Interview: Helena Cos (Spider Rockets)

Spider Rockets combines contemporary loud rock with classic rock elements. The New Jersey-based band travels the sonic spectrum from dark and seductive to energetic to angry, with a dynamic live show and scream-along anthems. Read a little more about Spider Rockets from singer Helena Cos below.

 

How did you first get in to music? Who turned you onto rock n roll?

Growing up, I was lucky to have good music programs in school. And, my mom thought learning music was important, so I was encouraged (i.e. forced) early on. I always remember her saying, “you will thank me one day.” As much as I hate to admit it, and I really do hate it, she was right. I appreciate it more than she probably would have guessed back then. Mom was a big opera fan, so I got a big dose of that. As a kid, I used to love watching movie musicals. Doris Day, Judy Garland, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand. The music and the voices of these women transported me. But I think I ODed after a while and, like any good addict, swerved to another direction entirely. I started exploring blues and jazz with Ella Fitzgerard and Billie Holiday which opened a whole new world for me. Big Mama Thorton, Etta James and Janis Joplin and Tina Turner got me hooked on grit and got me into rock music.

What got you started playing music and how old were you?

My first instrument was violin. As a violin student and player, what is generally known as classical music to most people, is what I played and heard most of every day growing up. Not that I was a fan of opera or classical music growing up — quite the opposite. I tried to learn the flute when I was 7 years old but could not, for the life of me, figure out how to make sound come out of that instrument. It looked so easy when other people did it, but it didn’t quite work out for me. I moved on to learning how to play the violin. I would get up at 6:30 am to practice and whenever I stopped for too long, I could hear my mom from the other room say “I don’t hear you practicing.” And I would get back to it. We lived in an apartment and had very, very nice neighbours who never complained which was good for me, but, I would guess, more than a bit torturous for them.

Have you always been creative?

I never really thought of it, honestly. I’ve always been around music and art since my earliest memories. My mom is an artist, so I always remember having paintings around and being dragged to art galleries and museums. I don’t think you want to see me create a sculpture or painting, though — unless you want a good laugh.

How did you become a vocalist? Are you proficient in any other instruments?

I started singing in school – in musicals and the vocal ensemble. No big parts, but I caught the bug and never got rid of it. As soon as I got out of school, I took it more seriously, started auditioning for bands, met Johnny (lead guitar for Spider Rockets) and here we are, five albums later. I can play the piano a bit, too. Honestly, singing in the chorus of my high school’s production of ‘Oklahoma’ I would have never seen this coming.

How did the band form and how did the band name come about?

Johnny and I started the band as a duo initially. We had the word “monkey” in our name when we started but received a “cease and desist” letter from a band in Florida. Since they were so keen on keeping “monkey” in their name, we were glad to give it up. Johnny tweaked our name and came up with Spider Rockets and it’s been ours ever since!

Your new album ‘Along Came A Spider’ dropped on January 26th. What was the writing process like for you? How do you pick what you want to keep and release and what gets tossed aside?

The writing process is loooong for us. We start with lyrics or a guitar riff and then develop a part for a song around it. The ideas that get chucked usually can’t get past this phase. But we keep them around, just in case they generate another idea down the road. More parts are added to the good parts that are already done. Then we practice, dissect, move stuff around, remove parts, change lyrics. Evaluation time again. Songs get chucked here. Then, the remaining songs go through the whole process again a few times before we even start with pre-production. Pre-production is when we go through all these steps again with our victim-of-choice… I mean, our producer.

So how was producing and putting this record together different than what you have done previously? What kind of obstacles did you have to overcome to get it out?

We had some upheavals to deal, personal and professional, and had to put back the pieces in both situations to create this album. Deaths in the families and band members falling off. We had to refocus. And it was hard. As we started working on the new material, though, we were harder on ourselves than we had been in the past. Does going through bad stuff make you stronger or fight harder for stuff you want? Who knows? Regardless, we went through a lot of songs and song revisions to get to the final product. We did not want to rush and release something we were less than satisfied with at the end. Also, I suppose we are masochists, because we chose to work with people that do not make it easy for us either. And we very much thank those people — you know who you are!

