Interview: Cobra Starship

Cobra+Starship1I like Midtown, I like Midtown a lot, and when their former frontman, now Cobra Starship vocalist, Gabe Saporta, kindly gave me the opportunity to ask him all the Midtown questions I wanted, it was simply an offer I couldn’t refuse. So, while the Cobra clan were recently back in the UK to promote the smash Good Girls Go Bad, I was able to be fit into their crazily hectic schedule and got down to the crunch, in the hope of finally giving Midtown fans some answers, on the record, from the man himself.

We talked about Cobra’s newfound success and whether he is resentful about his old band not achieving that, his thoughts on today’s Midtown buzz, a reunion and his current relationship with the rest of the guys, as well as his morbidly surprising view regarding how long he thinks Cobra Starship will last, and even got additional comments from Cobra Starship bassist Alex Suarez. Not to mention, we even managed to cram in our mutual adoration for the infamous Millionaires, and talked about the recent flurry it caused when his involvement with them was revealed, as he explained why they are indeed punk rock.

Faye: How are you and the rest of Cobra Starship today?
Gabe: We are good, we just finished doing The 5:19 Show, we had a blast, it was so much fun.

Faye: You’re over in the UK to promote Good Girls Go Bad released here on October 19th, that single has pretty much blown you up, how do you feel about that?
Gabe: I’m very happy, it’s weird, nothing’s really changed, I mean, we’ve had some crazy things happen to us in the past month, like being nominated for a VMA, our record went platinum, so it’s pretty sweet, but, to me, it doesn’t really change anything much, we’re just really excited to keep doing what we’re doing.

Faye: One of my friends was in Ghana, Africa over the summer, and she said that Good Girls Go Bad was played on the radio over there.
Gabe: No way! In Ghana?! That’s so crazy! That’s what I’m saying, that’s a whole different level for us, so that just blows our mind, but we still try to stay grateful and humble about it, you know?

Faye: Some people have said that Good Girls Go Bad is really commercialised, was this Cobra Starship’s attempt to purposely break into the mainstream?
Gabe: Yeah, definitely, I mean, we’re basically a pop band, we always thought of ourselves as a punk rock version of a Justin Timberlake record, you know? With our last record Viva La Cobra!, I thought Guilty Pleasure was a hit and I really thought that it was going to be a big song, but it didn’t happen. We didn’t get upset about it, we just kept doing what we do and then we got lucky, a lucky strike, and that was awesome.

Faye: Is the success you’re currently having with Good Girls Go Bad something you wanted with your old band Midtown?
Gabe: I wanted it, but I didn’t want it. I mean, everyone who plays music wants their band to be heard by a lot of people, they want to do it, but a lot of people say they want it, but they’re really uncomfortable about getting the word out there and doing what you’ve got to do and exposing yourself to different places, getting in the spotlight and some people kind of get elitist about what fans they want, but the thing about Cobra Starship, we embrace anyone who wants to listen to us. If you go to our show, it’s a lot more diverse than other people’s shows, people coming from different scenes, and that’s something I couldn’t do in Midtown. I was very elitist, I only wanted the people that I respected to like my band, so it wasn’t good, I had a very selfish attitude and I had to get over that, and that’s one of my be epiphanies, I took it too seriously and I was hurting people.

Faye: Is it frustrating for you, hearing all these people wanting a Midtown reunion, but there was never really this hype when Midtown was around?
Gabe: Yeah, it’s bittersweet, you know? It’s a little frustrating because we worked so hard when Midtown was around and we watched a lot of other bands that came after us take that and do really well with that, and, for whatever reason, we just weren’t able to do it, so it was really frustrating. And now that people talk so highly of Midtown, it’s bittersweet, it’s a little hurtful, not hurtful like I’m offended, it’s just sad because I would have loved the support back then, but I’m also really flattered by it, because it means that, at the end of the day, I recorded something that people will be continued to be influenced by and that was one of my goals in Midtown, I wanted to make money, but I wanted to record something I really loved, and I did that.

Faye: There was never an official last Midtown show, you kind of just fizzled out, and you’ve been saying for years that a last show will happen, will one really happen?
Gabe: Yeah, I really think one will happen, it definitely will, I don’t know when, the rest of the guys all have different things going on, Heath did his thing in Senses Fail, Rob has a record label, with bands like Four Year Strong, Four Year Strong stayed over at my house while they were recording their record, we’re still a family.

Faye: So, you’re still cool with the all the guys of Midtown?
Gabe: Yeah, of course, that’s what I’m saying, we’re totally cool. Tyler’s just got married, I met my girlfriend through Tyler’s wife, so we’re very close.

Faye: Would you not be worried about more people coming just for you, Gabe from Cobra Starship, rather than Midtown?
Gabe: No, I’d invite as many people as I could, I think we’d probably make a small announcement for the kids who’ve followed us for the long-run, but I think a lot of kids who weren’t into Midtown have gotten into Midtown through Cobra, which is great and it’s awesome, I like that, I’m very proud.

