For more than a decade, Joe Crockett served as the unmistakable voice and bandleader of locally-lauded folk band The Championship. At the tail end of that time, though, the gaps between shows grew wider as Crockett’s counterparts grew busier, leaving the troubadour to sparingly play stripped-down versions of the band’s vast catalog in intimate solo sets. With The Championship’s progress all but halted, Crockett decided to pile his artistic aspirations into a new creative vessel with a new cast of collaborators.
That project, Rx Drugs, finds Crockett fronting a full-fledged new band that features a solid group of musicians with impressive musical résumés. Before the band—which boasts members of Dashboard Confessional, Hugh Bob & The Hustle, Trapper Schoepp And The Shades, and The Championship—makes its live debut at Tonic Tavern on Sunday, Crockett told Milwaukee Record what led him to branch out, the fate of The Championship, and his all-in intentions with his new project.
Milwaukee Record: The Championship had been going for over a decade, right? So why did you make the decision to explore this band?
Joe Crockett: I guess a few things had come about. I talked to Scott Schoenbeck about doing a project for quite a while. Mixed with the things that he had going on and the things that I had going on, it never really lined up. Then things started to change within The Championship as far as everyone’s personal lives. Travis had a baby. My brother’s work schedule is getting pretty intense. We were kind of teeter tottering on when we could play out and do stuff. We’d play a couple times a year and I wanted to be doing it more.
MR: Yeah, lately it’s seemed to be mostly you on your own. I was at your show at Summerfest and it seemed like a sort of acknowledgement that it would be your last show in a while. Is the band absolutely done or just on the shelf for now?
JC: I would say the latter because, you know, how many bands have broken up and then the next thing you know, they’re touring again maybe 10 years later? I’m not going to say it’s done, but right now it’s either [Rx Drugs] or I don’t play out as much. This seemed like the thing to do with everyone’s lives getting busy, plus Scott and I toying around with the idea of starting something, and the new batch of songs that I wanted to get out.
At the same time, I wanted to start something that didn’t have a history, you know? The Championship was a band that never had any industry support whatsoever: no labels, no management, no booking agent, no publicist, nothing. We did it all ourselves the whole time and with that comes a huge learning curve of how to do it correctly. And I still feel we’ve never truly done all those outside parameter things as well as a team of people can.
MR: But this is a fresh start, but other than a primarily new lineup, is this a new sonic direction for you? What does the band sound like, I guess?
JC: The way I view The Championship’s albums is that each one sounded different and had a different theme to it in a way. There was one album we put out that was super country, so in some people’s mind, we’re an alt-country band. If somebody were to hear the last record we put out, they would think something completely different, so I think the evolution of the last record, High Feather, it’s kind of like what would come after that, except it’s even mellower. I always seem to write fucking depressing lyrics, even though I’m not a depressed person. It just always seems to be the easiest thing to come out. It’s got the moody shit I talk about, but at the same time, everyone in this band is so focused as individual musicians. This is brand new for everybody involved, and you kind of hear that in it, in a good way.
MR: As far as the hopes for it, I know Scott is involved in Dashboard [Confessional] as a backing player, but this is his band as well and your new project that your funneling your work into. Hugh Bob seems to be playing less, so Justin [Krol] is around more. Is this band kind of all in? Is the plan to tour and see where you can push it?
JC: Yeah, absolutely. You gotta start at home and make your way outward, but these are guys who do this whether it’s in the band or not. This is a perfect time for me to be doing this a full-fledged as possible.
MR: Even though everyone else if busy with things, this seems like all of their passion project. They’re not the backing drummer or touring bassist. They have artistic input and license with this.
JC: Absolutely, yeah. I think I’m blessed to have these guys even want to be a part of it because they are busy at time with other projects and they’re also incredibly talented individually at what they do. I feel like I kind of have the best of the best behind me.
Rx Drugs will makes its live debut Sunday, October 18 at Tonic Tavern. William Seidel (formerly of Decibully) will open. The show begins at 8 p.m. and is free.