How has your approach to songwriting changed over the years?

I don’t think our approach has changed. We start with music or vocals or words. Very simple. But from there it can get hairy fast and usually does. Being creative is hard work and things don’t come together easily MOST of the time. For me, anyway.

What do you miss the most about playing live with a drum machine?

Mmmn, I can honestly say nothing. Music is about generating feelings: the attack of a note, the crescendo and decrescendo in different parts of the song and the visual live energy. It would have to be a pretty amazing drum machine that could capture all those things.

How did the deal come about with P-Dog Records?

Ha! We’ve have a long history with P-Dog Records. After all, it is our label. We started the label when we started the band. The name actually came from a nickname for my brother. So, after many weeks of deep and serious contemplation within the band (I’m joking, of course), we decided to sign ourselves again to P-Dog Records for this album.

How do you picture your fans enjoying your album once it is released? What’s the ideal listening environment?

Hanging upside down from the ceiling and swinging back and forth to the beat. Other ways that would be totally cool, too, are listening through an amazing sound system as you chill on your couch, while driving, at the gym, at work, in the shower or as a lullaby to soothe you to sleep…. OK, all except the last one. I don’t think this album works for easing you into slumber.

What is the music scene like now in New Jersey? What are some of the advantages of being from New Jersey? How has the music industry and your scene changed during the life of Spider Rockets?

Music scene questions always stump me, honestly. Like all musicians just clump together and live in a big commune and think and act as one. Or a cult. I have had a healthy suspicion of communes and cults and prefer to stay far away from both. Trends come and go in music, like anywhere else, but I try not to pay attention to what’s coming or going from one minute to the next. What a great way to lose your identity – chasing the latest fad or trying to blend in to what you imagine is popular. Regarding the music industry, the only constant is constant change. I’ve always thought of it like the Wild West and it has not disappointed me yet. One expert opinion is easy disproved by a dozen examples. Go figure. If you wrote a book about the music industry this year, it would be outdated by next year. Probably even by next month!

Best and worst part of touring?

Best part is playing every night for people that appreciate what you are doing. And, the truth is, we appreciate right back. We don’t take any of this for granted, because it has been hard fought for us every inch of the way. We don’t have a big, rich company behind us. We have a village, a village that grows with every show and every fan that turns to us. We recently met a fan who still had our first recording ever. He showed it to us at one of our shows. I was floored. This recent show was the first time he actually saw us live. He was so happy, and, honestly, we were equally thrilled to talk with him. The worst part of touring? Not getting enough sleep. No secret, sleep is golden to me. But, I can sleep in a chair if that’s my only choice. Napping is an art form and, sometimes, I can be a fantastic artist!

How much time do you spend on social media a day? Which do you hate the most but can’t live without? Which do you like and why?

I try not to be attached minute by minute to social media. That being said, we don’t farm out our accounts to anonymous people that post and comment for us. We do it ourselves, which means we have to stay on top of our shit online. Not fun all the time, but necessary. I like Twitter because you can be short and sweet. No room for long diatribes or diary-like intimacy – it’s a breath of fresh air in an online environment where too much sharing sometimes makes me really uncomfortable.

You’re on a desert island and only have three albums to listen to for the rest of your life, what are they and why?

So, I have electricity, food and water? Because we could be talking a couple of days instead of years, right? Especially on a desert island. AC/DC ‘Back in Black.’ I love this album: the hooks, the riffs, loud guitars and gut-wrenching vocals that capture the blood, sweat and pomp of great rock. Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ because it is pure candy to me, and if you know me at all you know I am a sugar freak. Also, I don’t know these guys, but they are from my neck of the woods, and, because of that, I have a soft spot for them. Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back to Black’ has great songs, fantastic production and a bad-ass lady delivering the vocals.

What does rock n roll mean to you?

Freedom to be yourself. I wish that for everyone and treasure it for myself.

Categories: Interviews, News

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