By Calli Ferguson | August 16, 2022
“We want it to be inclusive. And we want it to be fun. That’s what disco was about.”
In 2017, Andy Harry and Sarah Rayne teamed up to make music for skateboarding videos, and “Cobra Man” was born. From the beginning, their music was something unique. A little bit disco and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, the New Wavey sound they were creating was soon dubbed, “Los Angeles Power Disco.” As you might imagine, the sound has something very 1980s revival about the Cobra Man energy. It’s as groovy as the disco ball itself. And it’s as fun as the roller rink…or the skate park, rather. In fact, the music started with The Worble, a skate and streetwear brand whose videos built their tight knit, cult-like following made up of skaters in and beyond the city of LA.
In steadfast alliance with the Worble gang and the skating community, Cobra Man had earned themselves a bit of a reputation in LA for putting on vibrant, wild, and wonderful live shows. And this summer, Harris, Rayne, their seven piece band, and the Worble crew took that energy on their cross-country tour. Moving from one sold out venue to the next via bus, the 2022 tour has given Cobra Man the proof that their live music magic transcends the borders of the city of Los Angeles. And believe us when we tell you— the spirited show and wild crowd in New York City was certainly a testament to that.
As the crowd went crazy for the Worble video screening in the Ballroom, we chatted with Sarah and Andy before their Bowery Ballroom show where they answered a few questions for the groovement:
We are super excited to spotlight you guys and recap your show for those who didn’t make it because… you sold out Bowery Ballroom!
Yeah yeah! We did! Thank you!
We’d love to start by hearing your story. How was Cobra Man born?
Andy: Well we started making music together for the Worble skate videos which they’re playing downstairs right now. I went to school with ‘The Mulls’ and lived with Tom for a year. I moved to LA, and he hit me up one day and said that they were all going to be in town. They had formed The Worble at that point but it hadn’t really taken off yet. So I started hanging out with them, they moved in with me, we got a warehouse together, started throwing crazy shows and parties…
Through those parties, they started meeting more people in LA and getting more established. They met someone through Thrasher who was down to post their videos, but they needed original or licensed music. So I talked to Tom about making some stuff. We did the “Manramp” video, and it did really well.
At the time, I had met Sarah through a friend, and we had started talking about music and disco. Sarah worked on some music for a commercial I was directing, and Tom asked me to make a couple more tracks, so I thought of Sarah to jump in on it. One thing led to another and all of a sudden we were making a bunch of music for a full length video.
The day that that came out, we got a label offer and so it kind of just… kept going.
Was there a moment where you guys realized Cobra Man could exist on its own as a band? Because it seems like you had this common objective, right? Of soundtracking skate videos…
Sarah: Oh only recently, honestly, as a band. We didn’t even know if this tour would work out until like a few days ago!
What was the first live show you played together?
Andry: That was in 2017 at The High Hat at Highland Park in LA, but it’s now called The Goldfish. It was just Sarah and I with a laptop and a keyboard. I was just beating the shit out of a crash symbol.
But we didn’t really practice before the show and people went nuts for it. And that was the moment I was like, Holy shit. I don’t even know what everyone likes about this.
Sarah: Since the beginning we’ve been really lucky. The energy has been there. And we’re kind of like, oh shit, this… this is something.
You guys definitely have a “je ne sais quoi” for live music. And after you played that first show, did you know you wanted to bring on a whole band?
Andy: For a really long time I wanted to have a disco band. So at the back of my mind, that was kind of the dream. [I thought] it would be sick to have a big band and a spectacle show, but I don’t think that at the time it was in the plans, cause we were just trying to figure shit out.
Sarah: And every person in the music business discourages you against that. They say “It’s so expensive,” and we’re like, “this is the way we wanna take it.”
Andy: Everybody would try and talk us out of it. Every single person would be like, “you guys should really be a 2 or 3 piece.” And I was like, no– we’re goin’ for the big band. And we’re making it work somehow.
Yeah– you’re all on your 2022 tour now! How has it been?
Sarah: It’s been… amazing. It’s been a lot of work. Really hard. But shows are selling out; things are working out. Everyone in our band is incredible and contributes. And every venue we play at, people just treat us with so much kindness. We feel really lucky; it’s been so fun.
How are you getting around??
