One of the things that grips me to New York is the fact that most people can express themselves creatively without any barriers holding them back. A great example is this is the music scene here. Sure, everyone has aspirations for success but spend a night going to a gig of a local band here and you'll witness a group of people with an unquenchable need to express themselves.

A band I've experienced this recently with is Cookies, the indie pop brainchild of Ben Sterling. I've caught the band opening up for the likes of We Are Scientists and Oh Land, with each performance leaving me wanting more. My name is Ken Grand-Pierre and I'm not an astronaut (would be cool though yeah?), and this is an interview I did with Ben Sterling of Cookies.

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In contrast to previous projects you've been in. What was it that you wanted to do differently when it came to forming Cookies?

I wanted to do it all myself. Every word, every sound, and eventually every mix. It was really rewarding and sometimes harrowing. Being an only child helps, as far as spending infinite hours alone staring at a computer. I think it's true that collaboration is a better way to go about life, but there's something special about music that has marinated entirely in one person's brain. It has a stankiness to it, like morning breath.


Going further of that, was there a clear distinction of what you didn't want Cookies to be/become? Especially considering it's also now a live band.

I don't have the brain power to plan ahead what a project should or shouldn't be. I can think conceptually about someone else, but not myself. I just have to find out by doing it. That's what cookies is. Now with this amazing band I've lucked into, it might be something else!


One thing that's struck me with your band is how refined and thought out the live show feels. You're all having a great time but are still cohesive in sound. Have you ever shared a stage with your bandmates prior to Cookies?

No, I just got lucky with some amazing people that really get it.

Where was the album, Music For Touching recorded and why did you decide to record there?

I recorded almost every note at my little studio in Sunset Park. That was good, because I didn't really believe I could make a song from top to bottom by myself before that. I worked with a great mixer named Ben Allen for a couple of the first Cookies singles, and at some point I sent him '1,000 Breakfasts With You' to mix and he emailed back saying that he could turn some knobs and make it sound different, but not necessarily better. That was really selfless of him, and a big ego boost. That said, it takes me forever - like months - to mix a Cookies song. It might not sound like it, but it does! I also mixed a couple of tracks with Daniel Schlett, who is awesome.

Was there an experience you had in or out of the studio while making Music For Touching that's really stuck with you?

In the studio, I remember a bunch of moments when a song that wasn't working suddenly came together, like a hazy image coming into sharp focus. That is the best feeling. It's like a cool breeze blowing across your brain. It's a very good drug.

Outside of that, my mom was in a serious car accident and had a year or two of health complications following, which was all going down as I was starting to write and feels really bound up in that period.

Sorry to hear about that. It's great that the record was completed and you now have it to look back on. You know, I love how tongue-in-cheek the description for the band is via Facebook. It states that 'Cookies are a band in New York that specializes in popular music' which is quite a bold thing for a relatively unknown band to say. Has the confidence you feel towards the project been a natural occurrence?

I never thought of that phrase as expressing confidence, that's interesting. I was thinking of 'popular music' in a musicological sense: not necessarily the charts, but 'pop' music in a broad sense. Stevie Wonder, Fleetwood Mac, Biggie, Jai Paul... just good melodies. Anything you want to sing along with. But I mean, ultimately it was just a way to avoid writing a band bio.

Does it surprise you that that could go over someone's head at times? I think with music lovers, especially people here in NYC our heads would go there but if you're from somewhere else the word pop might just be associated with an aesthetic rather than a sound. When I listen to you guys I can hear how acts like Giorgio Moroder and Krafkwerk have inspired you.

Anytime you use words to describe sound things can go off the rails really fast. That's why I hate band bios! I came up in a more 'indie' time and do remember when a 'pop' mindset was less acceptable in that world. I'm so glad that seems to be over, for now. Being cool is a kind of curse if you can't enjoy something because a lot of other people like it too. It's depressing, just more tribalism.

Is the element of 'fun' important to you when making music?


I do seem to look for fun and lightness in music these days. I don't know why. Maybe it's as simple as being happier and less angsty in general.

Going from that, I did notice how the music had a bit of a New York sound to it in a way. New York is a very particular place in how you can feel very insular and claustrophobic at the same time. Do you feel that living here has influenced the band or is it a more passive affair?

Well, I'm from New York, so the specific influence of the city is hard to discern; it's at a cellular level! But I've never thought of Cookies as New York-y. But an outsider might have a better handle on what 'New York-y' even means.

I do think the influence is heavy from my friends, who I would only have the chance to meet here. And the amazing musicians that now make up Cookies. They're not in Portland or Vermont or Iowa. There are too many amazing people in New York. At this point, I think my friends are the main thing keeping me here.

What was an instance where you weren't sure how a crowd would take you and you ended up winning them over? Have you ever experienced something like that?

Every show feels like that! We just played what I thought was a great set at Rough Trade. Honestly, it felt like one of our best shows. And the crowd was super reserved. Sometimes the opposite is true and you're in psychic hell onstage, questioning all your life decisions that lead to this horrible moment embarrassing yourself in front of strangers, and everyone loves it. It's mysterious to me why one crowd warms up and another doesn't. I go into any show assuming I have to win them all over, I can't imagine another mindset!


You can visit Cookies by heading here.