Interview with Thad Cockrell of Leagues
In the realm of artistic development, some merely turn the page, some start a new chapter and some just reach for a whole new book altogether. For Thad Cockrell, one of the most talented singer-songwriters in the game, this type of fresh evolution led him to trade in his trusty acoustic guitar for a pair of dancing shoes. Through an interesting chain of people and chance encounters, Cockrell formed LEAGUES with guitarist Tyler Burkham and drummer Jeremy Lutito. (Original bassist Mike Simons quit early on to be able to focus more on his family.) Through a series of intermittent writing and recording sessions, a fantastic 3-song self-titled EP emerged last year. Currently, LEAGUES is prepping their debut full length You Belong Here for a late January release. You can still grab two songs from their EP on NoiseTrade HERE and you can watch their recently released music video for “Spotlight” below.
I recently spoke with Thad Cockrell about LEAGUES’ inception, their new album and what it looks like when you transition from an acoustic-based singer-songwriter to the frontman of a certifiable dance rock super group.
NoiseTrade: So what’s the story behind your killer new Allister Ann directed music video for “Spotlight”? Were there artistic discussions and thematic preparations or just a fun “put on a LEAGUES show and let the party ensue” vibe?
Thad Cockrell: She is a crazy talent! This was her first "music video" and you would never know it by watching. There are certain words/describers that we hold really close to chest. So, when we are working with all the talented people who are helping us out in this journey, we talk with them about those words. We talked with her and she took the ball and ran with it. We love it!
NT: When a band first starts forming, there’s always a plethora of conversations about what musical direction you want to head in and what songs and albums are influencing those movements. What musical ingredients were being thrown around in the LEAGUES formation process and during the recording of You Belong Here?
Thad: I think we knew what we didn't want to do, more than we knew exactly what we wanted to do. Although, we definitely had some ideas of what we wanted the music to feel like and what we hoped the listener would experience. We first and foremost wanted it to be creative. I think in order to create, it’s usually best experienced doing something you don't know how to do. So, we had an idea that we didn't want it to sound like anything we had ever done on our own. We were hoping for something that made us smile and laugh. I think this world needs some joy (as do we) and an excuse to get outside of ourselves. To be lifted. And we wanted to the 4th member of the band to be "the pleasure of the audience." It has been a mind bending, but fun, experience. Those are some of the really loose coordinates.
NT: While camaraderie between band members isn’t exactly an uncommon thing, it’s certainly not a given, especially within already successful, seasoned musicians. What do you guys chalk up your unique musical and relational bonding to?
Thad: We all still really love music. We believe it's important and that it's what we do best. As much of a great guitar and bass player as I think Tyler is, he is first and foremost a musician and a music listener that just so happens to play guitar. The same can be said about Jeremy. Although he is amazing at drums and production, he is first and foremost a musician and music listener that happens to play drums. I think another common thread is that we are "song" guys. Songs are king.
NT: Are the rumors true that the first official LEAGUES show started off as a Thad Cockrell show that morphed mid-set?
Thad: Haha! That’s how it went down. I didn't want this to be a side project. I wanted to move from being a solo act and not do both at the same time. Our first show was at the Bowery Ball Room in NYC. We were opening for my friend’s band The Lone Bellow. Half way through the set I said that I was no longer a solo artist and that I was now in a band call LEAGUES and from here on out, I will be playing solely in LEAGUES. I went on to say that the rest of the set would be our first LEAGUES show. It was really fun.
NT: In writing songs for LEAGUES (which is admittedly different territory than your previous musical output), is there a struggle not to go to the familiar, comfortable places that you may go to when writing for solo material or has it been a natural separation so far?
Thad: There could be a struggle. However, I used a completely different process to write these songs than I did when I was writing for my solo stuff. For the most part, I never picked up an instrument while writing and we really tried to only write when it was all three of us in the room. Sometimes I had the lyrics and some idea of melody, but I really tried to limit that. So in a sense, it felt like learning to write songs all over again and learning to listen for melodies in a whole new way.
NT: With lyrics like “You want to know what loves about, give it when you feel nothing” and “Everybody’s got a heart worth breaking, everybody is the one that got away, everybody has a love they’re looking for,” are you guys intentionally trying to bring some heart to the seemingly hips-only realm of dance pop music?
Thad: That is certainly the hope. The general thought on music is that it can only be dance or fun party music if the lyrics are throwaway lyrics. I think in some way we would like to challenge that. NT:
Okay, last question… when playing “Magic” live, do you guys go into a danceable cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” and if not, could you try it at least once for me?
Thad: Haha! We will certainly think about that. Do you promise to dance?
You Belong Here will be released on January 29 and it can currently be pre-ordered HERE with a cool variety of bundling options.