How to Make Cookies
10″ COVER COURTESY OF COOKIES
Last summer, fans of the Brooklyn-based electro-pop trio Mobius Band—which formed 10 years ago at Wesleyan and supported major acts like The National, Editors, and Tokyo Police Club across the globe over the following decade—were greeted with some bad news. “As some of you have noticed, Mobius Band is on hiatus,” announced a letter on the band’s website, written by guitarist/vocalist Ben Sterling, who admits now that the hiatus was really a breakup. “We finished recording [a third album], but never mixed it,” Sterling told me last week at a nondescript Midtown food court.
“Why do it just to do it?” Sterling continued. “I don’t want to half-ass anything in life. The vibe was we just weren’t clicking anymore. Everything felt like we’d changed enough individually where we weren’t collaborating anymore—we were just watering down each other’s ideas and we weren’t having a lot of fun doing it.”
While the immolation of Mobius is unfortunate, Cookies, the hip-hop-infused electro-pop trio that sprung from its ashes, is a breath of fresh air—as evidenced by their shoulder-to-shoulder dance party of a live debut at Mercury Lounge earlier this month. “I don’t think the music I’m making is hip-hop, but every time I start a beat, I’m trying to make it for, like, Rick Ross, though it never works out that way, ” says Sterling, who formed the group in May with Reina del Camino’s Melissa Metrick, a sweet-and-savory-voiced chanteuse with a diva-ready name whom he’d met while scoring an indie film a few years back. “It’s not every day a voice like that walks into your small studio in Brooklyn. I really just wanted to explore that basic duality of a man and woman singing together.”
The result of that XX/XY interplay (with some rhythmic help from drummer Ian Ainley) is a funky mélange of disco-inflected electro jams that invoke OMD, Chic, and, well, Mobius Band. For Cookies, it’s all about a choice beat. “The sound and swagger of a good beat is pure positivity to me; it’s a good feeling, like the Rocky theme song. I listen to Hot 97 every night,” adds Sterling, whose lyrics seem to be aimed less at the Hot 97 crowd and more at the wonk rockers out there. (Sample lyric: “Studying that graphic design/oversexed and working part time/living on those circles and lines.”) That said, his biggest inspiration of the moment is none other than the wonk-rocking king of hip-hop. “I think Kanye West is a one-thousand-percent genius producer. Whether or not you like him as a personality, I really don’t have an opinion because I don’t care,” he says. “No one is making music as interesting as him.”
To give Sterling some credit, the two tracks on Cookies’ new 10-inch vinyl, which comes with a letter-pressed tweet by Jean-Claude Van Damme scented with Chanel No. 5, are smartly drawn toe-tappers that speak to the sturm (“Throw a parade/throw a parade for me/And I’m never gonna drink again/Never gonna drink again, you’ll see”) and drang (“I’ll worship you like gold/I’ll do just as I’m told”) of modern love with all the lighthearted irony you’d expect from a band called Cookies. [LISTEN TO “SUMMER JAM,” BELOW.]
As for the name, it’s first and foremost a nod to the kids’ department store across the street from his apartment in downtown Brooklyn. “It probably just seeped in that way, but I like that ‘cookies’ is a word that’s part of your life whether you’re using your computer or going to lunch. I’ve also heard people use ‘cookies’ to refer to their vagina, though I don’t think it’s a very popular use. But I like all those different meanings,” jokes Sterling, noting it’s also a private shout-out to J-Dilla’s last record, Donuts. Though they don’t have plans for an album just yet, Cookies is hard at work on a number of singles. “I think as a band it’s still very new. I don’t know what will happen next,” he says. “We’ll just keep figuring it out.” Get ready for a treat.