Jennie Cotterill is often busy doing many things, but she is best perhaps known for being one of the vocalists and guitarists of Bad Cop/Bad Cop. Although she is often busy out on tour around the world, the many events of 2020 have brought that to a halt. Nevertheless, Bad Cop/Bad Cop persisted in releasing their new album, The Ride, on June 19th. Punknews writer Chris Barrett sat down and spoke with Jennie about a myriad of topics including emotions regarding the pandemic, mental health awareness, touring and coming home early because of the pandemic, as well as the process of creating the new album.
(Editor’s note: This interview took place before the events involving police violence and the subsequent Black Lives Matter demonstrations.)
First of all, how are you doing? What has life been like for you in quarantine due to the pandemic? How has it impacted you emotionally, professionally, and personally?
Emotionally I’ve been doing pretty well. I journal everyday and it was interesting to have a record of where I went mentally with everything. Once you have that It’s kind of like getting on a scale with your emotions everyday and being able to look at it and say “well this was a bad day. I really had a bad day last week.” Having it written down for some reason makes me feel better. Sometimes if you have a bad day it becomes its own center of gravity and starts attracting other things to it and it makes everything terrible. Maybe in order not to sound like I assume everyone has these things we do one of these: Then I tell myself everything is not terrible, because I have a place to live, a cute dog I always want to spend time with, and a housemate I like a lot and am lucky to have. So emotionally I’ve been OK even though I’ve had some expensive things happen, and we had to come home from a tour before we passed that “break even” part. We also had the whole rest of the year planned out with touring, and I’d just left my job before this tour.
What has it been like to adjust to the circumstances surrounding the pandemic?
With that, and for anyone who’s lost a job or had to adjust, we had to learn new things altogether at the same time. That means systems that have been opened up to us to respond to this could be buggy, and you kinda just have to leave room [for error.] As a band we’re trying to stay around, so we’re doing live internet performances and trying that out has led us to learn that live broadcasting definitely has compromised sound quality. So we had to tell ourselves we have to adjust, because initially that wasn’t a good product, and we still do have to make a living and try to get paid. So we’re asking how we're going to pay for things like our studio, taxes, and other expenses. As we go we’re trying to figure it out. The good thing is that other people are trying to figure it out too, and they have been cool about sharing resources. We have Jen Razavi from The Bombpops who has been cool at finding creative ways to make some money for ourselves. We definitely said, “thanks girl, one day we’ll tell you how to make money as well!” We also have Simeon from Stupid Rad merch stateside trying to help us out as well. Everybody’s trying.
I wanted to touch back on the fact that you said you were journaling. Are you doing so specifically because of the pandemic? Does it touch on any of your art as well?
Yeah it does actually. I started journaling because a couple of years ago I had this big blowout, or what seemed like a life coming apart thing of sorts. I was reading The Artist’s Way which is a good workbook for someone who is creative and is a good mental and spiritual support resource, which is very valuable. Creative work could leave us at times wondering, “do I fix myself? Is suffering where my creativity comes from. How do I fit into this world? Is the work I do actually valueable?” One of the things the author, Julia Cameron, says is that you should be journaling everyday. I told myself that I could do that, so I got into it. It turns out that it was really valid for me. She emphasizes that you are not writing a story here and no one else is going to read it. It’s more stream of consciousness, write whatever you are thinking, don’t worry about little things like spelling, I just do it. It turned out to be really helpful. At the time I started, I was not in a healthy emotional place. I was not making artwork, and didn't feel inspired to write music. So, I decided to pull it together and I started going to therapy. With the journaling, I could process what I spoke about in therapy, I could talk about how I’m feeling, I could talk about ideas, which was really important. It was important because when I was in my, not sure what you call it…
Maybe a funk?
