Will Joseph Cook
We’re not going to lie to you, we’re slightly in love with Will Joseph Cook. The 19 year old first burst onto the scene in full technicolour pop glory with his 2015 EP, “You Jump I Run”. Fast forward two years (and a box of peroxide blonde hair dye) and he’s dropping his debut album, Sweet Dreamer.
An incredible record, the album is full of what Will describes as “pop bangers” and we can’t help but agree. With his unique take on indie pop and vocals that will make men and women alike go weak at the knees, the album is destined to push Will into the spotlight where he belongs. Describing his songs as “sad kid stuff” packaged in a euphoric pop song, Will creates tracks that have that beautiful diversity where at one time you could shed a tear listening to them but mostly you just wanna dance until your feet hurt. It’s a stunning and compelling quality, and shows the work and thought that went into this out-of-this-world record.
Released today on Good Friday, or as Will now calls it: “The Best Friday!”, we sat down with the charming pop star, trying not to fangirl, to find out all about him, and to make us question why we weren’t that cool at 19.
What music did you listen to growing up?
It was a mix of stuff. The ones that I really remember were early Eels, a lot of early Pheonix playing. My dad was big into The Cure, and The Smiths, and that kind of post-punk stuff, so a lot of that was being played. Supergrass, Blur, Radiohead. All the 90s classics.
And do you see the influence of these bands in your own music?
Yeah, definitely. I think growing up listening to guitar and indie music definitely built the infatuation with wanting to play and write songs. Then it’s probably more as a teenager that all my different tastes and stuff that I was listening to leaked its way into the music I was making.
Was there a moment when you were like, “I wanna be a musician when I grow up”?
Yeah. There was a Careers Day with this Russian woman, I don’t even know what she did, but she was such a bitch. She sat us down, and she went through what all my friends wanted to do, and they were just talking about going to university and whatever. I was like, “Oh, I wanna be a musician”, and she was like “You never have wife. You never have girlfriend. You never have wife”, and I was like, “Okay, cool.” I think that was the moment when I was like, “I will be a musician, and I’ll prove this person wrong.”
How do you think you’ve grown as a musician since the EPs you put out in 2015?
The EPs were the first records I’d ever made properly, so I was still experimenting a lot. I think it’s probably “Beach” that was the first one when I found my stride and a style and something that felt like something I loved and something maybe more original to me. So, that’s the reason why it’s the only one that’s survived onto the album.
If you had to describe your style, how would you?
I’d say it’s bold, broad-stroke alternative pop. It’s very song-centric. I think the way I structure and write is quite classic, but I always want every song to stand on its own and sound different and not have to rely on being on an album to be enjoyed. Pop bangers. But interesting ones.
What was it like when “Take Me Dancing” got such a great response?
Well it was the song after “Girls Like Me” and it was definitely in a different direction. It was ‘album’ me, as opposed to ‘fucking around on my EPs’ me. But with “Take Me Dancing”, I was a bit worried about following that track because as I made “Girls Like Me” and we put it out, the album wasn’t finished or started. We just dropped this tune and I was like “Fuck, I need to have something ready”. I think it came together with the video, so it did well. We won a UK MVA for the video, which was sick; I have it on my mantlepiece.
Can you tell us a bit about your new album, Sweet Dreamer?
The album was conceived a year and a half ago when we started recording songs explicitly for it, but it’s a debut so it backdates. There’s one track on there, and I never recorded it or released it, but I wrote it when I was about 15, which is a track called “Habit”. I guess, as soon as I decided I was calling it Sweet Dreamer, I had the theme of it down – this bold, alternative pop album that is meant to be really uplifting but then also have a cathartic pleasure and pain, like there’s a lot of dark lyrics, kind of sad kid stuff but hiding behind quite euphoric productions. So, I guess it was with the name that it all came together, this bittersweet idea that I was running with.
What came first the album name or the song name?
