Cockles, the brainchild of Shortstraw frontman Alastair Thomas, was formed in 2018, after Shortstraw took a hiatus in 2017. Alastair missed performing, songwriting and the band, and so decided to take a leap and start this new project.
The official launch for the debut album ‘The World’s Best Narcissist’, produced by Jacques Du Plessis, will be on the 1st of February 2019. This is off the back of the release of his two singles ‘Joshin’ Around’ and ‘Narcissist’ earlier this year.
You have such a platform for inspiration; social media, society, the craziness of the world… Everyone takes life and social media so seriously nowadays and you have taken it and used is as a form of inspiration for your writing.
“It’s quite funny how people think they are so worthy of as many posts and selfies as they do. The song, Narcissist, was just a thought I had about narcissists and if you think you’re the best person in the world and the best at everything, and if people think they are so good, do they also think that they are the best narcissists in the world? So it’s a bit of a play on that really. It was just an idea. Most of my song stem from an idea, not all of them are good ideas though.”
How scary was it to start this new project?
“It was quite a daunting thing to start and I wanted to do it for a while because Shortstraw has been on a bit of back burner for a while and so I wanted to do something where I could write songs how we used to, when we first started; which was on an acoustic guitar and very simple and based solely on songwriting and lyrics as opposed to show off musical numbers.”
“I was excited to do it but it is also daunting when you don’t have anyone to fall back on when something goes wrong, or if there are bad reviews, or if you have a bad show. It has been a good growing experience and I learned to deal with a lot of the responsibility myself.”
“Also when we first started Shortstraw, I was doing everything, because it was just the two of us. Over the course of the years, as we got bigger, some people took over those things and I missed the promoting of shows, and the PR stuff, which I don’t get to do anymore for Shortstraw. It was a bit of a nostalgic trip, to take me back to the early days of when I was writing songs and doing all the organising.”
As much as you want to go back to the old song writing style of Shortstraw, you also want to create your own voice and own sound. How are you doing that?
“With Shortstraw, there is always a focus to do something a little more commercial, radio play is on our radar, and so there is a broader audience to appeal to. So we couldn’t be too off beat over the stuff we sing about. With Cockles I have taken a step back on how I used to write songs but I have also developed over the years and have a little more of a sensibility of how to construct a pop song, which is nice. So it’s a combination of the two things; it’s me going right back to how I used to do it, but combined with what I’ve learned and life experience. I just wanted to write honest songs about things I think people my age can relate to. It’s blue collar pop music I guess. The working man’s lyrical content. I wanted to create that voice where it was quirky but relatable, and offbeat, still catchy but simple.”
How is it relatable?
“Narcissist might be relatable to people who are annoyed by this social media trend of narcissism. But there are other things, like not wanting to book a dentists appointment or go to the doctor or how frustrating it is to waste your pay cheque on medical aid… you go from living with your parents to being an adult. I wrote about the opposite of wanting to be an adult.
One of the songs is about how now I have to wake up in the middle of the night to make a wee. I never had to do that in my 20s.
There’s a song on how I hate everyone. Everyone has those days when they hate everyone.”
What does it mean to ‘Josh Around’?
“That just means faking your way through life. We all are all just faking our way through life. It’s a coming of age tale. We fake our way around trying to do things that no one has ever taught us how to do.”
The name Cockles?
“It is about ‘the cockles of the heart’, it’s a play on heartfelt music but also it’s a little playful as it has the word ‘cock’ in it. So I am an adult, but it still has that immature undertone.”
Do you feel you are in the shadow of Shortstraw?
“A little bit. I’m not sure if people expect Cockles stuff to be more radio friendly. But I really don’t want to rely on that Shortstraw popularity to gain success with Cockles as it is it’s own thing. It is nice for people to come to a Cockles show and not make a connection with Shortstraw. I just want to win people over from scratch and work hard for crowd appreciation. It is so great when it does happen, because it reminds me of when Shortstraw first started. But sometimes the audience isn’t vibing with us, but overall it has been a great learning experience.”
So playing on the World’s Best Barcissist – do you think narcissists know they are narcissists?
“I don’t know. The delusion of narcissm. I think you get different degrees of narcissism. I think everyone on social media has some degree of narcissism. There are people who are completely delusional to the fact that they are. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t have some form of narcissism within them.”
Does that mean you are a narcissist?
“Yeah to some degree, I would have to be I guess. I would be ignorant to deny it. But I don’t think I am the world’s best narcissist.”
Trapped on a desert island and you could only take one album with you, what would it be and why?
“It changes all the time, because I have a new favourite album every couple of months.”
“A big inspiration for Cockles is Bright Eyes, ‘I’m Wide Awake, its Morning’ – that album inspired Cockles because it is predominately written on acoustic guitar. It’s Conor Oberst at his best. Funny lyrics, poignant, a little folky.
A big inspiration for me is Bon Iver, ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’, although I’ve killed that album so I’m not sure whether I would want to listen to it for the rest of my life, but that was the most important album that I heard when I was starting to write music. It was the first time I had heard music like that, very acoustic driven, falsetto, weird words he made up. He was writing predominately based on melody as opposed to content, although it all works together.”
“But that’s not the album I want to listen to. It might be Blink 182, ‘Take off Your Pants and Jacket’. That’s got serious songs, fun songs, different, secret songs. I suppose it’s an album for every mood. I listened to them a lot in High School so between them and Tweak, they were the bands that made me want to listen to them the most, because I played in some really bad punk bands as well. They still influence me lyrically, I guess.”
“My favourite album of all time, and I’ve said this on more than one occasion is Weezer’s Blue album. My dad introduced it to me in 1997, when I was 12 years old. I loved it, I played it on repeat and I still have it on my playlist now. So I will say that.”
Any memorable moments during your time as a musician?
“After Russell pointed this out, I started noticing it, and it is very much a ‘cockles warming experience’. The first time we (Shortstraw) played a big stage at Oppikoppi, it was the first time we had a crowd of a thousand people singing a song back to us. I usually get quite nervous on stage so I tend to block out the audience, where as he embraces it. After he pointed it out, I started taking notice of it and then started enjoying the moment. So it was the first time we had a huge crowd of people singing lyrics that i had written back to us, and I felt that I must be doing something right.”
Buy / Stream THE WORLD’S BEST NARCISSIST here: