The Student interviews Will Joseph Cook

The indie-pop Kent native discusses supporting alt-J and the social responsibility of the artist ahead of his Edinburgh debut at The Mash House on 22 October.

You played at huge festivals this summer, e.g. Reading, Leeds and Victorious. What’s the difference between them and solo, indoor shows? Does the type of the show influence your setlist and plan for the gig? Do you feel more excited or stressed out?

“I think when putting together a festival set it should be high energy. I usually write a few new parts or new endings to hype up the tracks a bit. I think there’s more pressure on a headline set but it’s also a room full of just your fans, which kind of balances it out.”

There’s also another change in your ‘performer status’ because you used to play as a support of alt-J and now you have Indigo Husk, The Night Café & Park Hotel supporting you on your UK tour. Firstly, how did alt-J’s audience react to your music?

“Their crowds were really great for us. I think we were all pretty nervous beforehand. alt-J seem to draw in a lot of engaged music fans who really care about catching the support act.”

How does this shift of the ‘performer status’ change your live shows? Do you feel more confident or more responsibility?

“Both for sure. There’s definitely the pressure of being the main event, but having big fan reactions and singing along really helps me perform.”

Your music is not only about live shows or songs themselves but also about their visual representation. According to you, what makes a good music video nowadays? Your music videos seem to share similar, consistent aesthetics – how would you define their style?

“I think a good video is something that shows the song in a different light, or is provocative enough that it shouts as loud as the song. I really love having a strong concept above all else, something that can be described briefly and hook you in. When it comes to my videos, I like humour and breaking the fourth wall, there’s a big opportunity to get my personality, so I always try my best to make them that way.”

You seem to enjoy blurring the lines between gender in your videos and music. Do you happen to do it simply for fun or is there any special, deep message under the cover of the entertaining, funny shots?

“The cross dressing in my videos is just for characters. That said, if there is any bigger message to take from it, it would be that people should feel fine about expressing themselves or their ideas and feel safe doing it.”

You speak openly about your involvement in social initiatives such as London Pride or celebration of the life of Dean Eastmond. Do you think it is the artist’s privilege or duty to speak up in social matters? Why do you choose to make use of your dynamic, bubbly social media to talk not only about music? As far as social media is concerned, which one is the most powerful according to you and why?

“I don’t think people should feel forced to post about current events or certain trends, so no, I don’t think there is a duty. I tend to only post about stuff outside of music if I feel it has affected me personally, or I have a certain angle on it that hasn’t been heard. Instagram is my favourite, I think that’s the case for most artists. It’s just really engaging and I like how visually simple it is.”

Speaking of the gig you played together with Years & Years and Sink The Pink, it probably wasn’t a coincidence that you all played on one stage together. What kind of artists seem to share your aesthetics and your style?

“For that show we were all there as acts that Dean Eastmond had supported and written about. I guess a similarity between myself and Years and Years would be an ambition to make interesting and forward-facing pop.”

Finally, you mentioned once that playing at the Lock Tavern in Camden was one of your most enjoyable onstage experiences. How do you think playing in London will differ from playing in Edinburgh?

“This is actually my first time in Edinburgh so I guess I’ll find out on the 22nd. A lot of bands I know have come through The Mash House though and said it’s got a great vibe.”

 

IMAGE: James Heward, Pomona

 

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