Gabe Saporta once said, "No band can ever make more than three good records."
He couldn't have been more wrong.
Nor could he have predicted just how much his own band's career would defy that axiom. Not only does Night Shades showcase some of their most acclaimed work, the New York group's fourth album delivers the hits to launch the band into bonafide pop-stardom.
Last year, with the success of Hot Mess and "Good Girls Go Bad" (Featuring Leighton Meester), the band graced the stages of late night TV with appearances on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel Live. They also performed at the The People's Choice Awards and were all over MTV (VMAs, Latin VMAs, European EMAs, MTV's New Year's Eve, The City etc.). And even though Night Shades has been out for just a few weeks, the band has already performed on the 2011 VMAs, guested on America's Got Talent, and was able to hit up the chin-king of late night, Jay Leno.
Of course it doesn't hurt that the first single off Night Shades has been burning up the charts. "You Make Me Feel" has broken the Top 10 at both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Top 40 Pop Charts. The song has garnered over 10 million views on YouTube and, selling over 100,000 copies a week for 4 weeks straight, will earn the band their second Platinum single.
Although it may sometimes feel like it's just the beginning for Cobra Starship, their success certainly didn't happen overnight. They've been touring for years; hitting the road with everyone from 30 Seconds To Mars to Gym Class Heroes (a testament to Cobra's wide-ranging musical style), and Fall Out Boy to Maroon5. Eventually the band grew to the point where they could headline -- not only their own shows, but the entire Vans Warped Tour. But the road has its way of wearing a band down. And after the success of their third album, Cobra frontman Gabe Saporta was ready to quit while he was ahead.
The irony of success is that it brings with it the fear of not being able to replicate said success. The cliche of success is that the people who supported you on your way up suddenly disappear when you get to the top. Saporta became an ironic cliche.
The band attempted to begin writing the album in September of 2010, but nothing was coming out. Or rather, what was coming out was depressing, confused and uninspired. During one writing session with Kara DioGuardi (who helped pen Hot Mess' "Good Girls" and Night Shades' "Fucked In Love"), Gabe left the room in tears. Cobra Starship began with the idea that music should be something that helps people temporarily escape the hardships of everyday life; not something to make one wallow in life's miseries. Gabe realized he needed to clear his head.
One month later, Cobra Starship played South America for the first time ever. Gabe was born in Uruguay and it had always been his dream to tour his home continent. A dream he considered so unrealistic that he envisioned it as the punctuation mark at the end of his musical career. So after headlining a sold-out show to three thousand screaming Brazillian fans in Sao Paolo, Gabe decided he wasn't going back home. He was either going to get his shit together, or it was going to be the end of Cobra Starship. But one way or another, he was going to figure it out.
Gabe fell off the grid and didn't reemerge for three months. What happened in South America is still a subject of great intrigue and mystery. Rumors began circulating. Talk of Peruvian shamans and indigenous jungle plants started spreading. Fans speculated Gabe was reconnecting with the spirit of the serpent who first visited him five years ago to plant the seeds for Cobra Starship.
Gabe finally returned at the end of February 2011. Renewed and invigorated, he and the band miraculously found a space suitable for a studio (and also suitable for a murder scene in a slasher film; hence it's name, The Cobra Kill Room) in the heart of Manhattan and got to work. For nearly four months, Alex and Ryland produced the tracks during the day and Gabe took over at nightfall. The album's eventual title, which does not, as you might suspect, refer to that guy in the club wearing sunglasses at night, is a metaphor for this process. That is, a nightshade is a type of plant that only blooms at night, much like Gabe himself.
The process of writing and recording almost exclusively in their hometown meant that this album forged a much stronger connection with New York City than Cobra's prior releases. The movement and energy of the city invigorated the tracks on the album, a swaggering pop album that, in some ways, is about Gabe's emotional turmoil and his ability to rise above.
Some smart-ass once said "If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere." Well, the path to making Cobra's fourth album was riddled with obstacles. But it was just this adversity which helped Night Shades simultaneously become Cobra's most mainstream and most personal record to date.
The spirit of collaboration at the heart of Cobra Starship shined brighter than ever on this album. On the singles front, the band worked with Ryan Tedder to record "#1Nite", an uplifting club jam that seems to capture both the light-hearted fun of Night Shades and its sentimentality. Recording at the OneRepublic singer's home studio in Denver inspired Gabe to go home and set up the Cobra Kill Room. One of the most notable collaborations is with up-and-coming hip-hop wunderkind Mac Miller on the Stargate-produced "Middle Finger." The song, which is a tongue-in-cheek missive, initially featured a marquee stalwart of the rap game, but Gabe pushed for Miller to get the feature after stumbling upon his YouTube page.
As amazing as it is to work with such big names, the band was just as excited for the chance to collaborate with their friends and personal unsung heroes. French all-girl rock group, The Plastiscines, lend their vocals on the 50's doo wop-inspired "Fool Like Me;" and with the writing help of Le Tigre, NY band Jump Into The Gospel are featured on "Shwick." However, the real coup of Night Shades was getting legendary producer Arthur Baker, (acclaimed for his work with New Order), to mix the band's favorite track, "Anything For Love." Ryland recalled channeling New Order while working on the track and jokingly said "Imagine if we could get Arthur Baker to work on this with us." Ever the business-savvy singer, Gabe responded, "What do you think management is for?"
Cobra Starship finally completed Night Shades in late summer. In the end, it's a natural successor to the upbeat party soundtrack of the band's previous effort. But Nightshades is also considered and diverse, somehow striking a balance between the personal and the popular; the mainstream and the musically-innovative. It showcases Cobra's wide range of influences and puts the spotlight on their own production talents; skills which have evolved significantly over the past couple of years.
So, you see? Here's a band with more than three good records.
Just don't tell Gabe he was wrong.