Debauchery and Determination: The long road to Creepoid’s swan song

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Creepoid | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN

On a faded yellow bridgewater style couch, Sean Miller and Anna Troxell make room as Pat Troxell, sporting a classic Stone Roses lemon t-shirt, settles in. Pete Urban is in arm’s reach, with only his beer-stocked cooler separating him and the rest of Creepoid. It’s uncomfortably warm for mid-January, but the band is practically on top of one another.

Over past nine years, Anna, Pat, Sean and Pete have survived numerous calamities: party-centric producers, broken down vans, various Sean injuries, countless tours and the struggles of the DIY scene. They’ve also survived one other.

Creepoid’s most recent release in 2016, Burner, is a three-track sonic hellstorm of raw energy and the band’s most accurate studio portrayal of what it’s like to see them live. Much like 2014’s Wet, the EP was self-recorded, but in the studio, rather than in the cozy basement of the Troxells’ Tulip Street basement. Little did the band know, it would be their last release. Following their March 30th show at Now That’s Class in Cleveland, Ohio in 2017 at the tail end of a cross-country tour, Creepoid decided to call it quits.

“I would like to be remembered as a band that worked really hard,” Anna, bassist and vocalist, says. “A band that worked hard and took it seriously.”

Creepoid | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN

The members of Creepoid have a history together that spans decades, before they were even a band. For the boys, it was Pee Wee football at Upper Moreland Middle School, where Pat’s dad was the coach. They followed each other through junior high and into high school where Pete, guitarist and vocalist, met Anna. Pete and Pat had a band called The Funeral Bird at the time, while Sean and Pete had a band of their own. Serendipitously, they all ended up at a show in Anna’s parents living room, for which there is “hilarious” photo evidence, as Pete mentions.

“The high school, even the junior high we went to, had like, a crazy pedigree of bands that, to the rest of the country, were Philadelphia bands,” Pat, drummer, recalls. “We felt like we were a part of it, even though we were all the way out there when we were very young.”

It wasn’t until after high school and a stint in Austin, Texas that Anna, Sean, Pat and Pete recorded together for the first time for an punk band called The G, along with their friend and bandmate, Doug Foulke. One night in 2009, Pat and Sean, guitarist and vocalist, found themselves at a bar in Manayunk, getting plastered and arm wrestling bros during a powerful snowstorm. By accident and in a hungover haze, they would lay down the groundwork for a band that would dominate their life for the majority of a decade the very next day.

“We got high as shit and it was snowing outside, and that’s when we started recording that record, because we just totally spent,” Pat says. “It was the full release.”

Sean had, in fact, been snowed in with Pat at the house he shared with Anna. “We were all prepared in our different avenues to use that little eclipse moment.”

While the “Creepoid Blizzard Session,” as Pete calls it, is a story that has been told and retold several times, it’s nonetheless the origin story for Yellow Life Giver, Creepoid’s first 7″. Sean had been collecting old tape machines from various thrift shops, and they were used as reel to reel recorders for this first session, fed by vocal mics and a PA system. Well into the day, it started to click, and that’s when Anna was called down the basement.

“Finally they were like ‘Come down and like sing! Bring food!’,” Anna remembers. “I think, still, it was a fun, ‘let’s put out this little record’ [experience]. It happened in like two weeks. We weren’t thinking ‘now we’ll be a band.'”

Pete, who had left The G after a violent fallout with another member, had been on a musical hiatus at the time of the first recordings. “It took a little bit of convincing,” he  says. “I was finally like fuck it, I’ll do it. But I want to do something different.”

On a whim, according to Pat, he sent the Yellow Life Giver 7″ to Bruce Warren at WXPN, who liked it so much, he made it a My Morning Download, immediately grabbing a bit airplay for this band that had popped up out of nowhere. Soon after Creepoid began to play shows behind a sheet with projections, not revealing the fact that it was them. In April 2010, the sheet came down for the Best Coast show at the Barbary.

“Once we realized, like, ok, we were in it, the bulk of Horse Heaven happened very much [on] its own,” Pete said.

Much like the release before it, Horse Heaven, Creepoid’s debut full-length, was conceived on a night of debauchery. This time, Pete accompanied Sean and Pat, while Anna was at a bachelorette party having a “weird night herself.”

Out in the middle of the woods, after listening to the Phillies lose going into the World Series in a minivan, they went for a walk. “It was full moon and we are tripping our faces off,” Pat says. “At one point were in this field and we thought there was a bear up ahead and we were all freaked the fuck out. We had this talk and we literally ran at it.”

