuck in my house for the weekend. And we actually wrote and recorded that record over the weekend in our basement on a tape machine. We played it for some friends, and they were like, “What are you doing? You guys need to put this out!” We made that record without even thinking about doing this band; it was just a thing. But after the record came out in April, we did some touring, and around August we made the decision to sit down and start writing and recording a new album with every intention of doing everything ourselves. We were going to do the whole thing in our basement just like we did with the 7-inch.
TK: But it didn’t work out that way?
PT: What ended up happening is, as we were recording the drum tracks, [producer] Kyle Johnson got in touch with us and said he had heard us on a blog and was really interested in meeting with us. We met up with him—and, to tell you the truth, I blew him off for, like, two months. He kept emailing me, and I was like, “This is just some guy who wants me to give him money. I don’t have any money for this guy.” So I kept being like, “Oh yeah, yeah—I’ll be there. I’ll see you there!,” and then, well, you know. [Laughs.] But eventually I looked him up and I was like, “Oh shit, this guy is for real.” So we went over there and it was great. We took the drum tracks and dumped them right into his system and started doing everything from there. We spent a solid month around December in his studio in Fishtown. I’ve never been pushed like that before. I don’t think any of us had. So we were out of our comfort zone, and we’re, like, straining and whatnot. And, at the end of it, I was like, “Well, I’m really glad we trusted that guy because it sounds great.”
TK: How much is the DIY work ethic an ingrained part of the band’s nature?
PT: Oh my God. That is…that is everything that makes us do what we’re doing. My wife, Anna—we met going to hardcore shows in Philadelphia, seeing bands like Kid Dynamite, random shows at Killtime. The guitarists, Pete [Joe Urban] and Sean, and I have played in hardcore bands in Philadelphia since we were 15 years old. We all went to high school together. So yeah, we do play bigger venues, we do what we have to do in order to help promote the band. But at the same time, we don’t turn down basement shows, because things like that are important.
TK: How do you plan on reconciling the difference between the band’s DIY nature and everything that comes with growing popularity, such the opportunity to work with larger labels and a bigger recording budget?
PT: I have a couple of close friends that have had major-label deals and still managed to keep true to their roots. One of those is Jason [Reece] from …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. They’ve had so much success over the years, but that guy is totally on the level. He understands all of that stuff. When I was in Austin, where they’re based out of, those guys they did whatever they could to stay true to their stuff. They were still in the front row at warehouse shows, hanging out with a 40 in their hand. It wasn’t like any big difference.
TK: So, you’re ready to embrace that kind of opportunity if it comes along?
PT: The best part about getting more exposure is being able to bring more bands along with us to strengthen our scene. Ian [Galloway of Ian Records] always says to me, “I’ll put out 100 records, because eventually someone is going to take notice of one of those records, and then the whole catalog’s gonna go.” And that’s really what it’s all about: family and friends. If one of our bands is able to blow up, I’m sure that we’d be bringing along the whole crew with us—Party Photographers, Far-Out Fangtooth, other Philly bands. That’s one of the things I really appreciated while growing up and playing shows, all of these older guys who would always give kids like me a chance to play with them. It wasn’t like, “Oh no, we can’t have any opening bands, it’s a package deal.” Guys who really know what is going on will give kids a chance.
TK: What kind of working relationship do you have with Ian Records?
PT: Ian’s a great guy. He manages the Beautiful World Syndicate record store on Passyunk in South Philly, and his wife is the lead singer of the band Party Photographers. He’s one of the first guys I met who was ready to put the time and work and money into doing a legit Philadelphia record label. Before Kyle even came into the situation, we were going to do this record with Ian. He had already planned on doing it; he was going to do 500 LPs and it was set. So when this thing with Kyle came along, it was one of those things where Kyle’s management looked at it like, “How is this going to work out? How are we going to be able to sell this if you guys are doing it as a DIY release?”
TK: But everything worked out?
PT: At the end of it all, we just said that we’re going to put these 500 records out and see where it goes from there. We would love to have this album come out on CD, and be mass-produced and distributed all over the world. But at this point…we have no management, we have no booking agent, we don’t have anything like that at all. We’ve never signed a piece of paper with anybody. Everything we did was done in house. I’m pretty proud of that, and I’m going keep doing it as long as I can. Until something better comes along. [Laughs.]
Creepoid performs with Nothing, Party Photographers, and Pet Milk at 8 p.m. at Kung Fu Necktie; tickets to the 21+ show are $8. —Matthew Borlik