Band: Bad Cop / Bad Cop
Album: The Ride
Label: Fat Wreck Chords / Edel
In a time of chronic rage, happiness is revolutionary.
Bad Cop Bad Cop has done angry. The band’s 2017 full-length, Warriors, was recorded in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. The Los Angeles quartet’s new full-length, The Ride (Fat Wreck Chords, June 19th), shows what happens when you come out the other side of that anger.
“It’s not that I am just stoked or blind to suffering,” says singer-guitarist Jennie Cotterill. “I think anger is a legitimate and understandable reaction to injustice and wrongdoing. It’s just that for myself, I am trying to move past ‘reaction’ into productive ‘response.’”
The message BCBC is sending this time around is less about wagging your finger at others, or giving the middle one to the Man, than it is about self-love and acceptance. As Cotterill puts it, “Love is a more powerful truth than anger.” That positivity fuels many of The Ride’s tracks: “Originators,” “Simple Girl,” “Community,” “I Choose,” “Perpetual Motion Machine,” and “The Mirage” exude confidence, gratitude, and compassion. In 2020, such things qualify as contrarian.
"These are political statements—self-love is a huge fucking statement," affirms singer-guitarist Stacey Dee. "Self-love means putting a fix on the problems at home before trying to fix everything in the world. It's asking people to find it in themselves to create the life that they really want to have so they're not in turmoil, so they're not in a place of stress and sickness."
Dee speaks from experience. In 2018 she was hospitalized twice for different ailments, then discovered she had stage one breast cancer at the end of the year. Fortunately it was highly treatable, but the experience was life-altering. Dee captures it with brutal frankness on “Breastless,” whose bright melodies belie the struggle described in the lyrics.
“Certain Kind of Monster” and “Pursuit of Liberty”—both written and sung by bassist Linh Le—are blistering repudiations of the current administration’s treatment of immigrants.
The former is an imagined conversation with an ICE agent, and the latter juxtaposes her family’s immigration to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1975 to current events, something she’s never explored musically.
The perspective behind The Ride lends it an undeniable maturity, without losing its power. Recorded throughout much of 2018 and 2019 by Johnny Carey and Fat Mike of production team the D-Composers, the album boasts all of the elements of BCBC’s sound: big guitars, lock-step bass and drums (the latter by powerhouse drummer Myra Gallarza), intricate vocal harmonies, and plenty of attitude.
It’s just that this time, the attitude is encouraging, not raging. Nowhere is that more apparent than lilting album closer “Sing With Me.” Built around acoustic guitar, piano, and Cotterill’s voice, it’s an exhortation to “sing with me / or sing your own song / I don’t mind, just as long as you find / a voice.”
Dee adds, "If people are listening to our songs and they're going to sing along to them, they're going to start owning some of those words. And in owning some of those words that gives them some strength and power going forward. That's really the biggest gift that I could give to anybody."
“Stronger in every way” aptly describes Bad Cop Bad Cop in 2020. The anger may have taken a back seat on The Ride, but what’s taken its place is even more powerful.
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Band: Bad Cop / Bad Cop
Label: Fat Wreck Chords / Edel
It’s been a hectic couple of years since Los Angeles punk quartet Bad Cop/Bad Cop dropped their debut full-length, Not Sorry. The band spent a huge chunk of the intervening time on the road, like most bands do—and they wound up discovering some ugly things about themselves, like most bands do. Only for Bad Cop/Bad Cop, it got very serious, very quickly. “We were on the Fat Wreck Chords 25th anniversary tour in 2015, and Stacey was partying really hard,” says co-vocalist Jennie Cotterill. “She ended up bottoming out on the tour, and we had to leave. It was not a good separation. We had to go home and drop off the tour and figure out if we were still a band, what are we going to do about Stacey… Thankfully, Fat helped send her to detox, and she came out of that as a completely new person with a totally different trajectory. Before that, she was demonically possessed. She was destroying everything around her.” Out of that experience came “Amputations,” one of the highlights on Bad Cop/Bad Cop’s explosive second album, Warriors. The song is a slower, bigger sing-along than anything else in the band’s growing catalog, and it’s about the only thing not at a breakneck pace on the record.
Many of the album’s most cathartic, aggressive moments come from the mind of co-vocalist Stacey Dee, who after going through the darkest time of her life has come out stronger than ever. Instead of focusing solely on her own issues, she was able to expand her horizons, writing songs as poignant as “Victoria” (about a friend’s child who committed suicide) and “Womanarchist” (in which Dee namedrops Revolutionary War heroine Nancy Morgan Hart and Joan of Arc while proclaiming she wants “to make the whole world feminist”). Dee explains much of her expanded worldview came in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, making Warriors one of the first punk albums written in the Trump era.
“The election made a real big impact on us,” Dee says. “We were really hurt and really sad. It felt like we needed to take a stand and say something. I had never really dug into anything super-serious about fairness, equality or justice in my songwriting before. When my bandmates and I got a chance to rebuild together following my fall, it was all about honesty, celebrating our differences and letting our power come together naturally.” The foursome began recording immediately following a successful tour with the Interrupters last fall, spending roughly six weeks between Hurley Studios and Maple Sound Studios with their longtime collaborator and producer Davey Warsop between December 2016 and February 2017, with Jason Livermore (Descendents, Lagwagon) responsible for mixing and mastering—and just like on Not Sorry, Fat Wreck Chords founder Fat Mike chimed in with plenty of ideas as well.
“When it comes to songwriting, I’m open to anyone offering ideas—I think that makes it cooler. I’m all about what sounds best. Mike had really great ideas—most of the time, I agreed with him,” Dee says with a laugh. That songwriting invitation extended within the band, too, as bassist Linh Le contributed two of Warriors’ finest moments, “I’m Done” and the title track. The former tackles the topic of gender-related microaggressions (“I felt instead of being passive-aggressive about it, I was just going to be aggressive,” Le says); the latter was written to pay homage to all who have devoted their lives to fight for equality and was inspired by the Trưng sisters, who led Vietnam’s rebellion against China nearly 2,000 years ago. Needless to say, there is more to Bad Cop/Bad Cop than your average punk band—and that’s how the women like it. “It is important to raise awareness,” Le says. “There are so many people we care about who feel stuck or afraid.”
“We tend to stick up for the underdog,” Dee concludes. “It hurts us when anyone is marginalized. I was so negative for most of my life. After changing my life, I have been trying to focus on strength, connectedness and positivity. I think this record is a good start.”