I love lemonade. I love Houston. I love my boyfriend. I also love singular types with plural names. The first thing I ever found out about The Cocker Spaniels was the one man band factor. My first taste of The Cocker Spaniels' music was a song called "Touch My Hair." I knew then C. Spaniels was an artist after my own afro-headed heart:) It's been a long time coming, and I'm glad to finally bring this interview to you guys. Enjoy!
WANLS: Tell me the Cocker Spaniels story.
CS: My name is Sean Padilla. I sing and play almost everything on my recordings, and I perform solo with my guitar and some backing tracks. I started the Cocker Spaniels with two of my best friends in 1994, when I still lived in my hometown of Brooklyn, NY. We had a Sebadoh-like arrangement in which each of us sang, wrote songs, and traded instruments. I was the worst musician but the most prolific songwriter, so I ended up being the de facto "leader." I came up with the name after overhearing some of my female cousins rant about how all men are "dogs." I thought to myself, "If I'm gonna be a dog, I might as well be a cute and shaggy one." C.Spaniels became a one-man band when I moved to Texas three years later, and had no choice but to sing and play everything myself.
WANLS: Throw your set up!
CS: I live in Austin, TX now. I used to LOVE the city, but my love has turned into ambivalence over the last few years due to various factors: numerous upheavals in my personal life; the city's de facto segregation of POCs (people of color), particularly Blacks; and the increasing insularity and homogeneity of its music scene. In my opinion, Houston's independent music scene is kicking Austin's ass as far as the quality of its music, the diversity of its participants, and the autonomy of its infrastructure is concerned. However, Austin's superior public transportation system and my awesome day job keep me here, so I plan to spend 2010 trying to rekindle the flame.
WANLS: Do you identify with a particular genre?
CS: I play rock music, but I take so much influence from so many other genres (R&B, gospel, electronic, jazz, and various forms of Latin music) that it never seems to fit snugly into any one of them.
WANLS: Who or what are your musical influences?
CS: Prince, the Beatles, Guided by Voices, John & Alice Coltrane, J Dilla, My Bloody Valentine, and Public Enemy.
WANLS: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
CS: I usually tell them that my music is an attempt to sound like Prince and the Beatles simultaneously while singing a diary of my life. It usually piques their interest.
WANLS: What's been happening with the Cocker Spaniels so far in 2010?
CS: The biggest news I have to tell you is that "Sometimes You've Gotta
Fight to Get a Bit of Peace" is being licensed by a small label in California called Hornbuckle Records for official release. I'll have a definitive date once the label owner and my graphic designer stop nitpicking over the artwork. But we're shooting for a July release.
WANLS: What are some of your most memorable shows?
CS: I played a show at the Cellar Bar in Houston with Ghormeh Sabzi and Ghost Mountain. All of us played well, and sounded nothing like each other; we drew a sizable crowd full of friends and strangers, all of whom stuck around for the whole show; we all had a good time; and I even made a bit of money, despite not charging a cover. This past August, I played a show at Red 7 in Austin with Taqwacore (Muslim punk rock) bands the Kominas and Sarmust. Both acts were unique, energetic, and brilliant, and I had a great time rocking out with them on stage and bonding with them off-stage. My most memorable show outside of Texas took place this past June at a house called Baby Sale in Boise, ID. I played in a packed garage decorated with Christmas lights, with a makeshift microphone stand constructed from a lamp and duct tape. People were BBQing and having watergun fights all around me, and the bathtub was full of beach balls. I didn't make much money, but I don't think I've EVER had as much fun at one of my own shows.
WANLS: Tell me about your in-studio/music making process.
CS: I write songs almost every day, most of which don't get recorded due to a lack of time and/or money. My songs take anywhere from 20 minutes to five years to write. I constantly tweak the music and lyrics of my songs until they're finally recorded. I use a digital 24-track and four studio-quality microphones that I saved up for two years to buy. I do everything piecemeal wherever I can: in my apartment, in other people's houses, in professional studios, and even outdoors if necessary. Sometimes I let guests participate in the recording process, but only if they can add something to the song that I can't add myself.
