Top Ten Things to know about Penny Cocks

With the band’s second LP, Fake Gold and Broken Teeth, Penny Cocks rescue and clean up some of their favourite classics, 50’s highway bar songs and punk songs from before punk. One of these songs is “Jibba Jab” by Tic & Toc, premiered yesterday on Radio 3’s ‘El Sótano’ as a forward of their new album, to be released on the 13th of September. We wanted to find out a bit more about the band and their upcoming LP so we’ve given the word to Adrià F. Marquès. Adrià will tell us, in his usual elegant and funny way, about their original influences and the journey of recording and releasing an album (as well as a few secret tricks, like the magic of grog for recording good backing vocals).

On how it all started:

We were all part of the boom in the ’90 and early 2000. We grew up listening to British bands from the ’70 and ’80 as well as a lot of black music (soul and reggae mostly). Back then there was a load of concerts and DJs in Barcelona so we would run away from our villages to go and see bands or to dance in small dark clubs. That’s where we all met, except Rob and I; we are both from Alt Maresme and have been in the same group of friends since we were teenagers. We would call ourselves The Moloko Boys (I was older, 18, and Rob was the youngest at just 13 or 14).

On genre stereotypes:

I suppose we fit in with old fashion punk rock. Labelling music is for critics and connoisseurs; we don’t really care for it. Sometimes they say we are “mods”, but we don’t feel that at all. We love soul, rhythm and blues and The Jam, but we are beggars compared to them. As we say in “It’s My Life”: “I’ve got the style but not the grace”.

On our influences:

Our three biggest influences have to be The Jam in melody, Cockney Rejects in brutishness and Stiff Little Fingers in sound. As a matter of fact we have actually shared the stage, drinks and other substances with these bands, except The Jam who never got back together… such a shame!

 


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Recording at Kapita Studio:

Kapita is a new recording studio that two friends have just set up, Rob –our drummer- used to work with them as a sound technician and roadie. They are two lads from the Maresme area that we really get along with. We knew from the start it couldn’t go wrong. Both are obsessed with antique recording devices and are the best bargain hunters around, which is why their studio is full of really strange amps, guitars and pedals.

The album’s guest artists:

We have always had friend guest artists. This album includes collaborations with Los Retrovisores and The Penguins, on the Hammond and brass section. They are good friends and already collaborated on our other album. They know how to give everything that ’60 touch that we were looking for in some songs. Carlos “El Barato” plays some devilled saloon pianos, with Victor Strongboy’s harmonica and Eric Fece’s rocker double bass on ‘Jibba Jab’, giving it the perfect extra frenetic touch it needed. Special mention to those background vocals by Eric Sueiro (The Saurs) who lent us his angelical voice for a couple of afternoons, we drank grog (rum with hot water and lemon) as if there was no tomorrow, they say it’s good for the throat. We ended up on the floor. Also collaborating on this album are friends Aitor (The Kongsmen and Meetup) and Javi and Martini from The Bite.

Cover versions:

We’ve always played cover versions when performing live, this time we wanted to try older songs we liked, we wanted to try and make them ours. One of those songs is ‘Jibba Jab’; it’s an old rhythm ’n’ blues song, sung by loud black men from the ’50. We used to listen to it when touring in the van and would sing it at the top of our lungs, so it was never hard to play, as we knew it of by heart. As a matter of fact it wasn’t going to be on the album, we recorded the guide demo as a trial. There’s another ‘50 cover version too: ‘Bottle of wine’, a destructive song about alcoholism and tramps; quite harsh for those times but with a good sense of humour. There’s also an adaptation of the Equals, a band from the ‘60s that were kick-ass, full stop.

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The message:

Things have calmed down now, but when you’re growing up, you see how your young years slip away before you can achieve your dreams, just because it was simply impossible. It’s hard to have a future without being ‘someone’s son’ or because ‘you know someone’. It doesn’t matter if you’ve studied or tried really hard. Sometimes the only way out is leaving the country or to carry on working as a waiter or in a bad paid office job. In this album we talk about how we are aware of that, but we also cry out for an opportunity because hey, we actually deserve one. Don’t worry though, we aren’t suffering at all, ‘cos we’re a small gang of little streetwise gypsy devils.

The characters:

There are always a few main characters present, in “C’mon Gipsy” we speak about the typical delinquent lad that’s the top man in his neighbourhood, but at the same time he’s trapped in that same world. They’re rough neighbourhood stories sung by people from the city outskirts. We always talk about people we know or have known from our teenage years, or about our problems and ourselves. And about our love life of course! Our smart turn towards pop.

Changes in formation:

It’s not the same to be 20 than nearly 30. At the beginning everything is a bit ‘joie de vivre’ but then you start realising that you have to do something with your life. These changes affect a band; you start having responsibilities, less free time, even though you still give it your all. When we have changed a member in the band it’s always been for the same reasons, because that person couldn’t find work and has finally left the country. We started a band right in the middle of a recession, our first bass player Héctor left after just six months to move to Berlin in search of work. A few years later Pablo (drums) had to do the same and so he left for Belfast (he returned not long ago and is now a father). There’s a song that talks about all this called “Over Again”.

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The design:

I did the design, just like with our other albums. For the single I found inspiration in the little pictures you can find on matchboxes from the early XXI Century. I’m quite obsessed with them and I own quite a few books on the subject. The album is very 70’s style, with a very graphic cover inspired in comics from the ’50. As El Marquès I’ve done quite a bit of everything, illustrations for magazines, comic strips for newspapers, window dressing, posters, album designs…I even worked for the Catalan History Museum doing historical illustrations for a permanent expo they have! It’s all a bit schizophrenic.

See more work by El Marquès here.

Photos by  Mireia Bordonada