Sarah: On a bus! We left it in Tacacs, we couldn’t drive it in the city. We have a driver– he’s awesome. And he drives through the night, so we’ll just wake up in a new city, and it’s crazy. We’ve got a lot of shows coming up and just one or two days off. But we’ve got the rhythm now.
Can we talk a little about “Los Angeles Power Disco?” You seem to be trailblazing as far as genre goes. And listening to your music, it’s sort of self defining. But how would you describe LA Power Disco to someone who’s never heard Cobra Man before?
Andy: I would say there are two different ways of looking at it. Because some people listen to it and they’re like, this doesn’t sound like disco. But everything that I produce is in one way or another influenced by the production of 80s dance music essentially– I’ve just always called it disco. But I think there is a side of it– with the rock influences and the dance influences– we just didn’t know what to call that. And Los Angeles is where we made it. Los Angeles Power Disco sounds like– to me– what that is.
And then there’s the other side where, generally, we try to focus the direction- like, the perspective and the themes of a lot of our songs have to do with a universal empowerment idea. Or a feeling, really; we like writing anthems. And I think that’s really the “power” of it more so than a distortion power or whatever.
You could say the “power” is more so “empowerment.”
Sure, and that has a lot to do with the roots of the disco movement as well. So being a part of the cannon of disco– even if forking your own path on it– how do you consider the history of the genre? With the controversy around the “Disco Sucks” era, but also– just that it was such a liberating space for so many people?
Andy: So I’ve always loved rock, metal, and disco. And because of that “Disco Sucks” stuff that you’re talking about, I feel like it never had a good time period of crossovers. It was always one or the other. So we had this gap to fill.
But also, what you’re saying about the culture that surrounded disco and the movements that went along with it–I feel like that coincides a lot with skateboarding. And right now in skateboarding, there’s this movement where a lot more girls are skating, there’s a big push for more inclusivity, more trans skaters. And that works into some of our universal approaches to the songs.
We want it to be inclusive. And we want it to be fun. That’s what disco was about.
Totally– as with skating. Is there anything else in particular that you hope people walk away with after listening to your music or seeing your shows?
Sarah: Based on this tour, it seems that it’s that everybody’s having a really good time. There was a girl in Chicago who said, “this show healed my trauma.” And she was fucking serious. So, I mean that’s… that’s probably as good as it gets.
Andy: It’s always nice when people walk away having had a uniquely good time. Where it reached a level for them where they’re like, “I’m gonna remember that.” And I think my intention is that people feel like, oh maybe I can do that. Cause that’s how it started for me. So it’s that pay it forward mentality: somebody did that, and I was inspired by it, so hopefully somebody walks away and carries the torch.
Awesome. So you guys are touring for a couple more weeks. Do you have plans after that?
Andy: Oh fuck. I’m gonna go to the dentist. Probably go on vacation.
Any plans to be back in New York?
Oh yeah– I fuckin’ hope so! We’ll probably be doing this again very soon. Sooner than later.
Great. Any last things you’d want readers to know?
Just a shout out to all the skaters and The Worble for sticking by us and helping us get to the place that we’re at. We’re really grateful for their support and that’s a big reason we’re able to do this tour right now. And why it’s so fun.
When Andy said “And why it’s so fun,” we wouldn’t quite know exactly how true that was until it came to life before our eyes. Cobra Man fans are a crowd like no other…
The first person on stage was the saxophonist, Sam Morgan. And this time, in place of a “dad” wearing a “tucked in polo shirt,” Morgan wore a black sequined suit that glittered in the rising stage lights. Absolutely epic. But also… just the beginning. More sequins, capes, a glittering keyboard, 80s electric guitars followed up that entrance. Alongside the lively performance from Andy, Sarah, and the whole band, the consistent roar of fans brought the music to life. With rafters out of reach, they opted for crowd surfing, crowd surfing, and a little more crowd surfing. There’s something about that… fans holding each other up, the collective support, strength, and joy of experiencing the spectacle presented to them. The magic Cobra Man creates on stage offers an opportunity for the entire room to become a part of their energy. A part of the show, really. Bathing in these moments of fun and liberation. Maybe Cobra Man says it best in their track, Everybody Party Tonight, as they jam:
Maybe we should go dancing
The feeling will sweep you off your feet.
Everybody party tonight, at the disco
Everybody’s losing their minds.