Photo: Jenn Dorn Heard
Earlier this month, San Francisco’s Cocktails released their debut LP Adult Life on Father/Daughter Records. It’s one of my favorite releases of the year, as Cocktails seems to be getting better with every new studio venture. The lyrics are honest and personal without seeming bitter, while the band continues to drop the wonderful hooks that you’ll be singing in your head on Muni in the morning.
To celebrate the release of Adult Life, Cocktails are playing with Magic Trick, Violent Change, and Big Tits at Bottom of the Hill Friday night. I chatted with Cocktails frontman Patrick Clos about the album and “adult life” as a struggling artist in San Francisco. Check it:
The Bay Bridged: The album really is about “Adult Life” – did you conceive it that way from the start, or is it just how the songs came out?
Patrick Clos: Yeah, I think we were at least trying to make it have that cohesive “album” feel to it. In terms of the theme, I wanted it to be relatable for people as well. I think that growing out of your 20s and into your early 30s can generally be a pretty weird time. Everyone’s wondering if they’re doing the right thing with their lives, and there’s that societal rule that says it’s time to figure shit out.
It’s what I was going through anyway. We didn’t want to get too heavy with it or make it some dorky concept record, but we had a few other songs that somewhat related. So it’s more of a loose theme that sort of pops back up a few times on the record.
TBB: I sensed a little sadness throughout the album – are you comfortable with where you are as an artist and a…well, adult?
PC: Oh man, loaded question! There is a sadness to it, and I got pretty cynical at times, but musically it’s mostly a really poppy summer album. I guess it can be a therapeutic process to get those darker feelings out lyrically. They’re not necessarily permanent. It’s that “There! I said it” satisfaction. It can also be fun to just play with that kind of thing in the context of a pop song.
And I don’t know about being an ‘artist’ but I feel super grateful to be just a dude in a band and have a group of friends like-minded enough to be like, “Let’s start a band! Lets try and play some catchy music and crank it up!” So it’s rad that Lauren, Phil, Ryan, (and now Joel) are all into that. We try to avoid getting too serious about anything, and try and have fun with it. Part of me was self-conscious about it, but another part of me is like: F that! I’m doing what I love, which is playing some simple pop songs. There’s no pretentiousness or gimmicks, and sadly, that’s somewhat rare I think. It’s mostly just fun and hopefully that comes through.
There’s also an honest frustration when you’re kind of in the trenches of being an unknown band. I’d of course love to be able to take us to another level entirely, but that’s not super compatible with being 32 and paying Bay Area rent, and needing insurance, and on and on. But we’ve come a long way since our first bedroom demos, and even getting to an LP was a big goal of mine from the start. I’m excited to see what’s next.
As for being an adult: I’m living in San Francisco, which is where I like being. I moved away to Philly for a couple years and that didn’t work. I really missed SF. I have a dog. I have the band. I have a job. I have my own apartment here with my lady. I’m doing pretty all right in my mind! I moved here in ‘04 originally and this is now my home. It’s rough times here right now obviously, but I’m holding on.
TBB: How biographical is the album?
PC: I should note Lauren wrote lyrics on a couple songs, but I’m generally a fan of using super direct lyrics and having them come from a very real place or feeling. To me anyway, it’s much more challenging and self-fulfilling than doing it another way or waxing poetic or whatever. It’s not always 100% autobiographical, but it’s usually some side of me, or a feeling I’ve had in the past or in a given moment.
I step out of that at times because I enjoy kind of getting into character mode and storytelling too. It just depends on a song. There are a few songs on the record where it was fun to get into more of a second-person narrative, letter-to-yourself type vibe. It makes it a lot easier to sort of poke fun at your self without it really stinging. It’s a lot more fun to be the confident one, pointing your finger and being like: “you’re a piece of shit” rather than: “Aww man, I’m a piece of shit,” ha, if that makes any sense. (Not real lyrics).
TBB: Aside from Bob Pollard (obviously), who are some songwriters that influenced you growing up?
PC: I was really big on The Beach Boys as a kid. Not even like Pet Sounds – I’m talking like super cheesy “Here’s the Beach Boys singin’ about some cars” and Jan & Dean type stuff. Oldies radio hits. By the time I got a guitar, I started a corny pop-punk cover band doing nothing but dumbed down Beach Boys songs. Stuff like “I get around.” Some of that stuck, in that I’m personally just drawn to super melodic stuff – I love tons of vocal harmonies.
Weezer came out when I was about 13, and I was a totally obsessed dork. I’d formed a band not long after just to cover the Blue Album, which cracks me up – I couldn’t imagine teenagers doing that over some brand new/huge contemporary band now. But this was right on the edge of household dial-up Internet in small town Missouri so I guess it didn’t matter. But getting into Weezer turned me on to a whole slew of catchy overdrived-out 90s bands like Superdrag, Ash, Teenage Fanclub, The Rentals, Fountains of Wayne, Sloan… Stuff like that.