The song name came first. When I named it, I really loved it. The ideas that I think are my best ideas and my favourite ideas are when I hear something and I’m like, “That’s definitely a thing”, and then I look it up and I’m like, “Yay, it’s not a thing!”. Sweet Dreamerwas the ultimate of that, I was like, “Why has no one called an album Sweet Dreamer?” It has a humour to it, it’s kind of dumb. It’s this optimistic word and it’s kind of a pleasant thing, but it’s also grounded in fiction. You know, what I mean? Dreams aren’t real. So it keeps this whole kind of surreal feel to it.
What were some of the inspirations and influences for the tracks?
Heaps of stuff really. My rule of thumb is to have at least five things that I can hear. If I can name five artists when I’m making a track, when I think that little bits of this sound like that, then it usually is its own thing. Just everything I was listening to at that time gets in subconsciously.
What’s your creative process?
Unless I’m in the studio on my own, I’ll never come in with no idea. If I’m recording the song with someone else, I’ll have the song finished on the guitar or the piano and we’ll arrange it in the room. Towards the end of the album, like the last half of it that I recorded, I was taking in preproduction and arrangements that I’d recorded on my own and then we’d work them up. “Sweet Dreamer” was the first one of that, and then “Plastic”, “Treat Me Like A Lover”, “Hands”, “Biggest Fan”. I’m always involved in all the production process. It’s always me and Hugh, the producer, and no one else is working on it. So I’ll write the tune and then we’ll do the arrangement together. Then the tracks I did with Jack Steadman were more of a coproduction kind of thing.
Your music videos are lols and amazing.
What inspires those ideas? Let’s start with “Girls Like Me” when you dress up in drag.
Well “Girls Like Me” was my first video, so I wanted to do something provocative and just something that, from a press sense and from people listening to it, is a talking point.
How about with “Beach”? Obviously it’s very creative. What was the idea behind that?
So, when I was writing “Beach” I had this idea of it. It helped me finish it, thinking about it as a music video. It started off with the idea of prisoners falling in love through the fence or some shit. But then it turned into this fugitive thing, and I had all these ideas of this dumb shit, like Americana. The reason it’s called “Beach” is it’s playing to the classic Americana films with people on the run where it’s all about getting to a beach in Mexico or Cuba; this was my British take on those films. I wanted that video to feel like two people had watched those films and then tried to reenact it.
After your album comes out, you’re going on tour. What’s your favourite thing about touring?
Playing shows! No, for me it’s the realest thing that you’ll do. The whole time you could be watching numbers or see how many people have listened to you on Spotify and you get some love on Twitter or something, but until you send me in a room with a few hundred people who love your songs and they have affected them and you have this culmination of all these people that like your music in one space… It’s pretty sick. It’s the end goal.
What’s it like being so young and growing up being recognised for making music?
I think it probably made me grow up a little bit quicker. I stayed in school, I finished sixth form. But then the weirdest thing for me was being in sixth form and having a job and being signed. I was just trying to get out of this place, finish it, get my qualifications. But it’s just weird when you have a young teacher giving you shit, because all my friends are 27 or 28 and all the people I work with are that or older, and they treat you on a level. So, it just got really strange. Not like I was being disruptive but I just couldn’t take the environment seriously anymore.
You’re very active on social media. As a musician, how conscious are you of it as a ‘career’ platform?
I think it’s sick when you can just tweet fans and make someone’s day just by favouriting their tweet or some shit. Yeah, I think it’s great. It just allows for you to do quite hypey things and build a bit of excitement and just randomly share or tweet out a Soundcloud link to a bonus track. You don’t have to get it printed on to CDs like you would have had to 20 years ago or something. Yeah, on a broader sense it’s probably fucking us all up, but it’s cool for fans for sure.
So after album and tour, what’s next?
Festival season! We’re playing main stage at Secret Garden Party, Truck and a bunch of others. A few big ones, but I don’t think I’m allowed to announce them yet.
I’m not cool enough for Glastonbury!
Photography - Elliott Morgan
Fashion - Kamran Rajput
Grooming - Alex Fairbairn
Videography - Iolo Lewis Edwards