INTERVIEW On pop, technology, and the 90s

The Tech gets the details from Ryland Blackinton, guitarist of Cobra Starship

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Synthpop band Cobra Starship will be playing at the House of Blues in Boston this Sunday as part of the Too Fast For Love Tour. Guitarist Ryland Blackinton (right) sat down with The Tech for a quick chat.
Courtesy of Fueled By Ramen

Cobra Starship, the dance/synth/pop group will be coming to Boston on May 9 at the House of Blues. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to speak with the articulate and thoughtful Ryland Blackinton, the guitarist, about the band, Boston, and music. Thanks to Kelly McWilliam from Atlantic Records for making it happen.

TT: From my understanding, you actually used to live in Massachusetts? What do you think of the Boston concertgoers and dynamics of the crowd?

RB: I love to going back to Massachusetts — I always have lunch with family and that’s always a lot of fun. I always get at least a free dinner out of it. The fans are great, and I always feel in touch with them when I’m back.

TT: I understand that you were involved in the band This is Ivy League. The music is much more folksy and whimsical I’d say than Cobra Starship. Were you originally looking to go into that genre when you thought of starting a band?

RB: When Alex and I started This is Ivy League, yeah, I’d say our music was like that. I mean, it’s all pop. I love pop music and I love playing pop music for the last couple of years but that’s what my music first sounded like….it all falls under the realm of pop.

TT: What’s Cobra Starship’s creative process?

RB: It’s a big collaboration between all of us. There’s no set creative process…above all else, we try to have a good time and keep it light and funny and…we figure that it better be fun when we’re doing it. Musically, Gabe (Saporta, vocalist) writes the song titles and gets the creative titles and does the lyrics; Alex (Suarez, co-member of This is Ivy League and bassist of Cobra Starship) and and I start the songs with electronic beats.

TT: One of the tracks from your newest album featured Leighton Meester, the actress from the hit show Gossip Girl. What was it like working with her? Also, do you watch the show?

RB: We said we’d love to work with her once but it was as kind of a joke but sure enough, six months later, there was just an opportunity for a gig to fly into the window. She’s cool. My girlfriend was a fan of the show so I watched the first season. Gabe, on the other hand, I think he’s seen the up to the third season? I haven’t watched it lately.

TT: That song “Good Girls go Bad” brings me to this question — what’s the most badass thing you’ve ever done?

RB: The most badass thing? I met Snoop Dogg and Paul McCartney; that was pretty badass.

TT: You guys are currently on tour with 3OH!3. What’s the experience been so far?

RB: Yeah, we’re on tour with 3OH!3 and also Travis McCoy. Our first tour was with Travis so it feels very natural and chill. 3OH!3 we met on Warped Tour and we hung out last night for Nate’s birthday and we got pretty crazy. It’s been a load of fun on the road.

TT: Have you guys continued to write music on the road or have you been focusing more on practicing and getting sleep?

RB: We do a lot of stuff electronically so we can do it on our laptops and we’re able to start projects that way and we’re usually working on stuff all the time. Once we get home to the studio, we can usually draw inspiration from NYC.

TT: Technology must have changed the way music’s being made dramatically. What do you think about the role of technology in the music industry?

RB: I think in the last ten years, recording technology has become…really easy and intuitive for people. Almost all laptops come with a recording device and technology has really leveled the playing field- in a good way — for people who make music, and otherwise who might have not gone into making music. It’s made music easier to make but sometimes recording tends to be a little too perfect, a little soulless; the next challenge will be to find a way to humanize stuff that is becoming very robotic and rigid. I think that’s what it’s like now…finding a way to preserve, to implement human things like velocity and timing into this…sort of new technology that’s black and white and very mathematic.

TT: What do you think of the collaborations between hiphop artists and rock artists? For instance — Kid Cudi & MGMT? Do you think Cobra Starship will have a future collaboration with a hiphop artist?

RB: We actually did collaborate with a hiphop artist in our last album- we worked with Bobby Ray (B.O.B.) on the song “The World Will Never Do”. Chiddy Bang is gonna come up and we’ve been talking about doing a collab with him. We love to work with different groups

TT: What do you think about mashup?

RB: Mashup is pretty cool — we did a show with Girl Talk; mashup got a little played out at one time; I think it reached its expiration date but a lot of people still do interesting things and mashup definitely still has a place in popular music. I think it’s good — people are sampling a lot more different types of music

TT: What are your current favoriate dance tracks?

RB: Ratatat ­— “Shempi”; Breakbot — “Baby I’m Yours”, Daft Punk — “Something about Us”; and DBNM — “Justice.”

TT: If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, which album would it be?

RB: That’s a tough question. Well, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band is one of the best albums ever made but I may not be able to listen to it forever. Maybe the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds just because it’s so beautiful.

TT: How do you think pop has changed since the 90s? And where do you think it’s going?

RB: I don’t know… I didn’t really listen to pop music until pretty recently; there were ten years that I didn’t listen to the radio at all but in the last four years I’ve listened to the radio because it’s part of my job and I do it to just to see what other people are doing …it’s definitely become more electronic and will continue to do that and I think there’ll be a middleground between a more electronic and a more human sound. I listen to all sorts of stuff.

TT: What did you listen to during the ten years you didn’t listen to the radio?

RB: I just got into a lot of older British invasion stuff — the Who, the Beach Boys, the Beatles. I just really focused on that music for like ten years or so and that was during the period where I was really into guitar, old music, playing the piano and stuff. Nothing was grabbing my attention. There was definitely a lull in good music at the time but there’s a lot of cool and interesting things now. Ratatat and Kid Cudi collab is really cool, and I think the current scene is bringing out underground artists and hopefully will continue to do so.