Interview with Gabe Saporta of Cobra Starship

Bullshit or not, Saporta’s take on life is pretty different to what most lead singers in power punk outfits would tell you. Then again, Saporta is no ordinary frontman. As the Cobra legend goes, Saporta dreamt up the idea for the band during a self-reflective trip to the desert. The high-energy lead singer says much more recently, he had an even greater spiritual experience that went a long way in helping him deal with a recent string of events. “I was having a really rough week a couple of weeks ago. My fucking dog died, and my uncle died in the same week. This whole past six months, and even this whole past year, has kind of taken a toll on me; a lot of touring, my voice got fucked up, everything’s changing, I get scared about losing our fans. It just felt like, ‘Fuck man, it’s getting stressful, I want to destroy it. I feel very self-destructive.’ I was drinking a lot and getting into fights with people. I knew I needed to figure it out so I went and did Ayahuasca,” he says. “This shaman from the Amazon comes to the States twice a year and does a tour. He goes to different cities and you do this crazy drug with him. It’s like a really crazy excursion. And it’s almost cult-like. You sing these songs that help the drug take its effect, and you go deep into your consciousness. People are sobbing, and it’s violent.”

Saporta says he was going crazy, punching the air, and it felt like his body was losing control, but at the end, it felt like an enormous amount of stress had been lifted. “All this negative energy was just gone. And that whole experience helped me embrace this. Again, it’s hard for me to not be the underdog. It’s hard for me to not create something new and start from the ground up because once I start to feel like I’m onto something bigger, I don’t want it anymore. And that experience helped me be like, ‘Okay, well you’ve worked hard to be here and you should be proud of that and not shy away from that like you’re doing something wrong.’”

If the band’s success until now is anything to go by, Saporta’s doing nothing wrong at all. In fact, there’s a lot more to him than meets the eye. For a band that doesn’t outwardly seek the spotlight, Saporta has a pretty solid understanding of what drives the business. “You can’t be everyone’s favorite band forever. When we were the underdogs, it was great, because it felt like no one gave a shit about us—we were under the radar, and we had all these people who were supporting us, but now I feel like the thing that hurts me is I get scared that some of those people are just going to be like, ‘Oh fuck it. I don’t want to support Cobra Starship because I see all these other kids that used to beat me up supporting Cobra Starship,’” he says. “And it’s a weird thing because it’s not about the music. If it were about the music, I would have never started playing music, because I’m not that great a musician. It’s not about how great your songwriting is, it’s about the vibe and the ideology and everything else that just goes along with music. The music is just the vehicle for it.”

Saporta says one of the most rewarding things about reaching the level they have is the small influence they have managed to have on popular culture, considering where they—and most of their labelmates—started out. “We all come from an underground punk scene. We come from places where there wasn’t music prevalent when we were kids and we started putting on our own shows—renting out halls, putting on basement shows, and so we have that ethic, you know. And the thing that’s crazy is that now we’re all part of the pop world in some respects. It’s like, we’re on TV, and we get to do this and that, and it’s funny. When I was in Midtown, I always shied away from that stuff but now I embrace it. That’s fucking cool. It’s great to be part of pop culture just by virtue of where we come from as a band.”

As Cobra’s climbed the ladder, the band’s relationship with the pop world—and their status within the industry—has changed. So their new work has had to follow suit. “For the next record, everything is just going to be grimier. Now it’s like, we’re not the underdogs anymore, so we have to have a new way of looking at it. I want to fuck it up a little bit. If I’m not going to destroy it, I at least want to make it a little grimy. People fuck with me a lot more now than they used to and music is a good way for me to express that. I sing a lot about that shit.”

While there’s truth behind the title of their new song, “Pete Wentz Is The Only Reason We’re Famous,” the track name was inspired by an article headline Saporta saw. He says the day-to-day bullshit he encounters has been a driving force and inspiration for a lot of the group’s new material because it’s often the best way to deal with a lot of the crap that surfaces. “It’s a thing that I read somewhere, and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s really funny, I’ll use that in our song.’ If someone talks shit about you, the best thing to do is just appropriate what they’re saying and make it your own because it takes the power away from them. So there’s a lot of shit-talking on this record.”

With 28 songs ready to go, the band still needs to nail down the vibe of its new record, as well as its track list. Fans catching Saporta and his crew at this year’s Bamboozle should prepare to be served up a serious taste of their new work mixed in with Cobra classics. Saporta says he’s pumped to play at Booz and remembers the festival well before it became what it is today. “I played the first ever Bamboozle. It used to happen at Asbury Park, at the old Convention [Hall] and it was awesome, so for me it’s very nostalgic. When it was Skate and Surf at the beginning, it was a punk thing at this run-down place, and it had a real character to it, and now it’s at the fucking Meadowlands. Everything kind of gets bigger and as it gets bigger, sometimes some of character gets lost but it’s good to remember what it was like.

“I’m glad we got to play last year and I’m glad we’re playing it again this year. For me, Bamboozle will always have a special place in my heart. It’s very nostalgic for me.”

Cobra Starship perform at this year’s Bamboozle Festival at the Meadowlands on Saturday, May 2. Visit and for more.