Friday, September 1, 2017

A Revealing Talk With Cobra Man's Andy & Sarah

When I first heard Cobra Man I thought I'd discovered a new, actually good guitar pop band. Then I got to hear more songs, realized I was way wrong, and loved the band even more. Really, that doesn't happen that much. The more I listened to the music the more messed up I got. Some may say I got too messed up! But I can still listen to this after thousands of runs through and hear new, crazy parts. So... check it out. It's a fun, summery romp full of great grooves, funny lyrics, and a "fuck it, we do what we want" kind of feel- in a happy way. I think they're brilliant in a way that no one else is. But what do I know? NOT MUCH! So... I needed to know more about these folks, and you do, too. Natasha from Melodic in the UK was curious and asked these questions...dig in! - Eric / Goner

 Where are you guys from/based? Do you feel like your surroundings have inspired the record and if so, how?
Andy: We're based in North East LA. I think the area did inspire the record a bit. The Mull brothers and Worble guys have always had this approach of skating all surfaces, and sort of bringing the wild nature of their home in Vermont to wherever they find themselves skating. So naturally they adapted to the style of terrain here in LA and we used that as a reference for the pacing and energy of the songs. So in a sense it's more of whatever environment they are skating in influences the music. 

Sarah: I’m from Los Angeles. The surroundings here with other musicians can be pretty daunting and depressing. I feel like a lot of people care more about putting out a cool vibe then actually working on the songs and putting everything into it. Maybe they’re scared or lazy but it’s a very jaded scene here and meeting Andy and getting to do this project couldn’t have been better timing for me. It brought a lot of joy to my life and made me realize again why I make music. The whole Worble crew, including Andy are all so hard working, creative and aren’t afraid to put themselves out there. They’re different from anyone here I’ve worked with here in LA and the whole process has been freeing and wonderful.

Who are your musical influences and which artists do you appreciate and what is it about them that makes them so special?
Sarah: ELO, Phil Spector, The Kinks, Brill Building and Wall of Sound stuff is a big influence for me. I think Andy's production, songwriting and vocals mixed with my style of singing and songwriting created an interesting mix that we both dug a lot. We pushed each other along with Tom while referencing great hits. I think that respecting the craft of songwriting while being sincere is what makes those songs special.

Andy: There's almost always a hint of Black Moth Super Rainbow in anything I write. Something about those soaring magic melodies struck me hard when I was younger and I tend to find myself adding little things like that in. I love the bass parts of this band The Coneheads. Vocal arrangements of Sacred Harp choirs. Sister Sledge and all that disco stuff has been a big one from an early age. I think all that stuff still lingers. Dumb dark magic, everybody have a good time vibes, huge melodies. Kraftwerk, Stereolab, Devo,...there's the heavier stuff too, and a lot of beatmakers...lots to love. 

When I first listened to the album, it conjured up loads of disco references for me (Smoke, mirrors, sweat and jewelry etc) the art work definitely reaffirmed that. Do you feel like you're in character at all, if so could you give us some insight into those, is this something that's become a part of your writing process?
Andy: Yeah I mean I wouldn't say it's a full on character, it's definitely me. Instead of filtering out the ideas some people might consider cheesy or too catchy I own them and go with it. Sometimes I will write in the character of a combination of other bands. Like bands I've made up that are sort of a collage of a bunch of different things. If anything, remembering that we've carved out a little space for ourselves to embrace whatever fun stuff we want has become a part of the writing process. I should probably mention that all of these songs were specifically written for the skaters they back in the video. There was a process between Tom Mull, Sarah and I about choosing vibes and pacing, so in a sense the whole thing was written in different characters but under the umbrella of our personalities. 

Do you guys have day jobs, if so what are they?
Andy: I work in TV/Film as a camera operator. I've been lucky enough to work on a lot of cool alt comedy shows and most of my work comes from those types of projects. I also write and direct a few commercials a year, and score videos. 

Sarah: I work in music, writing for other artists and writing for film/tv and in licensing. The reason Andy and I worked together for the first time was because he was directing a commercial and I asked him if he needed music for it. He asked me to work on that song for Element after that, and then we wrote the new driveway sound track in the 2 months following.