Faye: What would your perfect last Midtown show be like?
Gabe: I’d love to play like three shows, like play a different record at each show, because they’re so different from each other. When I think of Midtown, Midtown to me, was where we left off, the last record, Forget What You Know, that to me was the best. Then there’s other people, they love the first record best, it’s a different vibe.

Faye: The second record, Living Well Is The Best Revenge, has always been my favourite.
Gabe: Yeah, that one was really big in the UK, that was the biggest one here. For me, that one was too polished, too produced, but that’s why I love Forget What You Know because it was more raw.

Faye: I remember reading in another interview that you said your singing is horrible on the first Midtown album, Save The World, Lose The Girl, do you really believe that?
Gabe: Yeah, I think so, I didn’t know how to sing, so I kind of put on a fake British accent almost, it sounds like what it was, I was a young punk.

Faye: How does the rest of Cobra Starship feel about those who want a Midtown reunion?
Gabe: I don’t know, I think they’re cool about it, I don’t know, they’re here, you want to ask them that?
Faye: Sure!
Gabe: Alright, here’s Suarez.

[Gabe hands the phone over to Cobra Starship bassist Alex Suarez]

Faye: How does it make you feel when you hear about people wanting a Midtown reunion?
Suarez: Oh, I’m excited about a reunion, I’d be thrilled to see it, it was a big part of Gabe’s life and I think it would be really fun to see the whole thing go down. As far as people wanting it, I mean, it’s understandable, I think there’s a lot of fans that feel that they didn’t get to see the end of it, it kind of just stopped happening and that was it.

[Suarez passes the phone back to Gabe]

Faye: You released three albums with Midtown, and now you’re on your third with Cobra Starship, do you think Cobra Starship has a longer future ahead?
Gabe: Erm, shit, I don’t know, I don’t think so. [laughs] But, you know, I’m the kind of person that has this overwhelming sense of impending doom, I feel like the world’s going to end tomorrow. I think the world’s going to end before Cobra Starship does, and, like, I think we’re really close to the end of the world, but you’re talking to a crazy guy who’s a very nihilistic, apocalyptic person, so I’m not the best to be asked that. We love what we’re doing and we’re having a great time, and we can pay the rent, so that’s fucking awesome. For me, I’ve always said, when it stops being fun I’ll stop doing it and that’s kind of what happened with Midtown, we made a sweet record then it stopped being fun. Actually, it stopped being fun before that, but we still wanted to make a record, one we loved and leave a legacy, and we did that. It definitely stopped being a fun after a while. With also don’t have as many expectations with Cobra, we kind of just like what we do and go with the flow a little more. I feel when you have less expectations of what you do creatively and especially in terms of success, you’re going to be able to enjoy it more, so Cobra has zero expectations. We really get along really well, we have a great time when we hang out and if that stops happening, we’ll stop being a band.

Faye: Something that has caused quite a stir on the Internet recently is your relationship with Millionaires, helping them to release their EP on Decaydance, can you tell us a bit about that and how you got involved with them?
Gabe: I saw this video on TRL, and I thought it was awesome, these girls who were really young and kind of doing it on their own, and I have a fucked up sense of humour, you know? I don’t think that rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be a place where you play by the rules, so there’s these girls that are not playing by the rules and they’re saying, “Fuck you!”, and they’re kind of being bitches, they’re just doing it their way, and I saw them, and I was like, “Wow, this is really funny.” Then I met them and I was like, “Wow, these girls are really sweet.” So, I brought them to the attention of Crush Management, I’m like, “Yo, you’ve got to check this out, these girls got on TRL without anyone helping them out, they’re doing it on their own, this is awesome.” TRL’s like the big MTV show, well, not any more… And that was the extent of my involvement, but then Crush was like, “Ok, we’ve got to get some music out there.” and they talked to Pete Wentz [of Fall Out Boy and owner of Decaydance]. Pete’s my friend, Decaydance is like a family thing, but as much as I care about things doing well, I don’t want to be a business man, I’ll tell you that right now. I’m genuinely, genuinely excited about Millionaires and it takes me a lot to get excited, I’m not saying it’s the most life-changing music, but it’s exciting, when I saw them, I was like, “Wow, this is fun.” So, I passed it on and, from there, they put out an EP on Decaydance and they gave me an A&R credit for passing it on, but it’s not like I did some real leg work, this is just a credit that said, “Hey, thanks to Gabe for finding us.” It’s weird that a lot of people jumped down my throat so hard, the thing is this, we’re not always going to agree on musical tastes, everyone has a different musical taste and I don’t have a responsibility to anyone to like X amounts of things or to only help out certain bands. I don’t even think that what I did was much, they still have a long way to go, they may make it or they may not make it. It’s like this, A: The song title, “Pete Wentz Is The Only Reason We’re Famous”, we say that as a joke, no one has the power to make anyone famous. There’s bands on Decaydance that have failed miserably, it’s not like Decaydance is a label that will automatically make a band famous, but Millionaires aren’t signed to Decaydance, anyway. B: I’m not involved in decisions, I passed it on, but I don’t decide what does on and what doesn’t go on, I’m not involved in contracts, I just like it. The thing is, people jumped down my throat and I’m the wrong person to argue with, I’m not going to back down, you’re just only going to make me have to represent harder for a band that I’m just excited about. It’s not like they’re my best friends that I grew up with, it’s not like they’ve changed my life, but people make me talk about them like they have because they’re making me defend myself, putting me into a corner and telling me to justify myself, and guess what? I’m a pretty smart guy, I can justify myself, I don’t have a problem doing that, especially now that I have a song on the radio because people are listening to what I’m saying. You’re just defeating that, like if every interview I do is about the Millionaires, and if you don’t like them and want them to go away, you’re just defeating that. That whole thing was just insane to me, I can’t believe it was such a controversy. I was just like, “Man, find something better to do.” I mean, there’s tons of bands that I don’t like and I don’t go around blaming people.

