Dave Cope and the Sass – Julee (Q&A)

Julee, the latest album from Dave Cope and The Sass, contains nine songs that originated between 2007 and 2010.

When you read the stories behind the songs, it’s hard to imagine that they must have been lying around undusted for a while.

Dave Cope shares how Julee came about.

Watching Over Me is a beautiful, what seems to be a very personal ballad. I can imagine this is a harder one to record. Or am I hearing things that are not there?

This song was written in memory of my father, Gerald Cope, who passed away during the early stages of the making of the original incarnation of the album. We were short a couple of songs for a full length. I remember the producer, Mark Owen, suggesting that I try and channel all the emotions I was feeling regarding my father’s death into a song for the record. Moments later, I was sitting at the piano writing.

The song came very quickly, and we recorded the piano part you hear on the album and a scratch vocal in the span of an hour, maybe less. I later re-recorded the vocals at the home studio of my friend and colleague in sound, Andres Villamil. The song came from such a deep, real place; the process was not belabored. In truth, I remember thinking, “this one came so easily; is it really any good?” But it’s turned out that this song has gotten some of the most positive feedback of any on the album. It shows what I know. 🙂

Julee is a ‘banger,’ as my kids, who know Big Star and The Kinks would say. How did it come about?

I had formed a band with some good friends. We were called Fantasy Square Garden and played heavily in the Philadelphia area from 2008 to 2010. Julee was one of the first songs I wrote for the band. I don’t exactly recall how it all came about. I do remember my bandmate Claire Wadsworth and I working out some “kinks” in the song – pun intended. It was Claire’s idea to sing the name “Julee” more like “Julay” so that the voice could really open up on that part of the melody.

As for the rest of the process of its creation, I can say that I was young, full of energy, and looking to connect with audiences in a dynamic way. The riff has a bit of the early Ray Davies vibe, but the song takes quite a turn in the bridge, almost going into Brian Wilson territory in terms of the harmonies.

I was listening to a lot of music from that era but also some sounds from the 90s, like the Vaselines, referenced in the song’s first line. The story within the song reflects a compendium of experiences I had had with love, some thrilling, some harrowing. I think the combination of the dark lyrics regarding betrayal and heartache coupled with the exuberant music reflects the desires of a young person to take romantic risks, suffer the consequences and find the energy within themselves to transpose the pain into some kind of raw, fiery energy of creation.

The nine songs are such a powerful whole. Still, it’s a collection of songs you didn’t record as an album?

The songs on the record were conceived and composed during the same time period, roughly between 2007 and 2010. However, some were recorded at different times and locations with different producers. The majority were recorded and mixed by Mark Owen with a band we called The English Breakfast. This group consisted of Ethan Rider on bass, Steve Fulton on drums, and Bart Michael on guitars. Julee was also mixed by Owen but was recorded by Tony Catastrophe (the drummer for Fantasy Square Garden) and myself.

I Got Your Letter was recorded at Edison Studios in New York City. Edison was Owned and operated by Henry Hirsch (producer and engineer famous for his work with Lenny Kravitz). Henry recorded and mixed the initial song and also played bass. I was joined by Gabriel Garzon Montano on drums and Soren Christensen on lead guitar. But despite the variation in the performers, recording studios and engineers, and producers employed in the production, the songwriting conveys a common stylistic thread that runs through the entirety of this version of the album.

You get a lot of appreciation for your 70s sound. Does that sound come naturally when you start writing, or do you have to consciously look for it in the studio?

It comes pretty naturally. The music of the 60s and the 70s informed my sensibilities from a very early age. The Beatles, The Kinks, David Bowie, T. Rex, and The Move are all swimming around in my brain. But I enjoy listening to and making a wide variety of music from all over the map. I’m currently finishing up a new wave synth-pop record and debating whether or not I should put it out under the name Dave Cope and the Sass since that moniker seems to be more and more associated with power pop.

On A Day Like Today, also a special one, I suppose? What is it about?

It’s about the separation of two young lovers and the consolation they find in the simple things and the memories of times they spent together. In my younger days, I studied music from South India with a master musician named Tanjore Viswanathan. That music is filled with such wonderful ornate melodies.

Years after I had studied the music I awoke one morning and turned on the T.V. There was a film from India on, and upon hearing the music for the film, I was taken back to that time so vividly. In fact, I was so motivated by the desire to explore those beautiful types of melodies that I turned off the T.V. and wrote the song right then. I can’t even recall the name of the movie. I’m not even sure if I ever knew. In a way, the song also takes its inspiration from walks in the woods around where I used to live in Philadelphia. It’s also got something of a British folk music vibe as well, British folk music being another major love of mine. With acoustic folk songs, my goal is often to evoke the green and brown of trees, forests, leaves, and streams glimmering in the sunlight. I guess that’s just the hippie in me.

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