Yeah, funk, yes [laughs.] I’d even stopped using a sketchbook, which is a bad idea. If you let every idea slip out of your hands and blow away in the wind, you have nothing. Just writing it down allowed me to see that I had a bunch of ideas everyday! Whether I do something with it or even remember it later is another story. Journaling has been really helpful for writing songs, making art, working out other problems that come up etc. I’m really grateful for getting comfortable with that before something like the pandemic happened. The same goes for therapy, and I’m glad I was even able to invest in that. It was really useful for me, and I don’t feel the need to go anymore. I’m glad I did it when I did because when something like this comes up that is traumatic, confusing, scary, and affects the whole world, I’ve been able to tell myself not to get upset, and to recognize all the things to be grateful for and considered it lucky timing for me personally as I had “purchased” it before everything happened. I also purchased an at home workout magazine in February as well [laughs.]
[laughs] Wow really?
Yeah! I told myself I’d take it on tour, but then I opened it as they’re like “use your barbells” and I said I’m not taking barbells on tour [Laughs.] So lucky for future me: I went to therapy, I’m journaling, I bought that magazine…
You had your preparation kit ready!
Yeah! Another coincidence is that I brought my journal with me, and there wasn’t going to be enough pages for the whole tour, and I knew that. So the question is do I bring another journal, or do I get a cool one on the road? Like a souvenir! Then we toured for only 2 weeks. We were with MakeWar, and they’re wonderful and delightful people. I told myself I wasn’t going to spend any money because I’d just quit my job and so that meant I really had to wait for the right journal. Of course, I didn’t get one because it didn’t come at the right time and then suddenly it was time to go home, like RIGHT NOW. Like: stop where you are, and get on a plane and go the fuck home. I didn’t even get a chance to buy chocolates because the tour came apart so quick! On my way home, I realized there’s only three pages left in my journal. So, I told myself “of course tour is over early! you didn’t bring enough pages!” That's a kind of spooky way to look at it.
First, I want to thank you for sharing your experiences with working on mental health. It is most definitely appreciated.
Definitely. It’s infrastructure for your life!
So speaking of the tour, how was it while on tour in Europe watching the events involving the pandemic unfold, and what transpired in the process to bring you home?
We definitely knew it was becoming a thing…it was not the situation it has become yet. Before we left, my Mom, who is so cute and always aware of scary news wherever we’re going, told me to bring a mask. We were supposed to go to Italy for this International Women’s Day Festival. At the time Italy was, to my understanding,the first European country to have things kind of spiral out of control. Knowing that, when we got on the plane we said we might not get to play there. It may sound crazy now but this was what we thought was appropriate to the information that we had at that time. Italy, of course, was the first place we ended up having to cancel. Also, part of that initial reasoning to cancel Italy was because a country like Switzerland had published a list of countries that if you traveled to-- you would not be able to enter Switzerland. So, our crew, who are unbelievable and delightful people named Ines Bartl and Tom McGeehan, were handling everything and figuring everything out. They knew where to find non-partisan news and up to date information about travel, which meant that they were able to update us every time something changed, which seemed like every hour. So we would go to bed with one plan, and then wake up in the morning and Ines would say, “OK team, we’re not doing this and we’re doing something else instead.” In that respect, it really started to get crazy. But before that, the shows were great and selling out and people weren’t afraid to go out. People at that time were not wearing masks. On the airplane to Europe we saw about 2 people with masks, and then coming home people were wearing ridiculous things over their faces. So of course I’m like “ah fuck I’m hugging people and sharing water bottle with the band so I’m coming home dirty” [laughs.] That said, it was a great tour though!
Was there anything unusual happening while you were over there?
One thing that kept happening was that opening bands were dropping off. That doesn’t usually happen, and we’re used to more bands being added! Oftentimes it was the fact that they were from one particular country and couldn't travel. So that meant a bunch of shows ended up just being us and MakeWar, which made me concerned about turnout. It ended up working out, people still came and sold out our shows which made it a good time. Then in Paris, because a larger show there was no longer happening, our show got combined with this ANTIFA event. It ended up being just the right size show under the current regulations where we were. [City ordinance dictates] We can’t have more than 300 people? No problem, this show is now 250! However, that meant after the show, we had to go to the Paris airport and try to buy a plane ticket back.
Yeah that sounds like it was probably time Trump announced the travel restrictions from Europe, which caught a lot of people off guard.
