If there is one band that have more integrity than anyone, it's Team Cooper. They have stood on their own legs through the thick and the thin. The story of their life as a band reads like a best seller. We too are glad to have never abandoned our faith in them. Today, SUPERSWEET's Ruari Barratt invades their studio in Reading - the place they call home - and chats to his most favourite band's lead singers Ben Gautry and Dan Fisher. Double trouble it is!
SS: Where did the album title Make This Your Own come from?
Dan: It was Tom’s idea, really. We’ve been away for three years and the thing that kept us going over those three years was the fans and their presence, support and loyalty on the website. 'Make This Your Own’ was to say ‘thank you’, and to show our appreciation. It’s their album.
SS: How would you describe your fanbase?
Dan: ‘Dedicated’, I think is the word. Again, very loyal. They’re special people – I’m sure every band thinks that, but it’s got to the point where it’s actually been commented on by the press. Our big break essentially came the NME ran a competition for people to send in reviews of an album and according to an inside source about 78% of the reviews were of our first album. They realised there were a lot of people who were passionate about this band. It’s because of their loyalty that we started to get attention.
SS: Which song [on MTYO] did you write first?
Ben: ‘Damage’ was the first song we finished. It’s the first track on the album. Essentially it’s all chronological.
SS: Although ‘Waiting Game’ was the last one you did?
Dan: It was written with the other tracks but right at the last minute we rerecorded the version we had. The last one written was probably ‘Take Comfort’ and ‘Head’ as well, they were both late inclusions. ‘Head’ was a track we had kicking about for a while that we were going to put off till the next album, ‘Take Comfort’ was from a session we did after we’d finished mixing the album, trying to come up with some B-sides, some acoustic numbers so we had a pool for the future. Then ‘Take Comfort’ came up and a lot of people said ‘that’s a really good track and it’d fit on the album’. In the end we were won over.
SS: The lyrics to ‘Take Comfort’ are quite unambiguously bleak. Is that based on the personal experience of someone in the band?
Dan: Yeah, they all are. We’re not a band that writes stories and characters. We write about our experiences. Ween used to do it a lot, write extremely poppy tunes with very, very bleak lyrics. Overall, there’s hope in there as well. There’s a lot of self-loathing in there, but also realising that you’re getting on, looking forward and realising where you’ve been and realising that life’s a lot longer than your immediate experiences and that a lot of pain and suffering is very character building. There’s little smidgens of hope in there if you look close enough.
SS: Has it changed the onstage dynamic, having five members instead of six after the departure of Didz Hammond?
Ben: Didz had a big stage presence. He was often referred to as a ‘serial pouter’, I think is the phrase. You lose a band member, and obviously you’ve got to try and cover the parts he’s been playing. With the songs on the first two albums we had to come together and work out how we were going to cover it, and it actually really tested us to see if we could perform those songs. It was almost like starting out as a new band again, and in effect we were because we were playing parts that we hadn’t before, and different instruments. It made us stronger. I think the way we perform live has definitely changed, we’ve become a lot tighter and a lot more focused on the music as opposed to maybe… well, I don’t want to go on about the pouting. It’s more focused on the music, which is why we started the band. It was disgruntled music fans not hearing the music we wanted to hear. We want to be known as a great band who wrote great music and we’re still learning, but I think already we’ve superseded what we were as a six piece live. We’re going on tour in a month and we’re looking forward to it because we’ve been getting better and better each tour we’ve done without Didz.
SS: I understand you’ve started to become more involved with the process in the studio?
Ben: Tom is, and I think it’s always important, if you can, to have a band member who can do that. We have the luxury of having our own studio and it enables us to record and demo without getting anyone else in and Tom and Kieran are very comfortable with doing that and very excited about learning. It’s a lot easier and a lot more intimate when it’s just the five of us. That’s what we wanted to get back to - when we first started out without a record deal and it was just five or six of us in a room making music because we wanted to make it, without any end purpose, no vision of how many records you’re going to sell. Just making songs that touch us and move us, at that point in our rehearsal room. That’s what we’re going back to, and Tom and Kieran seem to be becoming superstar producers as well.
Dan: Or, technically ‘nerds’, as you call them.
SS: On the video for ‘Homo Sapiens’ you gun down faceless military and political figures. Is there a reason why you’re all swamped at the end?
Dan: Well yeah, it’s ‘an eye for an eye and everyone’s blind’. We wanted to set up this strange situation where you had various political figures and big business and the military… that’s where the mask idea came from. They were stereotypes that we were gunning down… and we wanted everyone to be going ‘yeah, go on, get ‘em, kill ‘em’, but it doesn’t get anyone anywhere, that kind of attitude. If we’d have got away with it at the end then it would have been just having a whole heap of fun and there wouldn’t have been much of a message to it.
Ben: We always want to do videos that tie in with the lyrics and part of the song is lambasting what it is to be a man and certainly lambasting certain western foreign policies. They are in a position where they’re abusing power and like Fish (Dan) said it would be stupid if we got away with it because you’re basically as good as them if you’re just shooting everything and hoping that the problem goes away. We just wanted to do something that had a bit more meaning than sitting and performing in a dark dingy room with rain coming down like so many stupid Indie bands.
Dan: Also it did mean that we got to jump about with guns (laughs).
SS: So who’s the Safari Bob character, the one who takes you on a ‘ride on the dark side’?
Dan: He’s a devil’s advocate kind of guy. The voice on your shoulder saying ‘do it, do it’ when you know you shouldn’t. A figure of poor conscience.
SS: He seems to find it quite funny when you all get got at the end.
Dan: Yeah, he’s a… kind of a….
Dan: Yeah (laughs heartily).
SS: MTYO has songs on it hat could be described as coming from distinctly separate genres. Is that the result of deliberate decision or did it just work out that way?
Ben: It’s just the way it happened. This time we tried to have the body of the song finished, by that I mean the chord structure coupled with the lyrics and melody completed so that we could play it from start to finish on an acoustic guitar or a piano, then we’d add the music. On the previous two albums we’d be jamming in a room and we’d create this kind of sonic soundscape and then we’d add the lyrics and melody last, which is almost like tying your hands behind your back when you’re song writing because you’ve left behind certain options and tangents. This time we had all the songs finished and we could perform them on acoustic guitar and then musically we could take them wherever we wanted.
SS: So you never sit and down and think ‘now I feel like writing a country song’?
Dan: No, I think the album is a reflection of each individual band member’s taste in music. We do all have extremely different tastes in music, to the point where there’s friction. The producer said something very telling when we were recording, that he hates it when bands supposedly split over artistic differences, when it’s artistic differences and that friction that creates that special feeling within the band.
Ben: We’ve had songs where there were five different personalities within the song, certainly on (the second album) Kick Up The Fire and Let the Flames Break Loose. We’ve always wanted to progress from album to album. We despise bands who have a successful album then make exactly the same album but not as good – without the same songs, without the same touch of the imagination. We knew when MTYO came out it would throw people and surprise people, though I think Cooper Temple Clause fans know to expect the unexpected with us. The level of division in opinions that people have had about this album shows that we’ve done something right. There are people talking equally passionately about how much they love it as people talking about how much they hate it.
Dan: If it sells loads, fantastic. If it doesn’t, see you next time round! (laughs)
Words: Ruari Barratt
Photography: Rebecca Cotton