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Words by Nicki Smith
Introducing Koopa, the Colchester based pop-punk trio who have become the first unsigned band to reach the top 40 in the UK Chart. Their Single ‘Blag, Steal and Borrow’ came in at number 31 on the official UK download chart back in January, and they’ve been making the headlines ever since!
Nicki Smith was bundled into the back of their tour van to speak to the band - Ollie Cooper on Lead Vocals, his brother Stu on drums and mate Joe on bass.
So lads, how does it feel be the first ever unsigned band to have a top 40 hit in the UK charts?
Stu: Brilliant! I don’t think it’s sunk in yet.
Joe: Even after weeks it’s a bit surreal. I don’t know if we saw it as that. We saw as the first step on the ladder. As soon as it happened we were working hard, even harder than we ever have done before. I think proud would be the best way to describe it. I’m proud of our manager and these two, they’re probably not proud of me because of my hair…
Stu: You haven’t said anything about my hair…
Stu sports a rather fine spikey Mohawk
Joe: It’s not about how well you play the drums or guitar. It’s just about what you look like…
Laughs all around
…yeah but mainly proud, not in a arrogant boastful way, we only had our sights set on the top 100; top 40 was like, “wow!” We’re proud of the fans too. Without them we wouldn’t have got anywhere.
Do you think that it will be easier for other bands to get into the charts without a record label now that you’ve done it?
Joe: Easier… but not that easy to tell you the truth.
Stu: We’ve kind of set the boundary.
Joe: You can put your music onto internet sites such as 7 Digital, Indie Store and i-tunes, so in theory if enough people download it, it’s easier; but in practice we have a pretty big fan-base and it was a lot of hard work. Myspace is all well and good for advertising, but you put yourself in a pool amongst millions of bands. You need to stand out a bit. We found the way to do that was to go and play for them, even down to the fact that we’re going to America now to play to our Myspace fans. Mainly because we have enough fans in a certain area to fill a venue. It’s putting your money where your mouth is and proving you can gig as well.
Are you happy to be dubbed the “English Blink 182” by Radio 1?
Joe: Definitely! Musically we are really influenced by the American Blink’s and Green Day’s. We are as punk as I guess you can get nowadays. We’re really into our old punk, but there’s only a small niche of people that listen to that. We are heavily influenced by that stuff. To be honest, without dissing anyone, I don’t think there’s anyone else in England that does that kind of real in your face power punk pop rocky kind of music well enough to sound natural and raw. The only difference is that we sing with Essex accents, so there are no fake American accents. We are talking about doing some stuff with Blink 182’s and Green Day’s producers, so we’ll see what happens. As long as they know we don’t sing with American accents!
Are you all footie fans? You released “Stand Up For England” for the World Cup?
Stu: Definitely! Firstly we are all Arsenal fans, that’s the main team, and Colchester United is our second team.
Joe: We were all footballers before we were musicians; we grew up playing football all the time.
What were the main reasons you didn’t want to be signed? I know EMI and B-Unique were interested?
Joe: There aren’t any reasons why not to...
Stu: We didn’t want a label to change us too much.
Joe: It’s just the fact that we know the kind of deal we want, we want something where we are told what to do, but be able to have the freedom to make most decisions. The right record deal hasn’t come along. When the right one does, we’ll sign it!
So, Stu and Ollie, I believe you are brothers? Is there ever any sibling rivalry?
Ollie: Well… I’m the best.
Stu: Well… I’m actually better on guitar, so I can pick up the guitar and make him look silly!
Ollie: Stu’s just down because he’s the drummer. First of all he was born first and he didn’t get born with the best talent of the two... it’s a double negative for Stu.
Joe, you had too pick up the bass quite quickly, was this difficult for you?
Joe: Yeah I had to pick up bass, but I played guitar before. We were a 4 piece and I was the guitarist, but the bass player we had he was great but there were commitment problems, so I had to play bass. Why look for someone else when it’s right there in front of you?
Where did the ideas for the ‘Blag, Steal and Borrow’ single come from?
Stu and Joe: Ollie’s head!
Joe: We wanted to write a song that was going to say how we felt about the industry, and then voila! Two days later Ollie came up with it. I think it just sums up the way we were feeling at the time.
Stu: Mainly about the industry and how they treat you, but Ollie wrote it so the ideas came from Ollie.
Joe: It’s about the experiences that happened to us really.
What process did you go through to register your music for chart eligibility?
Joe: We put it on a site called “7 Digital” and paid their £120 registration fee. It took about twenty minutes. That was it. We didn’t have to register it anywhere else because we didn’t release it as a hard copy.
How did you manage to get so many clicks on the download?
Joe: It’s a good song I guess.
