Cobra Starship is a bit of an anomaly — the veritable mullet hairstyle of popular music. The fluorescently dressed, power-pop and punk-infused electro band sticks to a strict regimen when it comes to its work but still manages to be all about joking around. It rose to fame with its first single — "Bring It (Snakes on a Plane)" — written especially for the film Snakes on a Plane. But perhaps the band is best-known for having fun with its music and never taking life too seriously. It's poked fun at Katy Perry's hit single with "I Kissed a Boy" and recently released a song about good girls going bad with the Gossip Girl herself, Blair Waldorf. Even the band bio details aspirations to be BFFs with Samuel L. Jackson, epic fails, and lead singer Gabe Saporta's head being too big to fit on the tour bus.
New Times caught up with Ryland Blackington — part lead guitarist, part actor — three weeks into the band's Too Fast for Love tour in Denver, to discuss his Florida roots, his work with Leighton Meester, and the attribution of all of Cobra Starship's fame to Pete Wentz. But ask him about his alter ego, Guy Ripley, and he'll deadpan about how they're really not the same person.
New Times: Tell me about Guy Ripley (fictional reporter for BBC World News and Ryland's alter ego).
Ryland Blackington: Guy Ripley is a journalist that I think used to work for the BBC. He doesn't anymore. He's just a big fan of all the Atlantic bands like the Academy Is..., Fall Out Boy, Panic at the Disco, all those bands.
I actually saw videos of Guy Ripley interviewing those bands. He's hilarious.
Yeah, exactly. He's just like an online sort of like fan journalist basically.
How'd you come up with that idea? There's quite a few of those videos on YouTube.
I didn't come up with him. It wasn't my idea. Are you saying — oh, no, you have me confused. We're two different people.
So then, that accent?
What accent? That's just the way he speaks, I dunno. I guess that's just the way he speaks. He's from England. You're from the 305, right? I've lived there.
If you were living in South Florida, what made you move? Did you move for the band?
Boca Raton, actually. No, no. I'm from Massachusetts originally, and then I moved to Florida when I was about 15 or 16. Went to high school down there. That's where I met Alex Suarez, our bass player. Then I went to Florida State University for four years, and I got a degree in acting. I wanted to move to New York to become an actor, and I ended up joining the band like after my second year in New York.
I've noticed you guys are pretty funny with everything you do, even the names of tours.
We don't really think that we're like changing the world with our really thought-provoking, heartfelt music, so we try to make sure that our sense of humor is always really apparent. It's always an important part of our band, I guess. We all like to crack a lot of jokes.
So you guys don't really take yourselves too seriously then, right?
Yeah, I guess that's true. We take our work seriously. We work hard to make music, and we work hard touring all year and stuff, but as far as the music itself, we don't take it terribly seriously.
How'd you guys decide to work with Leighton Meester in "Good Girls Go Bad"?
It just happened randomly. We were in the studio, and our producers were like, "Take the day off tomorrow — we have to work with somebody." So we were like, "Who?" and they were like, "One of the Gossip Girls." And we were like, "We'll leave as long as we can get her on our record." But we were just kidding. She's a big celebrity. We weren't really expecting anything. And it just kind of happened a couple of months later. So it was one of those jokes that ended up coming true. We ended up lowering the key and having Gabe sing it, and then, boom! The Leighton thing happened, and we decided to put her in the song. It made sense; Gossip Girl, good girls go bad, you know. It was like a natural coincidence.
She works really well with that song. And that song's become really popular. At least in South Florida, they play it all the time on the radio.
Totally. Yeah, that's a Miami jam right there. That's a South Beast hit... A South Beach hit. Or South Beast. That's not a bad name. The South Beast from South Beach Miami. Fuck yeah, that's awesome.
Why'd the band decide to set up a webcam in the Poconos?
We're always trying to think up ways to keep people involved in what we're doing. Just to keep a steady level of involvement and keep a dialogue going with your fans. That way you know what they're thinking about stuff, and we can bounce ideas off of them. So that's why we decided to do that.
What was the response from fans like?
I think it was really good. There was this whole like group of people that formed called the Shelf Kids, because we had the camera up on a shelf. And I think that the kids that watched that were proud of the fact that they stuck with us for like two weeks just watching us all the time. I gotta admit, there were times where I was a little bit like, "Enough's enough." They could see us [walking toward] the bathroom, making our beds. I felt like at one point I just wanted to turn the thing off.
It sounded like it was sort of like a reality-inspired thing where they're watching you all the time.
No, no, no. Definitely not like that. We didn't wanna make it like hokey and like bullshit like a reality show. We just thought it was cool because we basically just had a huge case of wine and all of our keyboards set up, so we just got wasted and played music. There was no big drama like on the Real World.
What bands would you say have been your biggest influences? I'm guessing Fall Out Boy is one of them.
No way [laughs]. I mean, they're great guys — don't get me wrong — but they're not a musical influence. I think we listen to a lot of New York bands and French bands too. When we first started, we were really into Phoenix, Chromeo (they're Canadian, but French-Canadian), Daft Punk, and we like Holy Ghost, Ratatat, stuff like that. We don't have a lot of rock influences. We all just kind of come from that background I guess, technically. But we're not really a rock band.
What can fans expect from your shows with 3OH!3 and Travie McCoy? Any surprises?
We have more production than we've ever had on any other tour. We have a pretty crazy light show that I'm pretty proud of. I think it took our show to the next level. We've been wanting to do a big light show for a while, but I'm glad we waited until this tour because 3OH!3 is just such a high-energy band, and it's perfect for us to be on tour with them. I think the production is the best, but I think people are gonna come and get into this show more than they have before.
So what can fans expect from your show in Pompano? Do you have any surprises set up since technically you're pretty much a Floridian?
I will say I did live there for like six years or something. I mean, my family is still down there too, so I'll get to hang with them, eat a lot of homemade food. I'll probably get to sleep in a real bed. I'll probably just be in a great mood and play a better show [laughs]. But I'm usually in a good mood anyway.