Sometimes you find inspiration in the last place you thought it would be possible. Take for example Ben Cook, prolific musician and songwriter that you will know as a member of No Warning, Fucked Up and as his solo project, Young Guv. The New York via Toronto based artist just released his brilliant new album under the Young Guv moniker, GUV 1, recently and we got to catch up with him on the album’s release day to chat about where this surprising record came from.
“I pulled up to Brooklyn kind of on a whim,” explains Cook in a laid back way, “I was in New Jersey producing the last Terror EP and when that wrapped I thought I would see about staying in New York. I posted on Instagram to see if anyone had a sub let I could take and found myself in Bushwick.” Cook says that his past relationship with that city wasn’t always positive. “Being a touring musician I’ve been super lucky to be able to travel all over the place but I never really liked New York very much. Every time I was here it was to play a show and it was always really quick and I wasn’t a fan.” That all changed after Cook decided to give the city one more chance. “I thought I would feel it out for the summer. I pulled up to the city and didn’t really know anyone at all. It was summer and there was a heatwave going on and I just wanted to hole up and chill.” He took that time, in a new city, relatively alone exploring the new neighbourhood and became more and more enamoured with it. “I was really feeling the vibe of it all. A lot of people fuck with New York. The city has a soul that I’ve never experienced anywhere else. It’s the families on the block having barbecues in the summer, the random little interactions that you have with people. You could be walking down the street and another grown ass man, a stranger, a real hard ass dude will walk by you and say ‘Looking good today, bro’ and you’ll say it back. There’s a soul here and a lot of love.” Cook felt that was something that he felt he had been missing in other cities that he’s lived in previously. “Everyone here is always hustling to do their own thing but everyone wants to help each other out. They welcome you with open arms and hold each other up.”
His new home became such a source of inspiration that during that heatwave over the summer, Cook wrote a new song everyday. “I all of a sudden found myself with like twenty new songs on my phone so I called up Tony Prince, who co produces this stuff and sent them over and we decided we should make this record.” Cook who is a fan of working quickly and a little loosely wasn’t afraid to record all the tracks he had written. “I sent the record in to Run For Cover, the label I’m on, and they were a little overwhelmed that we wanted to put these all out so they suggested that we cut it in half and now I have basically two albums that are coming out. This one, Guv 1, and then in the fall we are gonna put out Guv 2 and we’ll eventually put it all out as a double record soon.” The album is a blast. A burst of concentrated sunshine, full of poppy hooks seemingly inspired by the likes of Teenage Fanclub, Big Star and Matthew Sweet. “I made an effort with these songs for them to be more a guy and a guitar kind of thing. I don’t know if any of those acts really inspired it directly but that is the kind of music I grew up on as a kid. I used to watch MuchMusic everyday, The Wedge, Much West. Much East, so I’m sure that those bands are somewhere in my brain when the songs come out.” The freedom of doing this all himself has been great for Cook as an artist. “With Young Guv I feel I can do whatever I want. The last record, 2 Sad 2 Funk was more laptop stuff and Tony Price convinced me to release it, which was great and I really like that record but this band can be country, electronic, whatever and this record is a sincere attempt as a guy with a guitar in an apartment. I didn’t really want to fuck with computer shit with this. The second volume we kind of vary it up a little bit more but this is more like jangly fields of love,” Cook says with a laugh.
Now that Guv 1 is out, Cook is ready to take the project on the road. “This is definitely a touring project now,” Cook explains, “I told myself I didn’t want to tour Young Guv unless it’s with Tony Molina, who I consider is the best songwriter in the world, he’s crazy as fuck and the best guy.” As if it was meant to be, Cook explains that he was surprised that this opportunity arrived. “I got a call from Dave from Culture Abuse and he asked if I would be into touring Young Guv with them and Tony Molina and I thought to myself ‘well damn, I guess I have to now’,” he says with a smile. Now a permanent resident of the city he once was unconvinced of, a couple new records he is excited about and the feeling that the best is yet to come, Cook is in the most positive place he feels he has been in a long while. “I have had a few dark years the last little while, I’ve lost a lot of friends but this summer has been really life changing. I feel like I’m on some cosmic energy and I’m super excited to share that energy, I’m blessed to share it.” Within your first listen of GUV 1 you’ll definitely feel this energy and will be glad that Ben Cook decided to share it with the world.
interview by Adam Fink
08/22: Brooklyn, NY – The Broadway (Record Release)
09/07: Toronto, ON – MattyFest
09/08: Rochester, NY – Montage Music Hall #
09/10: Cleveland, OH – Phantasy #
09/11: Indianapolis, IN – Citadel Music Hall #
09/12: Grand Rapids, MI – Pyramid Scheme #
# w/ Turnover