Deli Magazine

Interview with Criminal Hygiene

- by Jacqueline Caruso

I caught up with garage rock darlings, Criminal Hygiene, after their record release show at the Satellite last week. Being touted as LA’s answer to Ty Segall, the debut LP, CRMNL HYGNE satisfies with it’s beer-soaked songs about heartache, and well, drinking beer. While the trio, made up of James Watson (bass, vocals),  Michael Fiore (guitar, vocals), and Sean Erickson (drums), may keep their songs short and sweet, their answers to my burning questions were anything but. Stream the entire LP on bandcamp while you read, as the guys open up about their raucous live shows, and needing a helicopter.

The Deli: First off, Congrats on the record. I was able to make it out to the release show at the Satellite. I had the coincidental pleasure of standing next to James' mom and dad. Definitely a highlight. Are all your families this supportive?


James: Thanks! Yeah my parents were super excited that night because it was the first time they'd seen us play! They’re usually in bed by our set times and PLUS when I told them I was playing in a rock /punk band a few months back they weren’t too pleased. I come from a pretty formal music background and have made what some could call "parent-friendly" music for most of my life, so when they see me come home with cuts, hangovers and tales of getting permanently kicked out of bars, they probably began wondering what the hell I was doing with my jazz/classical education.  So that show was pretty special for me. I was kinda nervous, and didn’t want to freak them out, and they didn’t want that to stop me from doing my thing. But neither happened, and after the show they said stuff like, "That was so entertaining! " and "That’s REAL rock!" 

Sean: Yeah they definitely are. A couple weeks ago I went on facebook and had like 45 notifications and it turns out my grandma, who is fairly new to the interwebs, liked every single photo or post Criminal Hygiene has. Since my family mostly lives up in Tacoma Washington they unfortunately can’t come out to the shows like Walt and Eileen [James’ parents], but they show their support in ways like that. They’re the best.

D: What was the first record you bought?


Michael: I think the first record I bought with my own money was In on the Killtaker by Fugazi. I remember this because i was on crutches at the time from a skateboarding accident.

Sean: Being a grungy little northwest kid in the 90’s the first cassette I remember getting is Nirvana’s In Utero which actually is still my favorite Nirvana record.

D: Do you remember a specific moment or experience that influenced you to pursue rock stardom?

James: I'll always credit my involvement in music to my Uncle Jacky. He came to live with my family for a few months while he remodeled our house. We became pretty tight over those months. It was fun when he was there, sawdust everywhere, him singing Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James taylor harmonies with my mom til 2 am, ripping a good sloppy blues solo here and there, and always teaching me things. He actually passed away the night of the album release, found out the next day. Rest in Peace Jacky "The Kid" Pratley. 

Sean: My dad shredded guitar and played in a bunch of bands when I was little so that probably has a lot to do with it.

D: Besides beer, what inspired the songwriting on this record?

Michael: Senior year of college depression, apathy, uncertainty, frustration, failed relationships. There was a time when things didn't seem to be going my way, and it was mostly my fault, and there was definitely a lack of focus and motivation to do anything besides go out and party. This album was like one long therapy session, and that could be why it turned out so raw and honest. We wrote everything very hastily, and I think that process brought out the best of us.

James: I was also in a shitty, destructive relationship throughout the recording of the album, hence Alan, I’m in love // Beneath the flame // Dirty Knees. 

I've heard a lot of comparisons to Nirvana and The Replacements - were these conscious influences?

Michael: I consciously remember listening to a lot of quieter music during the recording of the album: Nick Drake, The Clientele, Big Star... But I do love both the 'Mats and Nirvana. I think those comparisons come because we share that same raw energy that drove both of those bands. They wore everything on their sleeves and I dig that. Huge influences on me for sure. 

D: Who is Grady?

Michael: Grady is a friend who left Los Angeles to pursue a religious expedition to New Orleans. Actually, I am not sure if that is accurate, that is just a rumor. We haven't heard from him, and his whereabouts now are unknown.

Sean: Grady is a Saint who we worship daily here at the church of Criminal Hygiene.

D: Your live show seems to inspire raucous behavior. Is this just an extension of your not giving a fuck lifestyle, or is it all part of an elaborate PR campaign?

Sean: It’s all part of the plan. We knew if we didn’t play the songs very well, annoyed everyone in the venue, smashed stuff, threw fake snow in everyone’s drinks, beat up our friend Bronson, and generally got a lot of people to hate us, success would be ours. If you come to a party at our house you’ll really see that we don’t even like punk rock, blowing things up, or drinking beer. Usually we just play scrabble and plan for the future.

James: I'd say the former. We don’t really know why our shows get that rowdy, it’s just how we like the music to be delivered,  been like that since day one, it doesn’t feel right otherwise.

Michael: In fact I think those early shows almost scared everyone off from working with us. It was all in good fun and luckily no one ever got hurt.

D: From your bio, it seems like the band and the album all came together rather quickly. Did you have any history of collaborating together prior to forming Criminal Hygiene that made this possible?

M: James and I went to USC together and we started a record collective called Small Smile Records. All of the bands on the label were our friends, and our drummer Sean Bird Man was in a band called Brook and River. We all knew each other, and over a summer we all lived in the same house and thats when the band formed.

S: Yeah, Jim played organ in our band called Brook and River with Saint Grady and Michael Hiller. We mostly collaborated on the basketball court in our backyard last summer between trips to Olympian Burger.

J: I'd say the LP happened fast because of Fiore's knowledge of recording techniques and my insistence on using equipment such as the 8 track which forced us to do live takes. Plus we'd write songs as fast as we'd play them, no thinking, just sounding them out.

D: What other LA bands are you into right now?

J: Emperor X, Norse Horse, X, Liphemra, Moses Campbell, Louis Cole, The Ugly Kids

M: I was just turned onto a band called DEBT the other day. Don't know much about them, but I really like the one track I've heard so far. Also, Pangea's new sessions with Rollo & Grady are pretty sick. 

S: Pretty much all the dudes that I make pizzas with. Olin and the Moon, Retox, and Virginia Reed. Those guys are all awesome and make incredible music. Also The Ugly Kids are pretty sweet and look like Simpsons characters. The FIDLAR guys are rockin it as well and getting to do some cool shit.

D: What's your preferred medium for listening to music? Vinyl, ipod, cassette, 8-track, etc?

S: My preferred medium was listening to Saint Grady’s record player in our living room but he took that along with my heart when he had to go back to heaven.

M: If I could have my entire iTunes library on vinyl that would be preferred. But I don't even own a record player, and I only own one record: Give em Enough Rope by The Clash. So, I guess my computer is my medium. 

J: Blasting through the studio monitors in my room.

D: Lastly, any upcoming shows, tours, or exciting announcements we should know about?

J: Fiore is pregnant.

M: We will hopefully be starting to record the next album and get ready to cruise over to Austin for SXSW. It's gonna be a busy year. Trying to lock up a sponsorship with Rolling Rock as well, and looking into a helicopter for the band.





Criminal Hygiene