What kind of equipment / instruments did you find yourselves using for the album?
Andy: Everything was done in Ableton Live 9 with a midi keyboard and an SM57. I recorded all the demos at home and in a practice space. Sarah would record parts at her place and send them over for me to mix in. Then we'd meet up and sort of add finishing touches to everything. We took the mixes to my friend Phil Hartunian's studio and ran it through a bunch of old gear and bounced it to tape. We also re did some of the vocals with a Neumann mic and added a few guitar and bass parts, but the majority of it was done at home in Ableton. As far as instruments, mostly Jupiter, CS80, Solina, and various modular soft synths were used along with Massive. I have this guitar, I'm not really sure what it is because the previous owner scratched out the name and put Strandel on there, but it's a really shit kinda surf guitar I use. I never really have the high E on there. Drums were sampled except for hi hats, shakers, and cymbals. Most of those I recorded and manipulated. Bass was all done straight into the laptop using an 80's Diamond bass I bought off a friend for $100. Lyrics usually evolved from sounds that felt appropriate to the song, goofy vibes and stuff, but there were a few that came from specific references. "Ociffer" was heavily influenced by Steve and Tom, and how they always thought Dave was this violent monster when they were kids haha they really thought he would go to jail when he was older because of how bad his temper was I guess. I used to do this impression of a drunk guy like "ociffer, it's just a little egg nog," slurring words and all that, and it popped up in my memory and it all sorta just came out of nowhere melody and all. We tweaked the lyrics to be more about Dave as a kid which fit in with the videos motif of the childhood footage nicely. Happened very fast. I think I wrote that in like 3 hours. The whole album took about 3 months to write and record. 

Can you tell us a bit about the title and what it means...
Andy: Cobra Man is the name of a creature we saw in Mexico. It stemmed from a street dog we found down there in Baja, named her Bone Man and brought her back with us. You could say Cobra man is a friend of the Bone Man. 

Sarah: We both just went up to the VIP skate camp this past weekend to play a show for all the guys. It’s a weekend at the end of camp where they all hang around and skate and thank everyone associated, like Thrasher guys, Element, all the skaters involved etc. 

You mentioned very briefly running a DIY space for parties, could we get some more info on that too.

Andy: We had this DIY space on the east side for a year that we all lived in that became known as the Worble Warehouse. The building used to be an old vinyl pressing plant, and it had been sectioned off into units. There were only two rooms built out in there, so we used one as an office for everyone to work in, and then we all slept in the other room army barracks style. The rest of the space was open with high ceilings and a loft. So yeah, basically we found this place on craigslist, scrounged together enough money for the deposit and moved out of our shitty apartment in Sherman Oaks. The spot was pretty raw when we got there so we fixed it up, built a stage and started hosting these parties where the vibe was to have as much fun as possible and trash our place. The latter which was fully taken advantage of. 

It started with confetti cannons, pinatas, shredded pillows, etc but it evolved into this production we would put on about once a month. Bert (Manramp) would plan out and build these hilarious large wooden sculptures that we'd use to get everyone stoked. One time they built a huge Trojan horse. Dave was hiding inside with a few cases, so once we wheeled the horse out of the bedroom and into the crowd he popped out of the top and started throwing beers at people. I think the legs of the horse broke off so it was carried on the backs of like 7 or 8 people. Usually Dave was the actor in these little stunts. We cut his head off with a guillotine, put him in a coffin, had him ride a giant wooden pigeon that would shit out beers. Stuff like that. I always wanted to do a thing where we killed Dave and resurrected him into the rafters on a pully system but we never quite figured that out.

So yeah it turned into this thing. Every show was the last one because we knew the place was being shut down at some point. Then finally it was and we were forced to leave. We fought it but that's another story. We ended up having bands play like Mild High Club, La Femme, Cherry Glazerr, Thee was a special place and a lot of funny stories were born there. I would host a space again, but I wouldn't live in it. 

How many videos for Thrasher have you done and could we get links please?
Andy:  We've done all of the New Driveway videos they've posted, and the first Manramp video

Lastly, your music doesn't strike me as what would usually be used in skate videos how has the skating community responded to it?
Andy: The skate community has been totally supportive and it's been a great experience so far. 

COBRA MAN New Driveway Soundtrack lp/cd is out Sept 8 and available for pre-order here.

COBRA MAN will be playing GONERFEST 14 in Memphis, TN - get tickets & more info here

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