“I am sick of these motherfuckin’ snakes on this motherfuckin’ plane”, declared by Samuel L. Jackson’s character Neville Flynn, proved to be the catch phrase from the 2006 camp- fest Snakes On A Plane.
As the credits rolled, it would also serve as the intro to “Bring It (Snakes On A Plane),” the debut single from Cobra Starship. The delightfully cheesy clip featured Jackson reprising his role as Flynn and what could only be estimated as half of the Decaydance and Fueled by Ramen roasters.
And that was how most of the world was introduced to Cobra Starship. While rock musicians and cult films have long been regular bedfellows, going back to 1975 with Meat Loaf’s supporting role as Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, launching the band in such a manner has never ceased to be a risky proposition.
On the phone from his Manhattan apartment on the eve of the band’s vacation before their US winter tour, lead singer Gabe Saporta notes that the band anticipated being written off as a novelty act, but worked hard to counteract it. In the end, the risk paid off as “Bring It (Snakes On A Plane)” would eventually peak at number 32 on Billboard’s US Modern Rock chart.
“We tried really hard to establish ourselves as a ‘real band’. And not like, we’re serious artists and we take ourselves too seriously. More like a real band with fans. We toured to make sure that we wouldn’t just be just a one hit wonder. We released a record right after Snakes and hit the road with a purpose for a whole year in a grassroots way,” Saporta explains.
That album, While The City Sleeps, We Rule The Streets, featured the singles “The Church Of Hot Addiction” and “Send My Love To The Dance Floor, I’ll See You In Hell (Hey Mister DJ)” in addition to “Bring It (Snakes On A Plane).” The music videos which accompanied the singles all followed the same campy tone, done with a wink and a nod. Ultimately, the album would peak at number 125 on the US Billboard Top 200 chart and number 1 on the US Top Heat Seeker chart.
A veteran of the music industry, having found success with his Jersey-based punk band Midtown, Saporta was calculating in the way he made career decisions for Cobra Starship, admitting that with previous bands, “we made business mistakes which ended up biting the band in the ass.”
Cobra Starship are unique for a new band in that Saporta wasn’t the only veteran of the industry at the band’s conception. Bass player Alex “Cougar” Suarez and guitarist Ryland Blackinton met in high school and both later joined the punk band The Ivy League prior to joining Cobra Starship. Keytarist Victoria Asher also has a strong musical pedigree—her father is famed British Invasion producer Peter Asher.
Quick to make lemonade out of lemons, it was during the lull between his departure from Midtown and the formation of Cobra Starship that Saporta developed an integral part of the Starship sound.
“Cobra Starship has a lot of electronic and new wave influences. There was a time where I was totally sick of rock music. I had wanted to record an electronica album and had some friends tell me, ‘You and three friends will listen to it,’” he quips.
Given his love of electronic music, it’s no surprise that the keytar, a long forgotten ’80s relic, has become a mainstay of Cobra Starship’s instrumental make up.
“We started using it because of the punk rock influence. We didn’t know we could use it in the way that we do. A lot of people think that it’s like a toy, like those shitty little Casios. We actually use it like a controller. It’s connected to a rack system that’s preprogrammed with 300 sounds.” he says. “It’s also great because you get to have a keyboard player who can actually move on stage, instead of being glued to their instrument.”
Cobra Starship have paid homage to the bygone days of the ’80s in more than simply instrumentation. The band covered the Lionel Richie hit “Three Times A Lady” for an episode of “Gilmore Girls.” In the spring of 2007, the band recorded and released the song “Awww Dip” for the TMNT soundtrack, an animated update of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the same era.
In addition to being the backbone of Saporta’s favorite music and bringing about a major support beam to the architecture of Cobra Starship’s sound, technology is furthering the band in another crucial way.
“It’s so easy to make music these days. Anybody can do it without being trained. We recorded half of the new album [Viva La Cobra!] on the back of the bus on Garage Band and then dumped it all into ProTools,” he says.
The consistent touring after the release of While The City Sleeps, We Rule The Streets has paid off as Cobra Starship have gone beyond bucking the sophomore jinx, which many would have guessed the band would be doomed to after the large amount of exposure upon their debut, but in an overall slumping record industry, Viva La Cobra! is faring better on the charts than its predecessor.
The band’s collective love of technology and the digital age aside, the front man is proud to declare Cobra Starship “the tallest band on the planet.”
“Alex, Ryland and me, the three of us are all over 6’4” and Victoria is at least 5’11” and because we’re all monstrously tall, you don’t notice it on stage. When we toured with Fall Out Boy, we would join them onstage. Those guys are a little short, so we all looked like monsters,” Saporta laughs.
Their unusually tall stature aside, the band proves to be more than attention grabbing in tier live performance. The manifestation of the musicians’ collective energy is as quirky as the music they perform.
After having spent the bulk of their career on the road with the likes of Cartel, Boys Like Girls, Fall Out Boy, +44, The Academy Is…, and Rocket Summer, the band will add Metro Station, We The Kings and The Cab to their ever expanding list of tour-mates this winter.
Cobra Starship’s winter 2008 tour kicks off on Jan. 15 in South Hackensack, at The School of Rock East. Three days later, on Jan. 18, the band is scheduled to perform at NYC’s Highline Ballroom. From there, the band will crisscross the country, playing 47 dates in just under three months before playing the final show on March 8 at The Crazy Donkey in Farmingdale, NY.