30 November 2018 sees the release of COCKLES’ debut album, entitled THE WORLD’S BEST NARCISSIST. The brainchild of Shortstraw frontman ALASTAIR THOMAS, the album comes after the release of two singles – ‘Joshin’ Around’ and ‘Narcissist’ earlier this year.
ALASTAIR started writing for a solo project as soon as Shortstraw took a hiatus around November 2017. Not sure which direction of sound to pursue, the inspiration bug bit in February 2018 when he wrote ‘Joshin’ Around’ in about 10 minutes and realised that THAT was the direction he wanted to take COCKLES in. After establishing his style of songwriting, the rest of the album came quickly. By September 2018, he had the album tracked.
Jacques Du Plessis has always shared ALASTAIR’s vision with music and was the obvious choice to produce the album with him, with Jacques also joining the COCKLES band. The album was recorded in bits from March this year at High Sea Studios in Johannesburg, finishing in October.
“I wanted this album to be relatable more than anything. I wanted people to hear the songs and go, ‘Shit, that’s relatable.’ I wanted to go back to my songwriting roots from 2007 Shortstraw. Where there’s some comedic elements, and some folky inspiration. I wanted to write songs that could be performed alone on an acoustic guitar, something Shortstraw hasn’t been able to do for a good few years – it’s just not how the songs are written. So I wanted to get down to the nitty-gritty of songwriting again. Test my skills and patience and self-confidence. I’ve realised how much I depended on my bandmates to bounce ideas off of, so this has been quite the test on my self esteem. Like, there’s no one else to blame if people don’t like this album.”
For THE WORLD’S BEST NARCISSIST, COCKLES found inspiration in his favourite lyricists: Courtney Barnett, Will Toledo from Car Seat Headrest, Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes and Flight of the Conchords while writing the album. Being a musical offering based on the lyrics with a hint of pop sensibility thrown in, his focus was primarily to create quirky, relatable lyrics over simple music. There’s nothing over-complicated in the guitar work, there are only basic synth lines thrown in and he wanted the drums to be kept as simple as possible.
“One day I was re-watching Californication and they played You Can’t Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones, with the angelic intro and I was like, that could be a great idea for an intro for Narcissist. The kinda pinnacle of Narcissism is thinking that you’re god, and nothing’s more godly than having a choir of angels sing over your entrance. So I added that in, then I thought what a magic way to start the album… this album that’s all about me, trying to write songs on my own. Just ME ME ME. What a fuckin’ narcissist! So it became pretty apparent at that point that the album needed to be called THE WORLD’S BEST NARCISSIST.”
THE WORLD’S BEST NARCISSIST Track Listing:
- Sour Poes
- Joshin’ Around
- Small Talk
- Peer Pressure
- Till Death Do Us Part
- Dick Dastardly Eyesore
- Time Flies
- God Knows
- Hello Alastair, great to be chatting to you, how you doing?
Always a pleasure. On a scale of one to ten, I’m okay.
- We all know you as the frontman for Shortstraw, but can we start off with a quick 101 on who Cockles are, where in SA are you from and how did you get started in the music scene?
So cockles. is my new solo-ish project. Solo in the fact that I’m writing everything myself, as opposed to with a band, which is a nice exercise in songwriting for me – equal parts self-satisfying and daunting. Not solo in the fact that I don’t perform solo. I’ve put together a band of some of the best musicians in the country, so I’m super grateful that they were willing to drop their standards to play with me. We’re from Joburg.
- What are some of your musical influences as a solo artist, and especially for Cockles?
cockles. is pretty focused on the lyrical side of things, so my influences are basically my favourite lyricists… Like Conor Oberst, Courtney Barnett and Will Toledo with a bit of the comedic stuff coming from Flight of the Conchords.
- Do you have any major highlights in your musical career thus far?
Playing one of the headline slots at Koppi in 2015 was pretty great, and I’m super grateful I’ve had the opportunity to tour a bit of the world as well.
- What are your thoughts of our local music scene at the moment?
There are some really great bands around at the moment, but the struggle (especially in Joburg) is a lack of venues. People like Klaas vd Walt are doing awesome things for the scene by throwing the Uncle Mothers parties in smaller venues, and people are slowly starting to get back into the DIY-style shows, but there’s still loads of room for improvement. The music is great though… it’s nice to see a new range of influences coming through in some of the younger bands.
- Any acts/bands/artists that you think need a special mention?
Groucho are rad, Nic Preen is doing wondrous things with the World of Birds and Moonga K is phenomenal.
- You have just released your debut album, The World’s Best Narcissist. What can we expect from this album? Where can people get their hands on a copy of the album?
It’s a bit of an homage to the early Shortstraw stuff. So super simple songs, written on an acoustic guitar, with what I hope are relatable lyrics and some catchy hooks. It’s got some comedic elements to it too, so hopefully it’s a pleasurable listen. Pleasurable seems like a bit of a sis word to use. Pleasant. Yes, pleasant. You know how a good wine gives a pleasing mouth feel? Hopefully this album gives a pleasing ear feel. Oh, and you can get a copy on all the sites that do that stuff. No physical copies unless there somehow becomes a demand for them. But people don’t buy physical albums anymore. It’s terribly sad.
- Anything else you currently working on that we may be interested in, besides just releasing the new offering?
There are plans to start recording some new Shortstraw stuff early next year, I need to plan a cockles. tour and then I’m also very slowly trying to write a screenplay with a friend of mine.
- Where can people follow you on Social Media?
- Thanks for your time!