Exactly! People started reaching out to us to tell us what was going on at home. We originally had plane tickets to come back from London so we figured we just have to get to London. Then the news broke and we said OK it's time to go now. We got dropped off at the airport and everyone just bought new tickets to go home. So Tom and Ines had to figure out how to get the van and gear back to the Czech Republic all the way from Paris, and the Czech border had closed 24 hours earlier than anticipated. So they became Indiana Jones up against the giant rolling ball, they drove until they couldn’t anymore. So they ended up having to stay in Berlin. So it was a tough situation and obviously nobody likes it but what else could they do. When we got home we were told to quarantine for two weeks. So coming home from tour can be crazy but rushing home from tour was…whoa!
You have a new album called The Ride, is there a specific reference that people should draw from the title or the artwork?
Glad you asked! The title comes from the song “The Mirage,” which is on the b-side of the new record. The song is about a weird existential dream that I had where I found myself walking forever in the middle of darkness in the desert towards the only thing in front of me, which is a city that is miles away. When I finally get there, I discover it's all fake. All this work for nobody to be there, not even a dog! There's no windows or anything and it's just facades. I could see through everything, so I just kept walking right through because I just wanted to check it out. [It was my subconscious mind telling myself.] Time is moving, and you have to move with it. Are you going to wait until you get somewhere, to be actualized by some external force or whatever you are hoping for?? Or, realize this is it, and there’s only the ride. There are a lot of themes on the record. I wrote about self-awareness, meditation, and (what I believe to be) best practices for human interaction. Stacey wrote about some of her personal and emotional breakthroughs as well as gratitude. She survived breast cancer last year and wrote an amazing song about it. Stacey has a lot of range on this record. She’s all the way “on”, going through so many things, and she journals too! It helps! You keep track of yourself and your ideas, you’ll be all fine. Linh wrote a lot about immigration politics, and the way we let these imaginary things called borders tell you anything at all about a person.
So what made you decide The Ride was the best fit?
When we were trying to come up with a name, we originally were going to call it something else, and actually moved forward with a full-blown album cover shoot that went really well. Then a couple people told us the title we chose could be interpreted a certain way, and we said “no we don’t mean it like that.” But then we realized we didn’t want to have to explain or defend the album title. So we changed the name of the record. It seemed like everything kept getting pushed back and that was becoming a source of anxiety (though now it’s obvious how pointless that was). We thought we’d finished this record six or seven times and we told ourselves “it's in the can!” Then we were told “nope, actually no…” So this was during one of the additional “addendums” that we actually talked about and eventually changed the name of the record. We landed on The Ride because… there is only the ride! And that's life and human existence. When we chosing a name for Warriors we asked ourselves, “what is the umbrella under which all of these songs fall?” We wanted to use our own words, and not somebody else’s. The cover of The Ride is a diorama I made, which kind of visually relates to that dream I previously described. I also wanted it to feel different from the other covers because this album is very different (in our opinion) from the rest of our work. I wanted to create something different and to try to challenge myself. I know what I could already do, I had already painted some things. But I really love making dioramas, I just have a hard time photographing them. So I thought maybe I’ll work with a real photographer.
To capture the essence of the diorama?
Haha yeah! I have a good friend that I’ve been working with, and her name is Eden Kittiver. She’s very cool and we had fun getting together to make everything look right.
Two songs that stood out to me were the last two songs that you sing on, which is “Chisme” and “Sing With Me.” Seeing as the word chisme means gossip in Spanish, the subject matter in the song was about gossip correct?
So, with “Chisme” everyone sings a lead, which is fun and something we’ve never done before. For those who don’t know, our band was started by a different bass player, Jen Carlson. She left the band after about a year. Before she quit though she introduced us to Linh, and somehow it took us an album to realize how to maximize Linh in the singing and songwriting processes. Anyway, this song is about people who like to talk shit about other people. I’m not into it. There’re so many other things you could be doing with your time. I feel like it's part of internet culture where people say terrible things about other people and have opinions on everyone else’s decisions.
As for “Sing With Me,” I found it to be a really powerful song with a chorus in which you encourage people to sing along or find their own voice.