The next day they returned in quite a state and visibly shaken. “They stumble in and smell like dirt and fire,” Anna laughs. “They’ve got like sticks in their hair and leaves, and like smudges. I’m like ‘What the fuck did you guys do?!'”

Together they started to record, which was timely because they realized they had immediate need for more songs to play live. As Anna recalls, “Grave Blanket” and “Stranger” came early on. Also, she was now playing bass, an instrument she had just picked up for Creepoid. “Spirit Birds,” Anna’s transcription of a crazy dream Pete had, was all there in raw form too.

Creepoid had the drums tracked and about eight songs in the pocket when Kyle “Slick” Johnson of Fancy Time Studio made contact. “I had just moved to Philly and opened Fancy Time Studio,” Kyle says. “And I wanted them to be the first Philly band to come in.”

He could not have come at a better time, as Sean’s computer had “died” and Creepoid’s recording process had all but come to a halt. “I had heard some of their early recordings (Yellow Life Giver) and thought it was great,” Slick says. “It was cruddy and loose and weird and undeveloped but it had a sweetness to it and a wonderful sense of melody and songwriting that isn’t usual in young bands.”

As Kyle recalls, it was brutally cold, since his studio was in the basement of a warehouse. Creepoid split their time in the hallway in Fancy Time and in the garage next door. The band also went from work straight to the studio most days, and sarcastically say they lived there. Towards the end, they realized they were a few tracks short of an LP, so they wrote and recorded “Emily”, “Wishing Well” and “Find You Out” in the studio.

“He pushed us,” Anna says of working with Kyle.

Pete agrees, adding “And it just like, turned out great. We came back with something we are very happy and proud with. I realized you have to be the one to push yourself or be willing to accept some criticism and structure.”

Creepoid 5
Sean Miller plays during Creepoid’s Kung Fu Necktie album release party | from The Key’s archives

Horse Heaven, put out by Philly’s now-defunct Ian Records, was an album Creepoid was very confident about and decided to go all out for. They enlisted fellow Philadelphians Nothing, Party Photographers and Pet Milk to open for them on January 1, 2011 (1/11/11) at Kung Fu Necktie.

“We practiced like way harder than we had ever practiced before. We would record the practices and watch them,” Anna remembers.

The house was packed for the release. “There were people trying to get in, and the door guy was asking me like, ‘What do you want to do?,” Pete says. “I told him that they want to come in, they want to see it. If we get shut down, whatever.”

Creepoid had more than an excuse to celebrate the validation the show received. “We were like screaming and throwing [the money] in the air: It felt cool,” Anna says. “It was a serious thing that we made happen. We really engineered the whole thing so it was really rewarding.”

For the next three years, Creepoid toured on Horse Heaven, which was re-pressed and re-released in early 2012 with a bonus CD of Yellow Life Giver. It was done so by Florida punk label No Idea Records, a deal clinched by Pete’s ability to swoon the owners, drunkenly. Horse Heaven became more of a legit record at that time in Creepoid’s collective mind; it finally had the distribution to really make an impact.

On this big push for Horse Heaven, the band was once again joined by Philly noise rock newcomers, Nothing, this time as tourmates. “I think we’ve probably played with Creepoid almost 100 times,” says Dominic Palermo of Nothing. “One of the most memorable (and there’s a lot) was on our first tour together going down to SXSW.”

In particular, he’s talking about a particular that included mushrooms and wonky set. “They argued for a while, they argued a lot,” Palermo continues. “I didn’t realize Nothing would be in store for a lot of that in the future as well. We ended the night, everyone [was] friends again and having a Roman candle fight in this desolate, humid, smoke-filled south Florida parking lot. Seems like a dream looking back.”

“When Creepoid starting playing, Philly music had run its course basically,” Palermo continues. “All the good bands stopped playing and all these soulless Pitchfork-hyped wannabe West Philly punks trying to rip off Best Coast started popping up.”

He continues. “It was relieving to see some kids I knew, who were ACTUALLY from Philadelphia playing emotional, raw, energy-filled music that mattered. It wasn’t long until I tried attaching myself to it as well.”

Around this time for Creepoid, it was time for new material. “A lot of pressure for bands is on their sophomore album,” Pete says.

Anna and Pat had moved out of the Manayunk house, so they were down a practice space. They found a warehouse in South Philly, but between the weed-hungry guy living in the next room and having to play at half volume, it just wasn’t working. A friend’s space opened up, but that didn’t work out either. Regardless, Creepoid’s self-titled album dropped in March of 2014 on No Idea. And with it came “Baptism” and “Yellow Wallpaper”.

