“I often get told that we’re way nicer in person,” Cobra Ramone muses. “People say, ‘Oh my god, you’re way nicer than I thought you’d be.’ ”
It’s easy to see why casual observers would be wary of Ramone and her collaborators. When the singer (whose real name is indeed Cobra) shows up for her interview with the Straight, she’s wearing a leather jacket, and there’s a tattoo of a guitar’s headstock extending out of her sleeve and onto her hand. It’s a biker-chic look that’s in keeping with her music, which mixes badass blues with punk-infused hard rock and brazenly confrontational lyrics.
When the topic of her intimidating public image is raised, she acknowledges, “I guess I can see why some people would be a little bit frightened of us.”
In person, however, the vocalist and her bandmates—guitarist-organist Trevor Snakedust and drummer Pat Steward—are friendly and talkative. Sipping coffees at Forty Ninth Parallel on Main Street, the musicians make no effort to uphold their rock ’n’ roll image as they happily discuss topics ranging from Ramone’s love of Taylor Swift to the spandex, Borat-style mankini that Snakedust once wore at a wedding in Mexico.
The latter talking point is particularly relevant, as that wedding was one of the first times that Ramone encountered Snakedust; at the time, the two were only casual acquaintances who had met briefly through friends.
“That was the second time in my life that I saw Trevor,” Ramone remembers, adding that she chose not to speak with him at the event.
“It was horrible,” she says of his flesh-exposing stunt. “You’re beautiful, Trevor, but that was not okay.” This prompts the hirsute and evidently uninhibited Snakedust to take out his phone and proudly display a photo of himself wearing the offending garment.
Despite Snakedust’s questionable choice in swimwear, he and Ramone reconnected when the singer relocated to Vancouver in 2011; she grew up in Calgary and moved to various cities after dropping out of high school to pursue music.
“When I moved here, I was looking for a job, and I found out he [Snakedust] was working at a bar that I kind of wanted to work at, the Moose,” Ramone recalls. “So I just harassed him, and then I found out that he was a musician and played guitar.”
Snakedust joined Ramone’s band for the tour behind its 2012 self-titled debut. The lineup was solidified with the addition of journeyman drummer Steward (a member of Odds who played on some of Bryan Adams’s biggest hits).
The full trio was in place for the recording of the new EP Bang Bang, which sports a muscular rock sound that abandons the electronic influences that previously coloured Ramone’s work. The opener, “Here Comes the Flood”, begins the five-song collection with towering, Zeppelin-style monster riffs as the frontwoman belts the title phrase with a mixture of melodic precision and swaggering attitude. “She Don’t Know” is similarly hard-hitting, the song following a bluesy 12-bar pattern while Ramone snarls, “There ain’t no one who gets to break my fucking heart.”
The release also includes a curveball cover: the title track is a version of a hip-hop–infused tune by Trouble Andrew, a Canadian musician best known as a former Olympic snowboarder and the husband of American singer Santigold. In Ramone’s hands, the song becomes a punk scorcher with rapid-fire lyrics that reflect the singer’s admiration of rap.
“I really like the percussive aspect of the lyrics and the vocal,” she says of the song. “The phrasing of the words and the consonants and everything is another instrument. I love that about hip-hop.”
Although the musicians have an old-school rock aesthetic, the “Bang Bang” cover tune reflects their wide range of musical influences, and they speculate that future releases might draw on any number of sounds. “I think the walls are breaking down a lot more these days,” Steward comments of the modern tendency of musicians to mix genres.
It won’t be long until fans get to hear the band indulge its diverse interests, as Ramone suggests she may abandon the full-length format in favour of a steady stream of short releases. “I’m pretty sure that EPs are going to be the way to go in the future,” she predicts. “I think that people don’t have the attention span for a full record. People go to iTunes, they listen to the first three songs maybe, they buy it, and then they pick their favourites instantly.”
Snakedust concurs. “It’s gone back to the ’50s and the old 45s, where it was just singles and that was it,” he says.
So if a new EP is in the pipeline, what exactly is it going to sound like?
“Maybe we’ll get a trumpet player. I don’t know, I have no idea,” Ramone says. Turning to her bandmates, she jokes, “I want to learn how to play the theremin, guys.”
Snakedust is quick to chime in. “Do it,” he enthuses. “Let’s cover the Star Trek theme song at the start of every show.”
Cobra Ramone plays the ANZA Club on Friday (April 3).