Faye: Exactly, that’s the thing, they have everyone talking shit about them, but they’ve never publicly talked shit back and take it on the chin, and that’s where I can respect them more than the haters, and, from what I’ve seen, I think they come across like really nice girls off-stage.
Gabe: Yeah, they rise above it, they put on an act on stage. I think that my favourite bands are bands that adopt personas and they’re exaggerations of themselves. A person is more complicated than what they are in a band, they have this persona as the Millionaires that they play-up really hard and they play it really well, and I think it’s fucking hilarious and it’s exciting. Not only do they do that, but they’ve also done this creative thing that I like, and by creative, I don’t mean it’s break-down-the-walls art, they’ve just embodied these characters and personas and it’s funny, and they say fucked up shit, they’re little 19-year-old girls that talk a lot of shit and, to me, that’s funny. I have a fucked-up sense of humour, I like that shit. I don’t need everyone to agree with me, that’s the kind of things that make me laugh. Besides having created all that, they also work their asses off and got themselves on TRL before anybody even knew who they were. They have their own fanbase, they were selling out shows in their home area, before anything happened, they’ve booked their own tours,and, to me, that’s DIY ethic and people are like, “Oh, it’s not punk.”, guess what? That DIY ethic is more punk rock than anything in punk rock. If no one is helping you, it doesn’t matter, do-it-yourself and those girls are just doing it.

[We are told to swiftly wrap up the interview, having gone overtime]

Faye: Thanks so much for taking the time out to do this, is there anything else you want to say?
Gabe: I just want to say thanks, we were just on that show, and they were saying how many kids sent in questions and we’ve been here three or four times, and every time the kids are amazing. So, I just want to say thank you to everyone who’s been supporting us here and helping getting the word out about us, especially now we’ve got a song on the radio, thanks to everyone who’s been sitting by and had anything to do with it.

- Faye Turnbull.

Again, many thanks to Gabe for doing this.

The single Good Girls Go Bad (featuring Leighton Meester) by Cobra Starship is released in the UK on October 19th, for more information on the band, visit: www.cobrastarship.com

If you missed out on our interview with Cobra Starship bassist Alex Suarez in May, click HERE.

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2 Responses to Interview: Cobra Starship

  1. Austin Burtch says:

    Dang! A Midtown show. Could it be?

    I’m excited. I really love that band. Lyrics are amazing and put together so well. Music Is especially organized and play so Awesome.
    My favorite CD by midtown is probably the last one,
    Forget what you know. It had a lot of meaning behind it. Favorite song on that cd Probably Waiting for the new.
    I don’t really know if I look at Midtown like a Gabe type deal. I thought his voice had a really big part in the band but everyone played amazing.
    When I found out about Cobra Starship, I was diggin, But it was different to me for a minute. I do enjoy some Cobra though.
    Gabe’s voice in Cobra Starship has mature so much more since Midtown. It seems to be more controlled and in tune. You can really heard the progress and adaptation from Midtown to Cobra a lot.
    It kind of reminds me of a The Movielife/ I am the avalanche Deal.
    In The movielife Vinnie’s Voice was good, But in I am the avalanche, just kick butt, Mature so much.

    Midtown is probably one the bands I listen to the most still to this day.
    If there is a reunion show, I’m there.. I’m so there.
    I was at a Cobra concert once in Indianapolis (where I live) at the Marat theater with Head Automatic, Men Women and children, Cobra starship, and 30 seconds to mars. I was wearing a Midtown shirt, didn’t really think anything of it. Bammmm and Gabe yells at me and was like is that a Midtown shirt. lol Yeah boy it was. He was like “this songs for you”.
    Sometimes I really wish things had of gone in a smoother direction for Midtown, But I understand things happen and now greater things are in place for Gabe and Cobra Starship.
    Go get em.

  2. […] live on the Knitting Factory. And I want to remind you of an Interview Gabe gave to ‘Change The Record‘ in 2009: Faye: There was never an official last Midtown show, you kind of just fizzled out, […]

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