When Repeater went into the studio to record with “The Godfather of Nü-Metal” Ross Robinson in 2009, fans of both the famous Korn producer and the unsigned post-punk-ish band from Long Beach were stoked. But by the time We Walk From Safety was released last summer, the band were near dissolution. After performing a seemingly routine show at Detroit Bar in September, Repeater went on an unannounced hiatus, regrouping only weeks ago (minus a few members). We sat down with keyboardist-turned-bassist Rob Wallace to talk about writing pop songs, “right” vs. “wrong” music, and singer Steve Krolikowski's genius.
OC Weekly: You went almost three years between releasing records, even though the new one was already recorded. That must have been hard.
Rob Wallace: Yeah, it broke up the band. . . . [When it did come out], two or three blogs said it was the best record of the year, but it just didn't get the legs that it could have and should have.
Was that what you were going for?
Steve and I always try to write pop songs, and we never do it right. The problem with our band has always been that we're either too poppy for art-rock stuff or too arty for mainstream alternative music. So we're in this weird spot where the only people who like us are producers and musicians.
How do you guys write your songs?
Steve writes most of the stuff, but he needs an editor. Steve will make something, and I say, “That's terrible,” and he says, “What do you mean? It's right.” And I have to tell him, “Yeah, but it's not good.” And he doesn't get “good” or “bad.”
So at the intersection of his vision of right and wrong and yours of good and bad, you get Repeater?
We have fans, and they love us and are super-devoted, but we're not palatable for most people.
What kinds of sounds are you working with now?
The new stuff kind of sounds like the Ravonettes, things like that. It'll still sound like us, but it'll be different. More groovy stuff, more laid-back.
Did Steve write a lot during the break?
Steve doesn't need to write. He's just so good at it that it doesn't even matter. I will send him 10 songs and say, “Write songs like this.” What he sends back doesn't sound like any of those songs—they'll go around in his weird little head, and then he'll spit something out that sounds like all 10 in one. If it were 1974, Steve would be hugely famous. He would be like Bowie or Eno.
You sort of have to accept the fact that Repeater will never make it huge?
Yeah, but that's okay. That's not why we're doing it. And if people like it, that's cool.
Sarah Bennett is a freelance journalist who has spent nearly a decade covering food, music, craft beer, arts, culture and all sorts of bizarro things that interest her for local, regional and national publications.