An Interview With Cockles
Cockles releases The World’s Best Narcissist
“I guess I’m plagued by nostalgia, so I just wanted to remember what it felt like to write a song in 2007.”
At the end of November, Cockles released his debut album The World’s Best Narcissist. The brainchild of Shortstraw frontman Alastair Thomas, the album comes after the release of two awesome singles, ‘Joshin’ Around’ and ‘Narcissist’ earlier this year. Alastair started writing for a solo project as soon as Shortstraw took a hiatus around November 2017.
Not sure which direction of sound to pursue, the inspiration bug bit in February 2018 when he wrote ‘Joshin’ Around’ in about 10 minutes and realised that THAT was the direction he wanted to take Cockles in. After establishing his style of songwriting, the rest of the album came quickly. By September 2018, he had the album tracked.
I caught up with Alastair to find out more about the album:
Congrats on the new album, The World’s Best Narcissist. What have your fans (and critics!) had to say about the album so far?
Thanks so much! So far, so good… Everyone has been very nice about it, which has done very little to shrink my head. It is a very good album.
That’s awesome! You decided to go solo (at least in writing songs) after Shortstraw’s hiatus in 2017 and also said that you “wanted to go back to [your] songwriting roots from 2007 Shortstraw”. What was special for you back then and why go solo? Do you feel you have more freedom working alone?
It was a simpler time! There was no focus on writing for radio or trying to keep fans happy, it was just wholesome songwriting for the sake of songwriting. There was more focus on the lyrics, which aren’t exactly literary genius, but a little more focused and a bit quirkier. I dunno, I guess I’m plagued by nostalgia, so I just wanted to remember what it felt like to write a song in 2007. It’s way more personal and there’s definitely a greater sense of freedom.
From writing the “first” Cockles single ‘Joshin’ Around’ in February this year, to the release of your album in November, is just a couple of months. How long did it take to put this album together, who worked with you on the project and is there a theme running through The World’s Best Narcissist?
Ja, it was pretty quick. When Shortstraw took the hiatus I quickly realised how bored I get when I’m not playing music, and I had a lot of songs in me that I needed to get out. So, after I wrote the first song, the rest followed over the next couple of months. It was generally a case of me coming up with a melody and idea for a lyric on a dog walk, then finishing it up when I got home. I’d then lay down a demo for the song myself, writing all the different parts (with terribly programmed drums) then would take it to High Seas Studios, where Gavin Flaks would track the drums properly and Jacques du Plessis and I would sit and craft the song together. Kinda half way through tracking the songs, we started to play a bunch of shows, which put the recording on pause for most of the year, then my team and I set the deadline of November and we hustled to meet it. The theme of the album is very much me. Such a bloody narcissist! But the songs are all from me, and either about me or from my point of view. It’s set up in the opening track, then goes through all the different parts of life and the weirdness of trying to adult and ends with my very own existential crisis summed up in song form.
So, who is really the world’s best narcissist?
You say your lyrics are all about “how life ain’t easy, but no one likes a little bitch”. Can you give an example of this in one of your songs? Who or what else influence your songwriting?
That line is supposed to encapsulate the whole idea of happy music for sad people. So, the songs are mostly pretty solemn actually, but they’ve all got these major chords masking the sadness. Small Talk is about the crippling anxiety that hits when I have to talk to anyone I don’t know well, but it’s masked as a fun song about running into friends from high school. Joshin’ Around is about getting older but still not really knowing what the hell is going on with my life. I’m just this old dude who wakes up to wee in the middle of the night but still has this dream of being a rock star. “Life was so much easier when I believed in you” – when I still believed in god, there was the promise of heaven and suddenly death wasn’t so scary, but age (and science) has jaded me and now there’s nothing left to look forward to. Jingle jangle major chords. Fun! Nobody wants to hear me whine about it, so I made them sound happy.
Haha! So, you made a really cool video for “Joshin’ Around”. Can we expect more of this? Which songs from the album will eventually have music videos?
Yeah sure. The Dolph guys made that video and they are amazing. I’ll probably do a few more DIY budget-friendly videos for a couple more songs. I definitely want to do one for Small Talk, I have an idea for Time Flies and a friend is keen to help out on one for Sour Poes.
And are you playing any shows this holidays – where can we see you perform next?
Because I’m so good at planning, there will be no holiday shows. But we’re kicking off early next year and have a show at Rumours on the 11th of January and we’ll be launching the album at The Local Culture on the 25th…
Finally, what are your three biggest goals for Cockles in 2019?
Just to gain a bit of traction I guess. Get on a couple of online playlists, play some festivals, get people to stop heckling us on stage. Jokes, we love the hecklers. We DO suck dick!