Sometimes, a band can tell when it’s making a hit song. That’s the story of Cobra Starship and “Good Girls Go Bad.”
“Everything felt good about it when we made it,” says guitarist Ryland Blackinton. “People throw that expression around a lot ‘song of the summer.’ I don’t know about that. But it does have that summer sound.”
In fact, “Good Girls Go Bad” which features vocals by Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester, became a song of summer 2009, an instant smash when it was released in mid-May a year ago.
The success of “Good Girls Go Bad” heightened expectations for Hot Mess, Cobra Starship’s latest album, which, Blackinton says, is fine with him.
“We worked on this for over a year,” he says. “It feels like something that is ripe and ready to entertain. We really want to turn it loose. It’s exciting [what has] happened with the single. Hopefully, that will be indicative of what the record will do.”
Cobra Starship collaborated with Kevin Rudolph on “Good Girls Go Bad” and worked with the likes of American Idol judge Kara Dioguardi, Sluggo and songwriters Benny Blanco and Patrick Stump in making its third album.
While some bands resist bringing in outside collaborators, Cobra Starship takes the opposite view.
“We’re a completely open band as far as those things are concerned,” Blackinton said. “We take music pretty seriously, but not that seriously. We’re not that precious with the material. We’re open to other people’s input.”
That openness, in part, is because Cobra Starship knows that the input from producers and co-writers is really just a building block that the band will use to make a song its own, Blackinton says.
“You listen to the original demo and you listen to it when it’s done and it’s typically a completely different thing,” he said. “It’s kind of a cycle and it usually works out for the best. We take the song and work on it until it fits.”
That process, however, took far longer this time than the wham-bam method used to make Viva La Cobra! — the second Cobra Starship album and the first time the entire band worked together in the studio.
“Our last record we did in 27 days,” he says. “This record we did over the course of a year, so we tried out a lot of things. We entered into a bit of uncharted territory, some more experimental places. It didn’t feel like the mostsmooth recording process. But we know we’ve got our best songs now.”
The year of recording yielded 27 songs that Blackinton said had to be cut down for the album, a process that he said went surprisingly smoothly.
The result is an entertaining, upbeat record with witty, hook-filled tunes like “You’re Not In On The Joke” and “Pete Wentz Is The Only Reason We’re Famous” that are instantly catchy and danceable.
Blackinton got a laugh when he heard a long list of descriptions of Cobra Starship, most amusingly “emopunk-dance-pop.”
“I don’t think anybody’s comfortable with that,” he says. “Nobody likes the genre people put them in. We don’t sing about losing our girlfriends and having all these problems. So you should at least drop emo from the list.”
The emo tag is likely residue left over from Midtown, the guitar pop band Gabe Saporta fronted before he formed Cobra Starship in 2006. Saporta’s personal introspective lyrics with that band were, to some degree, emo before that term became popularized.
After leaving Midtown, Saporta put moping aside and began writing and recording dancy songs that mixed synthesizers with guitars and lyrically weren’t so downbeat and serious.
One of those tunes Saporta wrote was “Bring It,” which wound up on the soundtrack of Snakes on a Plane three years ago. Its success demanded a full album.
Playing most of the instruments himself, Saporta put together the Cobra Starship debut While The City Sleeps, We Rule The Streets, then recruited Blackinton and bassist Alex Suarez, who were a folk-pop duo called This Is The Ivy League, to join him on tour along with drummer Nate Navaro and keyboardist Elisa Schwartz. (Schwartz was replaced by Victoria Asher three years ago.)
From that road adventure, a band was born. Given its origins, Cobra Starship has always has been about having fun.
And the fun that can be heard on Hot Mess extends to the live shows, where Blackinton fans show up in “Team Pleasure Ryland” shirts, a takeoff on “Pleasure Ryland,” a jokey song about an imaginary place where dancing is nearly clothes-free and drinks are free.
“We do a pretty big grab-bag of songs when we play live,” says Blackinton, who changes instruments on stage depending on what is needed for each song. “There’s a lot of electronic songs, then some more guitar-based songs. We try to have a balance between the two. We know it’s working when everybody in the place is dancing.”
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