Later in high school I got a bit more “indie” and was exchanging Elvis Costello mixtapes with buddies, and getting Magnet Magazine in the mail, and imported magazines from The UK. So brit pop was really big. I’d also look out for like ANY CD’s on Matador, which you could occasionally find at like Sam Goody in the mall. I loved Pavement and Belle & Sebastian – DEEP underground stuff at the time and where I’m from, haha. Most kids at school were listening to Pearl Jam’s No Code and Sublime.
In college though I got into college radio and Napster was blowing up. I discovered 70s punk and power pop records. I got really into stuff like Cheap Trick, Nick Lowe, Big Star, Pezband, The Boys, Shoes, The Undertones, 20/20, The Db’s.. A bunch of mod bands as well. The list goes on and on. All of the sudden I had hard-drives of music. It was all really new to me and I kind of burnt myself out on it, but I still love all of that, and I think people sometimes connect us to a lot of that sort of stuff.
TBB: What about Haim and Kacey Musgraves?
PC: Ha, you must have seen my favorite albums of 2013 list or something, but yeah, I genuinely liked those records! It comes down to songs. I didn’t hear a ton of new records though, to put it in context. I think a few bands from around here like Warm Soda and Tony Molina also made my best-of list! I mostly just listen to older stuff and Joel’s “Odd-Pop” mixes on Spotify on repeat.
Both Haim and Musgraves are stupidly over-produced, but whoever’s writing those songs are at least writing solid songs and arrangements. When I first heard “The Wire” I became addicted, and listened to it ALL day long. It has that sick rhythmic vocal delivery and kind of sounds like what I think top-40 pop should sound like now – some crazy mix drawing from multiple eras and genres. Like T. Rex meets the Mac and Sheryl Crow, but with dancey, right-now production… And that’s just one hit. I don’t know, ha, it works for me. Not for everyone.
And then a friend of mine sent me his cover of this Musgraves song – he was mostly just fucking around, but it was him and his acoustic guitar, and this super sincere delivery, and it was really great. I was on a big modern country kick for awhile. When you strip away all of that production polish, and dumb lyrics, sometimes there’s really great songs under there. It’s so much more fun for me to listen to some of that than like hip current bands… There’s always exceptions.
TBB: How was SXSW?
PC: It was kind of a big ol’ shit show but we obviously knew it would be going in. Our attitude was more about trying to kind of have fun with it. I get why a lot of bands avoid it too though, as it’s pretty gross to see all these stupid brands and Internet-hype bands getting simultaneously force-fed down your throat in real life. I mean, more power to the bands that are able to do that shit for a living, but it’s like, “you WILL like Perfect Pussy” (or whoever), “now come see them 75 goddamn times in three days at every big sponsored day show.” No thanks.
But at our level, it was tough to even get on shows. I knew Father/Daughter was organizing a show with some really good bands, so we also just wanted to help support that. We got added last minute to a couple shows, including a Castle Face showcase, which ended up being a highlight, so we were thankful for that too.
But most of the band got sick over the course of a few days and everyone was throwing up because of it. I realized we’re the pussiest band of all time, but looking back, I think we still somehow managed to have a pretty good time. My cousin lives there and put us all up. He drove us around from show to show. That really helped. Somehow we didn’t get “discovered” though, so that was a bummer. I was hoping we’d be like that Sleigh Bells band from a few years ago that kind of sucks real bad but somehow “got discovered” after something like SXSW or CMJ and now they have a career. Oh well.
TBB: How did you hook up with Father/Daughter, and can you talk about Jessi has helped you guys out?
PC: I’m not entirely sure how actually, it could have possibly been this site, because you guys posted our demo, or it might have been one of our first shows at the Hemlock. But anyway she had heard us and emailed me and I looked up the label and thought there was some kind of catch, because we didn’t sound much like anything on it.
I requested a meet-up at a bar to make sure she was real and stuff (ha, it sounds like online dating)… It was really big for me that she was basically willing to put us out from the start. I’m sure most people know, but it’s not the easiest thing right now to start up a band and find someone willing to put out your stuff on vinyl. She also has a ton of experience from managing and publicizing bands. That’s her job. But with her label, it’s more about whatever she personally likes. It might be a punk band or it might be like an LA Dance Pop duo, but she wants to help bands/artists that she’s into, and that’s her thing. There’s not really any other criteria to my knowledge. I really respected that.
She’s also super smart and down to earth, and it sounds super cliché, but she’s doing it for all the right reasons. S/O to Jessi! A few Father/Daughter bands have moved on to larger labels and things, and I’m sure it’s in large part due to her hard work. She finds time to push our stuff even though she’s usually super busy with her hands in all kinds of projects – most of which are geared towards helping small bands like ours and other small labels get by and stuff. It’s pretty selfless and pretty badass. I’m thinking of starting a label inspired by hers and seeing if she’ll do some freelance to help me one of these days! Submit demos to firstname.lastname@example.org!