INTERVIEW COOKIES by Nadine Oosthuizen
It’s largely thanks to “Go Back” and “Music for Touching”, that I’m pleased to say Cookies’ sound agrees with my taste. So much so, that DWP set up an interview. Meet their frontman, Ben Sterling
DWP Hi. Where are you, what’s up?
BEN STERLING Sitting in the studio with a friend working on a new project! A good day.
DWP You've worked with a couple of talented people, Colin Stetson (Arcade Fire), Aakaash Israni (Dawn of Midi), Tom Vek, Rebecca Zeller (Ra Ra Riot), and the Magik Magik Orchestra- what have you learned from them?
BS I think I've learned the same thing from all of them: no matter how many good ideas or intentions you have, work is the transformational thing. Nothing happens without a ton of work, without infinite hours of trying to be better. That's what they all share.
DWP You’ve been through a lot during the making of this album, weren’t there times you just felt like giving up?
BS You know for the first time I did have those kinds of thoughts a couple times. But I think it was part of a broader feeling of being completely overwhelmed by my present life. When it seems like the best idea would be to throw your phone out the window, move to a cabin in the woods and watch The Simpsons on loop for the rest of your life.
DWP Do you feel different from the person who was a part of Mobius Band?
BS I'm sure I feel the same as anybody looking back five years: you're kind of the same, and you're kind of totally different. I've had all these new experiences. There have been literally thousands of days between now and then. I've made a lot of new friends, lost touch with some. I eat a different kind of breakfast than I used to. I didn't wear jeans for years. It was a thing, “Ben doesn't wear jeans”. But now I do. I wear jeans! That's got to add up to something.
DWP “Nadine still doesn’t wear jeans.” But, I’m sure somewhere it adds up. What do you want to try with Cookies?
BS Mobius Band was a real democracy and cookies is a benign dictatorship. That's a major change and it took a while to adjust to that way of working and organizing a band. I do consciously want to make more uplifting music with cookies. Not necessarily 'positive', but as personal and close as possible. It's much easier for me to make darker and more vague music. i think trying to make someone feel good is a worthwhile goal in any situation.
DWP So why label it 'Popular Music'? What exactly does the term mean to you?
BS That's a great question. I think it has something to do with time. When you listen to The Beatles, or Kanye, or Lou Reed, or Taylor Swift, or really any good pop song, there is high level structuring going on in the arrangement of sections and instrumentation and presentation of information over time. Great songs ebb and flow and build it up and tear it down and tell a life's story in three and a half minutes. It's an amazing magic trick. That's what 'popular music' is to me.
DWP That said then how would you describe the sound of this album to someone who doesn't know you?
BS Godmode pop jewel case.
DWP Do you remember the day you came up with the idea for Cookies?
BS There's no one moment I can remember. any creative endeavor is more like an endless succession of days, each more strange than the last. you're chasing something that doesn't exist. However, I did live across the street from the cookies department store on Fulton Mall for awhile. It's probably somewhere in there!
DWP Do you find it hard to let go of specific sounds/ ideas you trusted in Mobius Band?
BS Not really. Each song is such a mystery. Every time I start something new it feels like I'm starting from the very beginning, like a baby: how do you even do this? How do you put sounds together that tell a story, that equal more than the sum of their parts? Any time a new idea works it feels like a miracle, and once it's finished this heavy amnesia takes over. Sometimes a friend will ask where a certain sound comes from and i just have no memory of it. I'm sure i'm repeating myself because i have a particular aesthetic. but i've never been conscious enough of the process to know.
DWP Are you guys planning a tour? Any shows?
BS After the release show on 9/16 we are doing a week around the northeast with our friends dawn of midi. it'll be the first time cookies has left new york. i'm really looking forward to it.
DWP What inspires you to make music?
BS The most basic and obsessive compulsion to create.
DWP If there's one person on the planet that you'd like to hear the album, who would it be?
DWP What song do you wish you wrote.
BS Numbers on the boards
DWP Your #1 distraction:
DWP You're happiest when:
BS the Knicks are winning, or at least not losing too badly!
DWP Something no one knows about you:
BS I believe in the power of love
DWP What goes best with cookies?
BS A bad attitude.