Stu: We’d been gigging for ages
Ollie: Our whole fan base bought it, literally.
Joe: We’re nearly up to 40 thousand registered people on Myspace plus our website tends to get about 50 thousand hits a day, I’m not sure if they’re unique hits. 13% of our fans bought the single which is amazing. Apparently in the music industry, most record labels are looking for between 5 and 8 % of fans to buy singles. The only problem we had was that before we released the single, we released an EP with it on and we sold 3 thousand of those within the first three weeks. 3 thousand of our fans already had it so they wouldn’t have downloaded it so we shot ourselves in the foot there.
Who are your biggest musical influences and why?
Joe: The Beatles, Nirvana and Guns n Roses. The Beatles were the first band my parents got me into. Guns n Roses were the first band I ever heard and went ‘WOW’. More recently Green Day and Blink 182. Slash and John Lennon are also big influences on me.
Stu: It’s hard to have influences as a drummer, Ollie’s more the one that is influenced.
Ollie: He wants to be Travis (Blink 182 drummer) really…..
Stu: OK… well obviously there’s Dave Grohl, but you never want to try to copy or be anyone else. You’ve got to try and make your own thing. There’s a mix of a lot of people really. Travis is a bit all over the place, I’m a lot steadier.
Ollie: The Teletubbies.
Joe: Don’t lie, don’t pretend you’re into the Teletubbies, they’re above you.
Ollie: Ok… Blink 182, Offspring and Dire Straits.
I love your cover of “500 Miles” by The Proclaimers. What made you chose to cover that song?
Joe: I just thought it was a wicked thing to do. We’ve been doing it for years. So, if anyone decides to do it, whether it is for charity or not, we were the first to do it. Forget the McDonald brothers. We got permission from The Proclaimers, we sent them a copy because they wanted to listen to it, and they loved it and let us do it. So, we were the first people to get official permission to cover it. At the time I didn’t realise that it was in some Disney film, so the kids knew it.
Who are your heroes?
Joe: My Dad
Stu: It’s hard to just have one! Ok… Bananaman!
What tunes are overplayed on your ipods/mp3?
All: We don’t have one! But we have a CD player in the van and it’s full of stuff we mentioned really…Green Day, Towers of London, The Clash, The Kooks, The Feeling, Lily Allen. Real music.
Who is the least hygienic?
Joe: Probably me! Stu’s the most hygienic, the least rock n roll!
If you could be a cartoon character for a day, which one would you be any why?
Ollie: I would be Bart Simpson, blatantly!
Joe: I would be Batfink; I would look like a shield of steel!
Ollie and Stu: Who’s Batfink?!?!
Joe: A REAL cartoon! “Batfink… my wings are a shield of steel!” If anyone did anything to him he’d just shield himself in his wings!
Stu: I’d be that Roadrunner geezer! “Beep beep!”
Ollie: Actually can I change mine to Jerry? I’d love to be Jerry!
Joe: What Geri from the Spice Girls? She’s not a cartoon character mate!
Ollie: No! Jerry from Tom and Jerry! I’ll be Jerry; Stu can be Tom, that’d be Phat! You’d never get me because Jerry always gets away! Joe- you can be the mum!
Joe: Well I did spend a few months addicted to Stu for a while…but I got over it. It was probably Kylie when she was on Neighbours! Or…. Harold Bishop!
Stu: It’s got to be Madge!
Ollie: Dave from Chas and Dave
Joe: Dot Cotton!
Bob Marley or Bob Geldof?
Stu and Ollie: Marley!
Carling weekend festivals (Reading and Leeds), Glastonbury or Download?
Stu: Leeds and Reading!
Joe: I’d have to say Reading and Leeds, although Download looks good this year! It’s not so metal this year.
Weirdest thing that happened to you as a band?
Stu: Getting in the charts!
Joe: The football song, that whole period was a bit weird; we played half time at footie matches. Sleeping in weird places……
Stu: Smuggling people into hotel rooms.
Ollie: We always pick the person who isn’t very good at climbing through a window, just to watch him get in!
Joe: The most surreal thing would have been getting in the charts and the week after that.
Ollie: The weirdest thing for me was waiting outside the Westlife tour bus and having Simon from Blue ask me if I had a knife so he could slash the tyres!
Joe: Playing the celebrity soccer six was a bit strange.
Strangest thing a fan has done?
Joe: Knickers thrown at us….
Ollie: A boy sending naked pictures of himself in his speedboat!
Stu: He wasn’t quite naked! Some guy from Ireland had an obsession with me!
Joe: Lots of gay men have an obsession with Stu. In fact one of the gay guys with a bald head from Big Brother had a bit of a thing for Stu. A couple of Big Brother gays have, some of them might be here tonight, they like to turn up to the London gigs!!!