If there were one experience that accurately and succinctly summed up the year-and-a-half existence of Cobra Starship, then this scene — which took place at Las Vegas club Tryst during the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards — would most certainly be it.
"We were in Vegas, in, like, a Hummer limousine with a laser-light show on the ceiling. We roll up to the club, we're in the VIP, getting bottle service, and this rich guy starts throwing dollar bills from the ceiling," guitarist Ryland Blackinton laughed. "Like, 'Oh, it's party time! I love money!' And these dollar bills are raining down and everyone else is sort of standing there, watching. But we're on our hands and knees picking up filthy $1 bills, covered in vodka tonic. I made, like, $80."
Such is life for Cobra Starship. Tertiary stars in Pete Wentz's ever-expanding Decaydance universe, they're famous enough to be up in the VIP, but still not, uh, ballin' enough to pass up a few free, booze-soaked bucks. It's a bizarre level of celebrity, to be sure, yet this is what happens when: A) your biggest claim to fame is penning the theme to a film that features Samuel L. Jackson battling serpents on an airplane (see "Cobra Starship And 'Snakes On A Plane': A Match Made In Reptilian Heaven"); B) you attribute the formation of your band to "a snake from the future ... sent back to tell [you] to stop taking [yourself] so seriously" (see "Cobra Starship Owe Success To Talking Snake From The Future"); and C) you found yourself involved in two separate keytar-related dramas in one year (see "Cobra Starship's Gabe Saporta Speaks Out After Keytar Kerfuffle" and "Fall Out Boy Frontman Stumped Over Supposed Involvement In Ashlee Simpson Collabo").
And given all that, it's rather difficult for the Cobras be taken seriously by pretty much anyone. Though, to be honest, they wouldn't want it any other way.
"I think the thing is, the way Cobra Starship started out was with this huge bang, with the 'Snakes on a Plane' soundtrack, and we were walking the red carpet before we even played a show," Starship mastermind Gabe Saporta said. "And a lot of the kids who were in the same scene as us, who see me going from a band like Midtown to this band, we got a lot of, 'Oh, this band isn't serious,' and all that crap. And we're like, 'You're damn right we're not serious.' "
And that sentiment is carried over to the band's second album, due October 23. Viva La Cobra! is 11 tracks of unabashed party jams, full of big hooky electro pop, super-produced guitar crunch and the occasional T-Pain-style vocoder thrown in for good measure. Over the course of 36-odd minutes, Saporta drops references to "designer drugs and designer friends" ("The City Is at War"), proclaims he's "bringing sassy back" ("Kiss My Sass," featuring Gym Class Heroes' Travis McCoy) and even works in a subtle reference to Ol' Dirty Bastard's truly epic party-starter "Got Your Money" (the album-ending slow jam "Pleasure Ryland"). It's most certainly a record firmly entrenched behind the velvet rope, yet it's also not afraid to point out the sheer absurdity of the whole VIP scene.
"All of us played in punk-rock bands growing up, and we could never have dreamed of having this level of celebrity," Saporta said. "But it's weird. On one hand, it's awesome because you're hanging out with all your friends, you're getting the VIP treatment. But then you also see how it's just like this big [flattery] convention. And the record is sort of about that contradiction, where on one hand you wanna have fun and party, but at the same time, it's a critique of that whole lifestyle."
Of course, the emphasis is on the party, which is readily apparent on a track like "Damn You Look Good and I'm Drunk (Scandalous)" — formerly known as "Fake Boobs and Rollerblades." Not only does it sport a chorus that has Saporta crooning, "You're the kind of girl I'd take home to Mom/ If my mama was dead," but it also features a genuinely WTF-worthy cameo by V.I.P., a gay hip-hop trio from Philadelphia. And, not surprisingly, that's probably the song everyone in Cobra Starship is most proud of.
"V.I.P.are the best. Seriously. They're these dudes from Philly — Peter Party, Crackula [a.k.a. Bear] and Jonny Makeup — and they write hard-core gay rap songs. And we had 'Scandalous,' and we thought it would be a good idea to have them come in and just offer their vocal talents," Blackinton said. "It was probably the most awesome thing we've ever done."