Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Friendly Chat With... Max Cooke of GoodBooks

The NME called GoodBooks "the best new band in Britain" before their first proper single had been released. The paper may have moved on to bands with more hair but they remain a hugely exciting proposition only two singles on - you may remember our Truck Festival coverage last year saw us risking hypothermia to gladly laud their electro-influenced, left turning jagged pop. Their second major label single is out next month, and in advance singer/guitarist Cooke gave some time over to our usual set of badly worded queries.

How would you describe yourselves?
Eager to try many things. Unwilling to sit still.

Cliche would have it that you were in the middle of an A&R scrum before signing to Columbia. What's that sort of thing really like?
It seems to be the way things go for most bands that go on to sign a deal; most of the A&R men just have to follow a band up so they can report back to their boss that they were onto it and chose not to sign, rather than that they missed it. And for us it was pretty easy to tell who was personally into what we were doing and who was just covering their back.
You can milk it if you want to though - dinners/drinks etc. I read about the Twang taking the labels for everything they could get, which does sound like a laugh! But a lot of the labels we met was just a beer and a chat; that's much more important, what they say, rather than what they buy you. And the way they say things was important to me; every label wants to do similar things with you and for you, so each individual's take on the standard speech was how I formed my opinions of who I wanted to work with.

How do you write? More specifically, is there a purposeful storytelling element in your lyrics?
I write as automatically as I can. If I'm doing a song with a story or a point then I'll collect lyrical ideas together beforehand, including 'research' if necessary. But then it's a case of head down, and trying to get as much of the song as you can in one writing session, as it's always harder to finish it off later, and it'll be a much more unified song if it's all written at the same time. That said, the change in mood can be a good thing too.
The storytelling-type song just grew out of a frustration with boy-meets-girl songs, which I'd been writing since my 11th birthday. And the first song 'like that' that I wrote was Passchendaele, and I knew it was something that felt right. But for years I've wanted to be able to say "this is a song about..." I think that's important, whatever you're writing about.

There was a fair amount of music press hype around before Walk With Me. How do you react to that sort of build-up in general?
I tried not to, but it was a severely exciting time. We were in Cambridge at the time, so we could practise whenever Leo didn't actually have a pen on the page trying to finish his degree. And the NME was writing about us for the first time, and we'd buy that each week and laugh at silly pictures, and we were mentioned pretty heavily in a Times article on Transgressive. It was amazing to see that people had actually bought the single when it came round to the April tour.

As the tag's been bandied about, would you class yourselves as an electronic band?
I don't really like labels for any music, but there's certainly an element of our sound that is electronic, so as long as it wasn't the only tag I'd be happy with that. But I wouldn't call us a guitar band, even though I play guitar in it; 'electronic' and 'guitar band' for me both conjour up very clear preconceptions of what we might be like before you've heard the music. And I hope that neither of those preconceptions would be accurate.

Does Holly Willoughby keep in touch? (it was Willoughby - you know, her off Dancing On Ice - who gave them their name)
Now and then. I suspect she'll pop up again around festival time!

What have you been listening to recently?
Uffie. It's like she's making love to your ears.

What's next?
There's The Illness, out on April 30th, then the album at the beginning of July. But we're obviously a couple of months ahead of that, so we're doing video and B-sides for the next single at the moment. And there's a huge tour in April/May, which we can't wait for.


Thanks to Max, GoodBooks and their assorted people. As the man said The Illness is on the way and is now streaming on their Myspace, and they have proper web presence too. If you're reading this within a week of publishing, get over to Corporate Anthems for a quite intriguing tie-in mp3.

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