About a month later, they released a four track EP called Wet. “We figured out that we are not that perfect when we play live,” Anna says. “We are just a band that is really fun to see live. With Wet, we wanted to do something that was really fun and chill…and embrace that fuzziness rather than make everything polished and beautiful. Both are good representations.”

After returning from SXSW in 2014, Pete fell “under a spell” by a woman in Texas, then disappeared in May. The term “disappeared” was not used lightly, it was an uncomfortable break up call for Pat to make. Pete was replaced by Far-Out Fangtooth’s Nick Kulp.

“Pete’s style of guitar playing is one that I was very unfamiliar with and truly admired,” Kulp says. “The whole thing was a bit crazy to me and surreal – and to look back on it, it’s insane how quickly things happened in such a short about of time.”

Amid this upheaval, Sean, Pat and Anna relocated to Savannah, Georgia.

According to Pat, they were playing somewhere ballpark of 200 shows per year, which included a long tour with Against Me! It was not only a marathon for the band, but befuzzled booking agents, venues, friends and peers alike. Creepoid didn’t care.

“Every time we played too many shows, a booking agent would say ‘you are playing too [much], I can’t put you on this show,” Pat says. “I was like ‘ok, cool, we’ll just keep playing too many shows until it comes to the point that they need us to play because we are drawing people out.”

He continues, “It was the same thing with touring: well, ‘fuck you, we are going to tour harder than anyone else and make some money. Yeah, we might totally explode or one of us might die or go to jail, that’s fine.'”

Creepoid | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN

One characteristic of Creepoid, or some could say branding element, is their affinity for weed. While they were doing heavy touring, they were in a different city every night and the need was there. It was then that their notorious #bringweed hashtag came to life. And they were creative about it, via Instagram posts, for example.

“We had this piece of paper with all these other alternate versions with lines scratched through them,” Sean recalls. “‘Bring the pot,’ that was crossed out. ‘Need weed,’ that was crossed out…”

“We have driven up to other cars on the road that we thought might be down with the sign. ‘Weed?’ and our cell phone number,” Anna laughs. “That never worked.”

It was a tactic that sort of backfired, as the response was bountiful. “At a certain point on tour, it got to a level where Stoney, our tour manager, he would settle with us at the end of the night and he would be like ‘this is how much we did in merch, this is how much we got from the door, this is all the back end shit and this, this is all the free weed we got,'” Pete says. “He would bust out stupid, massive amounts of weed.”

While in Boise, Idaho opening up for Against Me!, Pat met Cam Callahan, owner of WavePop Records, thanks to #bringweed. Callahan would later put out Burner. “Their set got cut short that night ’cause of a failure in the power grid,” he says. “But we hooked them up with another show that night and a place to sleep. Our relationship continued when they snuck me backstage at Psych Fest later that year.”

Creepoid trashing the stage at Johnny Brenda’s in 2014 | Photo by Alexandra Healey

Sean “Stoney” Stone had lived with Pat and Anna in the Manayunk house back in the day. “Hopefully over the years and the distance traveled, we were able to touch enough people’s lives in a positive way that in the end we made the world a little better,” he says. “For me, it will be traveling the country and having the time of my life with a group of people that I consider family in the truest sense of the word.”

Stoney also mentions that parts of Cemetery Highrise Slum was written in his bedroom in Savannah.

“We went to Savannah and went into boot camp mode, where we were getting up every day and playing and taking a break and playing and demoing and playing and playing,” Pat says. “When we did Cemetery, it was very much our big rock record. This was the record that we were going to see how far we could take it and see how far we can reach.”

But, as it would turn out, the album almost didn’t get made. While recording at Doll House Studios, between the producer trying to “break” Pat, Sean having to play Bad Cop and Good Cop, and Creepoid’s desired and professional schedule not being met, Pat and Sean almost pulled the plug twice.

“I’m glad we muscled through,” Pat says. “We conquered the situation, we did what we had to do. It may not be our favorite in the world, all the songs on it, when I listen back now a few years later after never listening to it. But I appreciate what we did and I like it. It makes me feel good.”

He continues, “No one knows it was such a hard situation. We literally finished recording that album as we got into the van to go on tour. I finished putting track drums and literally two hours later and went on tour. It was a scary moment to be making an album.”

These weren’t the only challenges Cemetery Highrise Slum and Creepoid faced. Their booking agent company closed and the label that released it, Collect Records, fell apart amid co-owner Martin Shkreli’s conviction for securities fraud. On the upside, the album included “Dried Out,” a video where Philly legend Kurt Heasley of Lilys played an enigmatic cult leader who leads the bandmates to an untimely fate. It also featrued the track “American Smile” which, thanks to Converse Rubber Tracks, landed them a show opening up for Dinosaur Jr. in Brooklyn.

