A Story of The Cocks

Isolation, hope, death, dreams, loss. These universal experiences are fundamental to the musical landscape explored by The Cocks. Part therapy session, part storytelling, each Cocks song is born from its writer’s own experiences even as it explores these common denominators of the human condition.

Using the lean, classic rock ‘n roll lineup of guitar, bass, and drums, the Cocks effortlessly embrace late-‘70s punk rock, early-‘80s Midwest garage rock, and ‘60s Brit-Pop while crushing on modern alt-rock. That means you’ll hear sonic echoes of The Clash and The Replacements mixed with the tunefulness of The Kinks and The Beatles, with nods to the edginess of Yo La Tengo, Spoon, and Built to Spill.

Longtime collaborators Mark Stallard and Phil Young started The Cocks in 2001 as a side project, a complement to their many other musical endeavors. Drummer Pete Romano (formerly of Gangster Pump and Cincotta) joined in 2009 to help them complete their debut CD, “Tuesday Morning Hangover,” then stayed on. In-demand players with other musical obligations, The Cocks took their time recording and releasing their debut, which saw the light of day in December 2010 after six years of off-and-on production.

That wasn’t the case with the new EP “Shake Out the Ghosts.” This time, The Cocks recorded five songs in three days at Philadelphia’s Miner Street Recordings (studio of choice for Kurt Vile, Dr. Dog, The War On Drugs, Strand of Oaks, Sharon Van Etten, and many others) working with nationally known producer/engineer (and fellow musician and songwriter) Brian McTear.

A Storied Musical History

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” as William Faulkner famously said. Certainly, the past is an important part of The Cocks. Those who’ve been around the Delaware/Philly music scene for any length of time know the guys in the band and their musical bona fides. Former groups like The Rubber Uglies, The Knobs, Pigeonhole, Bos Taurus, and Gangster Pump live on in many local music lovers’ memories (and on their iPods and turntables).

Highlights include:

  • The Rubber Uglies: Phil and Mark were both members of this hugely popular ‘90s combo. Along with lead singer Troy Tatman and the late, great bassist Kevin Cheeseman, they drew mobs of passionate (and dancing) fans, won many press awards, released two 45s and two EPs — and played the side stage at the 1992 Lollapalooza alongside Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, the Red Chili Peppers. Eternally beloved and greatly missed, the Uglies treated fans to a reunion show in 2014.
  • Suckee: Finding themselves bandless in 1995, Phil, Kevin, and Mark opted to try something different with Suckee. Each musician turned to an instrument that they did not know how to play: Kevin switched from bass to guitar and lead vocals, Phil switched from guitar to drums, and Mark went from guitar to bass. This experiment yielded one album, “ .” [[I think that’s right?? If so, please add name. Otherwise, I can come up with another last sentence or we can end with “from guitar to bass.”]]
  • The Knobs: Led by the late Phil Healy, The Knobs were a power-pop lover’s dream. The band released three albums (“Happy, Sad, Drunk,” “Guilt,” and “The Knobs Breakup and Die”) full of timeless songs of yearning and regret, love and loss that deserve a spot on playlists alongside Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, Badfinger, Shoes, and Dwight Twilley. The band ended with Healy’s death in 2004.

Personals losses, like the deaths of Cheeseman and Healy, inform the songwriting on “Tuesday Morning Hangover” and “Shake Out the Ghosts.” But there’s joy too, as on the exuberant “Brand New” and “Millions (Of Dreams).” One listen and it’s clear that these longtime friends are celebrating another day, another chance to get together and make a tuneful racket.

5 fun facts about The Cocks:

  1. The name is in honor of Delaware’s state bird, the blue hen. Or not.
  2. Mark is also a member of the award-winning Slower Lower competitive BBQ team.
  3. In good weather, Phil is piloting his boat, The Not Right, in hot pursuit of tuna, marlin, and other good-eatin’ fish.
  4. Pete also plays guitar, which you can watch him do as frontman for indie-punk-alternative trio Strawman.
  5. They wouldn’t say no if you want to send a few beers up to the stage.