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How could you not be charmed by the Cobra? The Reno, NV three piece tours constantly, writes politically fueled punk rock, puts on a powerful sing-along live performance, and their singer has a badass hairstyle. The Skulls have been busy lately: they signed to Fat Wreck Chords last year, and since January they’ve released new EP and Fat debut “Bringing Home the War,” opened up for NoFX and The Bouncing Souls, and just wrapped up a stint of headlining shows.
We got the chance to catch up with vocalist/bassist Devin Peralta at the Beat Kitchen in Chicago on February 12 to discuss Taking Back Wednesday, Stella the deer Chihuahua, and working with producer Fat Mike on the new record.
Amy: So your first Fat Wreck Chords release came out last month, pretty exciting, what was the biggest difference between recording with them opposed to Red Scare?
Devin: Just time. Red Scare helped us recording budgetwise, but Fat just took care of whatever we needed. There was an issue with the compressor and I was supposed to go redo all the vocals, but I didn’t want to redo all the vocals. When I went back I just redid a couple songs, and usually that would have cost (us) more money, and it did probably for Fat. It’s just nice to not feel pressured, just more time really.
Amy: How did you make the transition over to Fat? I know Toby (Red Scare) used to work there.
Devin: He worked there for 7 years I think. (Toby walks in) Toby was just trying to get rid of us, so that’s pretty much how it happened (laughs). No, we were on tour with the Lawrence Arms and Teenage Bottlerocket last year when Bottlerocket had their first album on Fat and Lawrence Arms had a 7-inch inch out that was their latest Fat release. Mike came to our show in San Francisco, and then he came up and talked to me after the show and said he was really glad he got to see us. Then I saw him at a NoFX concert about a month later, and he came up to me and asked me if we’d be interested in doing our next album with Fat. That’s really it.
Amy: Why did you decide to go with an EP instead of LP for your first Fat release?
Devin: Partly because Mike wanted to produce it and I didn’t really know what that would entail; it was kind of a feeler. I was like, let’s just do an EP and see how it goes because I’m kind of a control freak. We don’t really jam out songs, I kinda write a song, bring it to the band, and we rehearse the song. I always have it set out in my head how a song is going to sound, and having someone producing it, I didn’t really know what that meant, but it was great, it was fun. He was only there for three days; I think we recorded for 8 days. He threw out some ideas, and some of his ideas we liked and some we didn’t, and we just did what we wanted to do anyway.
Amy: How did Mike get involved with the Bad Religion cover?
Devin: We had to record that song during the EP recording because it was for Epitaph and they said they needed that song a week after we were recording, so we had to do it then. When Mike asked what song we were going to do and we told him, “Give You Nothing,” he was like ‘oh, I really like that song.’ The next day he came in like, ‘you know, I’ve been singing this harmony to that song for like 20 years in the car, you gotta do this harmony.’ I was like alright, totally, that would be cool. I was in theere singing the lead and he’s like, ‘ no, no, you’re singing the harmony, you’re singing the back-up vocals, the part that I was going to telling you about.’ I was like alright, I’ll try and sing what Graffin [of Bad Religion] originally sings. I kept doing what he wanted to do, the higher part, which I wanted to do naturally. He was like, ‘do you want me to just sing back-ups on that part?’ I was like yea sure. It was spur of the moment, he went in the booth and did it, and that was that. It was really random and it was funny, he was like kicking in the ground like ‘I wanna play a Bad Religion cover song!’
Amy: Do you have a favorite song on Bringing Home the War to play live or overall?
Devin: I think my favorite song overall is “Hot Sand.” We’ve been playing that for awhile, so I think it’s my favorite to play because we’re most comfortable with it. I like to play “Life in Vein,” which is the last song, and then we just started playing the first song (Doomsday Parade) the past couple nights; I like that one too. I just like playing new songs in general.
Amy: The songwriting process, how does that normally go?