Honestly, I thought (Fat) Mike was going to hate it [laughs.] He’s always telling me to write punk songs, but it turns out he was really into it. In hindsight, it makes sense because he’s been working on his musical like the Winchester Mystery House for 15 years so of course he loves that shit! I wrote it thinking about the Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls, which is run by amazing volunteers. The whole point of the song is to save space for someone to come online creatively. [Which could] save somebody’s life, it could give someone a source of self-esteem that they desperately need, or it could even give someone the only moments of agency in their whole life. Otherwise everything is controlled, limited, or at worst oppressed. Arts and music as a form of expression is devalued, especially in schools. (or at least under-funded). You have to write grants to get [an art teacher] to come to your school. It’s a shame, and I honestly feel it’s part of a larger mental health problem because people don’t have appropriate coping mechanisms. Some people feel like they don’t have control of anything in their lives. When I first got my hands on a guitar I was 12, I really needed it. I needed to have something I could have control over, and have something [outside of] someone else’s criticism or expectations. Its like a garden of sorts, and it's just yours. I wanted to write a song that was easy enough, and I wanted people to know that once you could do a small thing, you could eventually move onto a big thing. The big takeaway of that song is that you don’t even have to write a song if you want. You could just play a song, and say what you want to say in order to get it out there.
So how long did it take to write The Ride? How was the process of writing songs for this album, and was it easy or harder than anticipated?
It actually took more than a year, and it was a crazy process. We came home from a big year of touring and starting tracking with our friend Davey Warsop. He is in the band Sharp Shock, and he has a studio out in Long Beach, and we’ve done everything with him before. We figured we have to write a record so let’s go see Davey and put some stuff down. He didn’t really get into anything we brought, but we tracked a couple things. When we showed it to Fat Mike he said to start over. We did manage to keep the song “Originators” from Davey and the song “Community” started with Davey as well. Everything after that was with Fat Mike and Johnny Carey. We were at Johnny’s house a lot, just putting down any ideas, and then sharing them with Mike. Mike is brutally honest when he’s listening to something, which is good because you want someone to be honest. It was a lot of back and forth, and we were going on tours as well as those guys [touring a lot.] So any time that anybody was home, we would have to go up and track some more stuff. Mike’s production style involves a lot of trying things out more than planning it all out ahead, then you fill it in. So you start, and then if it's not right you fix it. You just have to keep doing that until it's right, and then you find it. [He and Johnny Carey] took their time with us and I hoped they had fun! I know I can be pretty difficult during recording, but it did end up being fun and we are all really happy with it!
It’s funny you say that because you mention in the song “Take My Call” about not planning or mapping out things and more doing it as you go.
Oh yeah I’ve never been a planner. I could plan a small part of something, but not the whole thing!
Is there any significance to this album being that is your third album? Some may say bands getting to a third album is a milestone. Do you share that sentiment?
I feel like it's a milestone. Well every album is, but with this album we felt like it was a shift into a better, more developed, more mature direction. I mean I love a raw raunchy first album where there’s no producer and you really get to hear who a band is. We’ve never been that band which has served us fine. This most definitely is not a raw record.
So the number itself to you is not significant?
A number means different things to different bands. If you write an album every year and a half then I don’t know if a third album is the most significant thing to you. For us it does happen to be.
Comparing your songs from your first two EPs to now a lot of your songs have touched on deeper personal and political topics. Do you find it more important to use your platform to bring light to certain issues and/or to be representatives for others that you may inspire?
Regarding our earlier stuff, we honestly didn't know if anyone was going to listen to it. When you’re playing your first shows from a shitty PA, no one hears what you are saying. We eventually grew up, things happened, and we thought deeper about things. I personally don’t want to write any more songs that manifest negative energy or feelings. I wrote some angry songs in the past, and I’m definitely not angry about any of that stuff anymore. It’s weird for me to put that on every night when I’m playing. I’m over it. When I was writing for this album I asked myself what do I want to say over and over every night to someone else?
Seeing as that you guys have been successful, is there anything out there that would be an awesome achievement to you guys if that happened? It could be anything.
We definitely want to play Saturday Night Live! Also, we definitely want to play DragCon… and Japan… and Brazil. And everywhere!