Cobra Starship has never (really) been a joke to Gabe Saporta, though he’ll be the first to admit that following the release of 2011’s Night Shades, he did his fair share of laughing. Mostly to keep from crying.
“I went thought some hard times. I lost my girlfriend of five years; it was the typical clichéd band story – you get success, but it screws up your life,” he says. “We were always these outsiders in the pop world, and then we were thrown into that world, and I don’t think I was ready for that. I was almost mad at my career for it costing me so much.”
So, after completing all obligations to the band, Saporta took a break. He briefly revived his pre-Cobra act, Midtown, and put his pop-star dreams on the backburner. But as the hiatus stretched into a second year, he found himself thinking of firing up the Starship once again; only this time, he was going to do things a little differently.
“When I first started Cobra Starship, I had a very particular vision of what I wanted to do, and we did it. And I feel like any artist, when they experience success, they want to replicate it, but sometimes you end up repeating yourself,” Saporta explains. “To me, [2011 single] ‘You Make Me Feel…’ was a natural extension of what [2009’s] ‘Good Girls Go Bad’ was, but for now, I feel like we need to come up with something super-fresh.
“And a lot of stuff I’d been listening to was early ’90s U.K. stuff, when bands first started experimenting with electronic music, and putting break beats into songs,” he continues. “Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, Jesus Jones…even George Michael. Whenever anyone asked me what I was trying to do, I’d just say ‘Freedom.’ It’s such an amazing song, and if you’re going to go for it, you might as well go for it.”
The first example of the new Cobra Starship is “Never Been in Love,” a retro-leaning single that’s a definite departure from the electro-pop they’ve become known for. Instead, the song – which features guest vocals from Icona Pop – takes its cues from those aforementioned British Baggy bands, plus more recent(ish) acts like Fatboy Slim and the Go! Team.
Yes, it’s different, and at the moment, that’s a fact some diehard fans are finding hard to take. But as Saporta points out, while the sound may have changed, what inspired him to start Cobra Starship in the first place hasn’t.
“Cobra’s always been this vehicle for me to experiment and do whatever I felt like doing, musically,” he says. “I grew up playing punk, and I found a lot of my friends who came up in the punk world kind of got stuck there, they felt like they couldn’t to do something new because it would be selling out. So that’s why I didn’t turn Midtown into Cobra Starship; I developed a brand-new vehicle to do what I want. Now, I’m doing it again.”