WANLS: Which do you prefer: studio time/creating new music or touring/live shows?
CS: I used to greatly prefer writing and recording to performing due to a years-long battle with stage fright. I won that battle, though, so I love performing ALMOST as much as I do writing and recording. "Studio time" still gets the upper hand, though, because I'm a bit of a tech geek, and like looking for new ways to manipulate sound.
WANLS: What’s your fantasy show or tour line up?
CS: I'd like to book a national tour consisting of me, Fat Tony, B L A C K I E & Love Field and call it "Four the Black Way." It would be a month-long "dudes' night out" that would spark a musical and social revolution.
WANLS: Describe what its like to experience your live shows.
CS: "Wait a minute: where's the band? Damn, this is loud. I kinda like this, but I hope he doesn't come near me."
WANLS: What’s one thing that people would never guess about you?
CS: People would never guess that I used to be an MC before I started the Cocker Spaniels.
WANLS: Best thing about being in your band?
CS: Never having to worry about bandmates being late to shows or seducing your girlfriends.
WANLS: What does the summer show schedule look like?
CS: I have one Austin show each booked for June and July, but other than that, no plans to perform live until the album is released. Once the album is released, I want to do a month-long tour of the Midwest and East Coast.
WANLS: The whole world flocks to Austin for SXSW, but what's it like to be a musician in ATX the rest of the year? What's the Austin music scene like? Is there unity amongst the artist community?
CS: I can only speak for myself when it comes to the Austin music scene. It's hard for me to get shows because neither my music nor my performance style are aligned with anything that's currently trendy in the city, and I'm often too busy or antisocial to network with the "movers and shakers." Also, Austin's music scene is undergoing the same kind of gentrification that every other major city with a flourishing music scene undergoes. To be honest, if it wasn't for one Black-owned indie-rock venue in east Austin, I wouldn't play here more than a handful of times a year.
WANLS: Tell me more about that venue....let's give some local love. You can give the name and location that way we can rep for them in the interview too.
CS: The venue is Club 1808 on 12th and Chicon. Both the owner Gene and its main agent Ethan are very nice people with a diverse and open-minded approach to booking. The bartender, who I think is Gene's son, makes an especially tasty drink called "Pink Panties."
WANLS: Have you ever played SXSW? Do you feel that the new juggernaut status of SXSW is good for local (Texas) artists?
CS: I had an official SXSW showcase in 2006, but other than that, every SXSW performance I've ever done has been an unofficial day show. As much as I love SXSW from a fan's perspective, I don't stress over it too much from an artist's perspective. I don't think SXSW can do anything for me on a local or national scale. Any method of promotion whose target audience is industry people instead of music fans (and yes, I acknowledge the overlap between those two groups) is a method of promotion that I don't wanna be bothered with.
"Steal My Guitar" Live in Portland, OR (7/2/09)
The Cocker Spaniels | MySpace Music Videos
WANLS: When’s your next show?
CS: I'm playing Trailer Space Records @ 1401 Rosewood in Austin on June 22nd with Horse Marriage, a very good California band, at 7 p.m.
WANLS: How can we buy your music?
CS: I'm selling homemade cookies through the mail to save up money to release "Sometimes You've Gotta Fight to Get a Bit of Peace" officially, and I throw promo CDRs of the album in the mail with every order. No, I'm not kidding.
WANLS: How can we contact you for booking?
CS: E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
WANLS: Last and most importantly, if you were stranded on a desert island with your bandmates, who would go cannibal first?
CS: Congratulations: you've just invented the most gruesome form of suicide ever. I'm glad that I don't hate my life.
More, you say? Head on over to these spots on the interweb to satiate your C. Spaniels thirst:
PHOTO CRED: Chris Parks (except Obamicon image, Club 1808, Four the Black Way flyer and "Cocker Spaniels are Special" bumper sticker)