Interview and Photos by Dawn
The last time that Jack Cooper played in Stockton,
he got lost en route. Today when I call him to confirm interview
arrangements, he's - how should we put this? - not entirely familiar
with his surroundings. Thankfully it turns out that he's not far
from his destination and, thus, a combination of our directions
and the assistance of a passer-by ensure that he and his band -
Gareth, Milo and Ollie - have soon located the Green Dragon Yard
and the Georgian Theatre within.
Following their soundcheck, Jack and jovial keyboardist
Gareth join us for a chat beside the River Tees. 'We're just overlooking
the Stockton Riviera,' grins Jack, setting the scene for the tape
and, indeed, the informal tone for the entire interview as we commandeer
a table outside a riverfront restaurant.
'There's a pleasant mist on the water... lights on the
horizon...' offers Gareth as, in our slightly unusual location - complete
with passing cars and the odd firework illuminating the night sky above
us - we embark upon our mission to discover more about Jack Cooper.
The young Blackpool man first grabbed my attention back
in July when I stumbled upon his acoustic set at the Stockton festival
shortly before the release of his debut EP, Turn the Light Off.
Now he returns to the Teesside town with full band in tow to support the
rather stunning Goldrush - but what has he been up to since I last saw
'Trillions and trillions of gigs all over the place,'
says Jack, who once did five gigs in two days and freely admits that his
perception of time 'has gone off-kilter'. Thankfully he still remembers
playing the Leeds festival in the summer: 'It was the Oxfam tent and it
was pretty busy.'
'We got a lot of passing trade - people walking to other
tents,' explains Gareth. 'An odd place, an odd situation.'
'But we got to see a few bands. We saw The Shins for a
bit,' enthuses Jack. 'Awesome.'
They've also played numerous gigs
in London, supported Alfie three times and played on 6Music to promote
the single. 'We generally always get someone coming up and saying
how much they enjoyed it,' smiles Gareth.
Jack's debut EP was released in July to rave reviews
although, slightly unusually, it's only available on blue vinyl.
'We were trying to do something a bit more exclusive,' says Jack.
Yet more exclusive was the limited edition Jack
Cooper candyfloss which accompanied the release. 'It was meant to
be an alternative to rock,' explains Gareth, leading us neatly into
the Blackpool part of the conversation and the fact that music journalists
seem fascinated by Jack's seaside roots.
'I never thought it would be a big deal,' admits
Jack, 'but as soon as you say you're from Blackpool, people think
it's some sort of Northern Nirvana - which it's obviously not -
but people pick up on it; I don't know why.'
Still, as demonstrated by the candyfloss,
Jack has succeeded in turning this to his advantage. Promotional
pictures on his website feature donkeys, the seaside and Blackpool
Tower, whilst the town also inspired one of Jack and Gareth's favourite
songs, Devonshire Squares.
'The whole song is about Blackpool,' says Jack.
'I was trying to write a song like Penny Lane, that sort
of thing. Part of the reason I wanted to call a song after a place
is if it gets out there and people listen to it and if they were
to go there, they'd discover it's not exactly how they might expect.
I think if you went to Penny Lane you'd imagine it to be this fantastic
place, but Devonshire Squares...' he pauses and smiles wryly, 'isn't.'
He explains: 'There's a really upmarket furniture shop there, then
on the other side there's a sex shop and in the middle there's a
'A well-rounded place,' Gareth says succinctly.
'It's like Blackpool in a microcosm,' says Jack.
'And it's good fun to play.'
'Definitely,' agrees Gareth. ' It's a great one
for the crowd - everybody gets into it. It's a piano stomper.'
In the past Jack has objected to being labelled a singer-songwriter.
'That's simply because I always think that singer-songwriters are just
guys with guitars,' he explains. 'I play guitar and I can play bass to
some extent. I can hit drums. I can't play them...'
'I can verify that!' grins Gareth.
'And I can play piano to an extent for recording and writing
purposes, but I play piano and organ live. Ukelele as well. I'm like...'
'Paul McCartney,' offers Gareth, explaining that Jack
has been compared to him. 'You don't mind that.'
'People say the Beach Boys and I love the Beach Boys but
I don't really see it,' says Jack. 'I don't mind comparisons like Paul
McCartney or any kind of power pop like Big Star. Todd Rundgren. Someone
said that once and I was pleased - but only once.'
Inexplicably, talk then turns back
to Paul McCartney - and Gareth's search for a DVD of The Frog
Chorus ('I had an argument as I believe there's fish in the
video. Somebody else said "no, there's frogs" and, you
know, I got the logic behind that, but I think there's fish in the
video') before we return to the Georgian to meet band members Ollie
(drums) and Milo (bass) and ask everyone about the last record they
'The other week I bought Joy Zipper's second album,'
says Jack. 'That was the first support tour I did and they're very,
'I bought The Concretes and The Zutons at the same
time on CD Wow,' says Gareth.
'The Concretes,' answers Ollie before Milo adds,
'The Concretes and Jefferson Airplane.'
And finally, before we leave the foursome to prepare for
their set in the theatre below, we ask about the first record they ever
'The best of David Bowie,' says Ollie, to disbelieving
jeers. 'That was the first record I ever had. Second was Clannad - and
it was the soundtrack to Robin Hood.' As Jack bursts into a rendition
of the Robin Hood theme, Gareth admits, 'I bought Teenage Mutant
Ninja Turtles on vinyl.'
'Was that the one with the rap in it?' asks Ollie, a little
'Splinter did a little piece in it,' says Gareth.
'I bought Ray Parker Jnr's Oscar-winning theme tune to
Ghostbusters,' offers Jack, continuing the TV theme of the conversation.
'I ain't afraid of no ghost,' says Gareth, and as the
boys launch into a high pitched but impressively accurate rendition of
the Ghostbusters theme, we decide to take the opportunity to
sneak out of the dressing room and back to some sort of sanity...
Many thanks to Jack, Gareth, Ollie,
Milo, Paul, the Georgian staff and the Elephant and Grill for the loan
of their table. Visit www.myspace.com/BeepSeals
for Jack's current musical incarnation.
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