Cobra Starship frontman Gabe Saporta felt that his former band, the punk-rock group Midtown, had gotten too serious. So this time around, he set out to make his new band all about having fun.
"I felt like the music was getting … too self-righteous, too self-aware. My thing was that I just wanted to make fun of myself, laugh and make my friends laugh," Saporta told Pollstar.
"When I started [Cobra Starship], I had a devil-may-care attitude. I was just like, ‘I’m doing it for fun.’ And it kind of evolved naturally. I was just like ‘I’ll go with whatever happens.’ Just roll with it … Having said that, I don’t mean that I was half-ass about it. I was very gung-ho and worked very hard for whatever it was that I wanted to accomplish. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen."
He explained that he also wanted to "take a whole different approach to making music. I wanted to use a lot of electronic elements, which I had started experimenting with on the last Midtown record. I wanted to use that as a foundation for the songs; start with a beat and build on top of that. It was a big difference from the way I was used to writing songs, [by] just singing along with my guitar."
Saporta played most of the instruments himself on the band’s first album, While the City Sleeps, We Rule the Streets. Just one year later, Cobra was a full-fledged band, with a second album released, written while on tour. The group features Ryland Blackinton on guitar, Alex Suarez on bass, Nate Novarro on the drums and Victoria Asher on the keytar. In addition to electronica and dance beats, the band’s sound includes a Latin vibe, a nod to Saporta’s Uruguayan roots.
Since Cobra is all about fun, it makes perfect sense that its first claim to fame was penning the theme song for the cult film, "Snakes on a Plane." Saporta wrote the tune eight months before he heard of the flick and the band’s name was just a nice coincidence. After changing part of the chorus and a verse and adding a rap, "Bring It (Snakes on a Plane)" was ready to go. The song obviously brought attention to the band, but that doesn’t mean it made everything easy as pie for Cobra.
"When we started the band it was a real challenge for us because we got a head start with the whole ‘Snakes on a Plane’ thing. It put our foot in the door … but at the same time it made us seem like we were a novelty thing, a one-hit wonder," Saporta said.
"We knew we were going to have to fight that. So we had to work really hard to establish ourselves as a band. When someone thinks you’re just a one-hit wonder and a novelty, you have two options: you can tell everyone until your face turns blue that you’re not, or you can shut your mouth and go and prove it. And that’s what we did," Saporta said.
So the band started touring nonstop, playing support for acts like Fall Out Boy, Cartel and 30 Seconds to Mars.
"At every show we played, not everybody liked us, but the fans that did like us, are the fans that stayed," Saporta said.
CAA’s Andrew Simon explained that fans are won over because Cobra puts on "amazing, high-energy shows."
"Basically you feel like you’re walking into a dance party. Gabe is an amazing frontman. The entire band [are all] just incredible musicians," Simon told Pollstar. "The last tour they did was almost all sold-out shows … and kids were just going crazy. It’s a great thing for them."
Cobra’s manager, Alex Sarti, has known Saporta for years; he booked a show for Midtown when he was in high school and then went on tour doing merch for the band. He told Pollstar the shows involve a lot of crowd interaction. At almost every show the band brings a fan onstage to sing the rap on "Bring It (Snakes on a Plane)." The band has also held contests where fans get the chance to come on the bus and play Mario Kart or Rock Band video games against the members.
"They are probably the most fan-friendly band I’ve ever seen in my entire life," Sarti said. "They actually did not do formal meet and greets on the last tour specifically –
they just hung out. Every night they hung out with their fans outside the bus for hours.
It’s crazy. There’s nights where the band would all be outside the bus … until the last kid left."
Earlier this year, Cobra Starship headed out on its first headlining tour.
"The tour was a really big accomplishment for us. It exceeded our expectations and I think that our philosophy on the tour was really what made it work so well," Saporta said. "We’re all about doing it for the fan. … At the end of the day, we don’t have to make a lot of money on this tour; we just want to offer cheap tickets for fans. And offering a $10, $12 ticket is a big difference from offering an $18, $20 ticket.
"We [only] went to two to three places on the whole tour that had barricades and even if they had barricades, we took them down because we want kids to just feel like they’re as close to the show as possible."
Up next for the band is the Warped Tour, dates throughout the U.K., Europe and Australia and then another round of headlining dates in the fall. – Sarah Marie Pittman