As Kulp described playing in Creepoid at that time, “Being in the band was kind of like a club or a gang, you’re either in or you’re out.”

In the summer of 2015, the band moved back up to Philadelphia; Kulp exited not long after, and Pete, the prodigal band member, returned about a year later in August of 2016. All back together again, Creepoid began to write. Gearing towards another LP, they had three tracks that were seen as “extra,” so they recorded Burner at Golden Age Studio and released it with the help of WavePop Records.

“That fall, I found out about them leaving Collect Records because of the Shkreli ordeal,” Callahan says. “I immediately wrote to Pat, “Sign with WavePOP! We can’t give you what Collect did, but I can promise you my complete love and attention.”

He continues, “The track that stood out the most to me was ‘Dripping Eyelids.’ I feel that the shoegaze / indie rock scene will soon realize the texture and immense beauty this song possesses.”

On March 30th of last year, Creepoid played that show in Cleveland, and then didn’t talk to each other for months afterwards.

“We didn’t know it was going to be the final thing,” Pat remarks casually. “We actually have an entire record that we demoed that is never going to see the light of day.”

As far as the never-released LP was concerned, the band felt like they had plateaued. “It felt like we were in a holding pattern,” Sean says. “The stars just never aligned as far as someone wanting to do it the way we wanted to do it.”

“We are a punk rock band at heart,” Pat says. “We aren’t going to sit there and stir forever. We are just going to kill, and then do something else. I like the idea much more of being like, ‘no, we are going to do one show, that’s it. Thanks, we had a great fucking time, that’s it.'”

He continues, “I would have loved to record the final album, but it’s kind of cooler that those songs are all leaked out in all these weird, independent ways.”

Some of the new songs can be heard in a Key Studio Session recorded in winter of 2017; some can be heard in Audiotree and Daytrotter sessions tracked on what would be their final tour. All in all, Pat admits that it was the touring that sealed the deal in Creepoid’s mind to call it quits.

“The last tour we just did we had more bad than good,” Anna says. “It just starts to build up and we just reached that point. We wanted to stop before we really hated each other.”

She continues, “We aren’t destitute, we don’t owe a shit ton of money, so we were like, let’s just stop and see what happens. We gave it some breathing room and we are now ready to face ending it for real. It’s a relief to get it out and end on a high note.”

On Friday, February 17th, Creepoid will play their official final show at Union Transfer. According to the band, people are flying in from all over the country; Facebook messages from fans saying goodbye continue to flood their inbox. The band chose Night Sins, An Albatross and Mannequin Pussy to play the show, not only because of their admiration for those bands, but also for a solid after-party.

“We’ve already gotten in a fight,” Pat laughs. “It’s like a real band again….order and merch and all that shit.”

While Creepoid is in fact ending, that doesn’t mean we won’t be seeing their faces around the Philly music scene. While Sean is taking some time off to reboot and enjoy married life, Pat is already a part of the new noise rock outfit, Plaque Marks, who has already released an EP and is working on an LP.

The band also consists of members from Fight Amp, Ecstatic Vision and Powder Room. “Plaque Marks started as a bunch of friends working at Kung Fu Necktie, drinking after hours and joking about doing a project,” Pat says. “[It’s] more of a hang out session than a band.”

Creepoid | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN

He’s also a part of Anna’s new band, Lovelorn, with Pete also in tow. Their first Philly show is on March 25 at Underground Arts, and they have an EP in the pocket. “Lovelorn is not like Creepoid,” he says. “It’s a different approach, more of the dreary psychedelic music we like.”

“We hope people dig it, but we’re not aiming to simply be Creepoid Part II,” Anna adds.

In the end for a lot of bands, there is the lingering thought of legacy: what they are leaving behind? Through their hard work, they played a part in showing independent Philly artists that it was possible to get to a high level and make an impact.

“Legacy I think of more as a footprint, and I feel really great about it honestly,” Pat says. “We know a lot of people around the country who like, literally have conceived their children to our albums. Who have made this perfectly clear to Anna and I while we are eating and shit. That would happen all the time.”

“People have come up to us and told us that they used our music during a rough time to get through it,” Anna says. “That’s cool.”

Sean chimes in. “We don’t really know what our legacy will be.”

“We might not even figure it out in years from now,” Pat concludes.

Creepoid | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN

Creepoid headlines Union Transfer on Saturday, February 17th with An Albatross, Mannequin Pussy and Night Sins; tickets and more information on the all ages show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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