Devin: I usually have the music and lyrics done before bringing it to the band. I brought the songs for the EP to the band about a week before we went to record, so we just rehearsed what we could. I wanted to do one more song, but we just didn’t have time. We were trying to get the four songs practiced in that week, and we had to do the Bad Religion song all of the sudden. I have a bunch of songs I would like to start rehearsing for the full-length maybe already. For me, it’s different, sometimes it’ll be music first, sometimes lyrics. Usually it’s a chord progression with a melody that I don’t know what I’m singing about, and then I put words to it.
Amy: Do you write all the songs then?
Devin: Yeah, so far. There’s one song that our old guitar player wrote the music for. Yeah that’s just the way it’s been, me.
Amy: You have a lot of politically driven lyrics in your songs, does this go back to your days writing about social issues for a newspaper in Nevada? What fuels the fire?
Devin: Some bands have their one or two issues they’re concerned about, but for me, I’m concerned about whatever I’m interested in at the time.
Amy: You guys are always on the road, how do you keep touring fresh?
Devin: For us, it’s pretty much the same no matter where we’re touring. For one thing, we try to play different places from one tour to the next. The last tour was maybe a little stale because we didn’t have anything fresh to tour off of. This tour has been cool because we have a new EP out and there’s maybe a little bit of buzz and more people interested in checking us out right now. We don’t even want to tour in January because with the weather it’s kind of risky being out on the road. We just did this tour because NoFX asked us to come on tour with them and the Bouncing Souls, so we couldn’t really pass that up. We’re doing this one month tour right now and we’re going to take the next three months off, I think. We’re not going to tour til late May or early June after this. We’ve definitely been touring a lot in the past three years; it just feels normal to me.
Amy: I hear you bring a dog named Stella on tour, what’s the story behind that?
Devin: She’s my dog and I got her almost two years ago. She just turned two this month and she’s been touring with the band since she was six months old. She’s a big Chihuahua and people are always confused; she’s either a deer Chihuahua or a mix with something. There’s a bit of a discourse and people don’t agree with me, but I say she’s a deer Chihuahua.
Amy: She’s okay being in the van and on tour?
Devin: This tour it’s been so cold that even when there is time for her to come out and walk around, she doesn’t even want to come out. It kind of makes her hibernate and she sleeps a lot. She hates the rain, but actually likes the snow. When it first snowed she was fluffing it up with her nose and digging in it; she loves it, but hates the cold. She’s really used to the whole schedule. When we’re getting ready for tour, she knows we’re getting ready for tour. We have the trailer packed, we’re throwing everything in the van, and she knows we’re about to leave. I would feel bad if she was hiding somewhere in the house, but instead she runs into the van and she’s ready to go.
Amy: Why a Cobra? Is that your favorite kind of snake?
Devin: We were just joking around. We were basically trying to think of the cheesiest/best name for maybe if we were this ridiculous band, like Motorhead! That’s another good example, but actually that name is way better. Cobra Skulls, we were just trying to think of something ridiculous. So many names these days are like Giving Back Wednesday or something like that, I don’t get band names these days; they’re just all kind of ridiculous. We just figured why not just make something ridiculous. We weren’t taking ourselves seriously and we never thought we would get this far, although the other two original members aren’t in the band anymore.
Amy: Did the name come first or the logo?
Devin: The name, but I was thinking it should be something where you could just draw the logo and it would say the name of the band.
Amy: Why should people listen to your band? What do you think you have to offer?
Devin: I think we’re fun, we’re a fun band. We’re not really anything special to tell you the truth. I think our shows are fun.
Amy: I think the show is sold out.
Devin: It’s a good lineup overall (The Reganomics, The Downtown Struts, Sore Subjects). We gotta thank the bands that are playing tonight; it’s always awesome to play Chicago. Although we try to hit places all over on each tour, I think Chicago is a place we try to hit every tour because it’s always been really good to us. We always like coming here and coming back.