I get the pleasure of talking to a lot of awesome people doing this Dying Scene gig and there is one name that keeps popping up. That name is Cobra Skulls and the appreciation for their take on punk rock spans the globe, from Dan of Alkaline Trio fame to the random that strikes up a conversation with me at a show usually beginning with a comment about the Cobra Skulls hoodie I’m sporting. Their recent signing to Fat Wreck Chords could be taken as a gauge of their popularity or as a testament to their ability to write intelligent and respectable punk rock.
The band dropped their EP, “Bringing The War Home” on Fat yesterday and Devin Peralta was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about the band, changing members, politics in music, English vs. Spanish and much more. You’ll have to check it all out here.
Photo credit: Jason Messick
“Bringing The War Home”, out yesterday, is the first release on Fat. How did signing to Fat come about?
Fat Mike saw us play with The Lawrence Arms in San Francisco last year and he said he was glad he got to see us play. Month later I was at a NOFX show in Pomona and he came up to me and asked if we would do a record for Fat and I said sure. Because of touring and timing of a release etc. we decided to do an EP before a full-length.
You’ve recently changed drummers. Was it an easy transition?
It’s been great. Luke is a great drummer and he is a super good guy. We were concerned because we didn’t really know him that well. We we’re just a band of friends, so we were basically asking someone to be our friend, as juvenile as that sounds, but it’s true. When I called him I asked if he would be down to commit to a three-month tour and he was down. We were bummed that Chad had to move on to other things, but understood and we couldn’t have lucked out more with Luke, so we’re stoked.
Punk has always been a platform for politically charged music? Why do you think this is so?
To me, music is just a combination of sound and emotion, so punk music, being high energy evokes a high level of emotion. In the way a slow, classical piece of music can make someone so sad that they cry, the high energy of punk music can make people agitated and want to move like crazy. It just makes sense that if society makes someone so agitated that they want to scream, then a high-energy music like punk is a pretty good kind of music to play to express that agitation. Hehe. That’s kind of dry and scientific, but I think it’s true.
For the Cobra Skulls, does the political content stem from trying to make listeners more informed and aware of political issues or is it more a manner of voicing opinions?
It would be nice to inform people…maybe I do a little, but I just write about what concerns me and if people are interested in the topic in the song, then I hope they investigate it more for themselves. I think it’s great when people thank me for singing about something that they were already concerned about before they heard the song. That means they have a deeper connection to the song, they know they are not the only one who feels a certain way, and, conversely, I also know there are other people out there that feel like I do.
Do you sit on songs for a while before introducing them to the band or were they songs that you had no plans of releasing until the EP?
It’s more like I just write songs when I have time to relax or feel like a song comes to me and I just put them aside for when the time comes to meet up and rehearse. I started writing a couple of the songs on this EP a year prior to the recording, but they evolved over time and from the time I started writing them to the time I brought them to the band they changed a lot. I wanted to do one more song for the EP, but there just wasn’t enough time to teach it to the guys. I think we practiced the songs for like 6 days before we went in to record, but I’m really happy with how they turned out.
“Sitting Army” is an album that is fast and furious while “American Rubicon” has these catchy melodies over the top. Was this a natural progression in your writing process or did something shift that made you write in this manner?
I dunno. My girlfriend just mentioned the other day how Sitting Army was “a lot faster”, but that just seems like the opposite to me. I feel like Sitting Army is so slow, I can’t even listen to it, but I guess it’s poppier than American Rubicon. It’s probably just the result of wanting to do something different than the time before. That and Adam is on American Rubicon playing guitar and adding his backup vocals. On Sitting Army I basically overdubbed all the back-ups and Charlie had a different style of play on guitar.
You lost the “Cobra” in the titles for “American Rubicon”. Had the joke lost its shine? What made you name songs in that manner in the first place?
We just did that on a whim not thinking we would actually develop a little following and then it got boring. Then I realized it actually detracted from the songs. When I saw people actually singing ‘Faith is a Cobra’ and not ‘Faith is a Cult’ I thought, ….”what!? They really think we’re dumb enough to sing about cobras?! And they’re into it?!”
Personally, I think the English language is very stupid. Do you find it easier to write songs in Spanish or English?
Yes, English is frustrating, but I think English, and its relative, German, sound really cool in music, especially hip-hop. German punk rock is the shit! But have you heard hip-hop in Spanish? – not good. English was my first language, growing up and I just speak Spanish with my dad and when I visit his side of the family, but that’s an interesting question because I’ve felt like writing lyrics in Spanish is easier, probably because I’m less critical of myself. When I write in English I feel like I’m wary of each word I choose and then in Spanish I usually go with whatever comes to mind.
Do you inject Spanish into Cobra Skulls songs because it comes naturally to you or is it paying homage to your heritage?
Both, but I only write in Spanish if it suits the song. My cousin, from Buenos Aires, used to send me Argentino punk and a lot of it was super cool.
What can Cobra fans expect from the new EP?
5 new songs (one is a Bad Religion cover) all very different from one another and I think we’ve returned to a little more of that faster, furious sound of Sitting Army you might have been referring to, but really it’s a whole different beast unto itself. We have had yet another line-up change and Luke is shredding on drums.
Are Cobra Skulls now a full-time band?
I guess, but we still work. This is a polite way to ask about money, right? What are we raking in? It’s what people want to know…To be honest, I think we made 5 grand each last year from everything related to Cobra Skulls, but whatever, it’s the experience that makes it worth it and 5 grand is cool if you don’t mind bumming on couches etc.
Did you expect the band to come as far as you have?
I knew it was possible when I saw people genuinely liked the songs and had fun at shows, but it’s really amazing that Cobra Skulls are even still a band. We have worked really hard, but we owe it to a lot more people than just ourselves.
What are three things that the world should know about the Cobra Skulls?
Man, the world would be better off if it knew three things about itself, but if they had to know about this little shit band I would say…..we love to tour, but miss our friends and family on tour so we always enjoy meeting new people who welcome us into their home to hang and crash and we love home-cooked food. Is that three things?