The place to find and share independent music. From hip-hop to pop, dubstep to drum n bass; Beatnik is your filter.
words Ali Raymond / photography Jerome Haye
Welcome one, welcome all to the sounds of CocknBullKid. Ultra-colourful meets autobiographical dark, this is very much homegrown pop music with an addictive twist.
Sure some close to the trends might have already tuned in to the Hackney residents’ brilliance many Shoredith parties ago, but with her recent hiatus away from the scene many can be forgiven for not knowing of the beauty yet to drop in 2011.
Anita Bay, as she is also know to her fellow East London dwellers, at 25 years of age is awaiting the release of her debut album, but right now she’s waiting patiently as I fondle in search of my illusive dictaphone.
I stall with a little chit-chat.
I remember last time I saw you a few years back things looked slightly different.
“Yeah you’re right when you saw me I had my head shaved… I do like changing things up,” she laughs. “It was fun while it lasted.”
“Found it,” I proclaim.
But things looked a lot more different than a change in barnet a few years ago. Back when I was introduced to a round-headed Anita at an open mic jam in London’s East End called I Love Live she was relatively unknown. On the bill was future fellow Island signings Laura Izabor and indie-reggae pop artist Natty but it was Anita or CocknBull Kid as she announced herself rocking a leather studded biker jacket and killer high heals that stole the crowds devotion.
“When I went to school I had to wear uniform so you couldn’t really be as expressive as you wanted to be.” Anita deciphers her style. “I think the more confidence I have in my musical ability just resonates in my general look. The only thing I really have is CocknBullKid. So everything I do and believe in is projected around this one thing in life I know I’m good at. That’s my little weapon: CocknBullKid.”
Lock and now definitely loaded, the singer songwriter has come along way since she dropped her appropriately named ‘On My Own’ independently in 2008. It was a debut single that earned her a tsunami of critical acclaim and a spot on the legendary Later With Jools Holland the October of that year.
On the cusp of a few more low profile release she signed to the cool Moshi Moshi through Island Records in 2009. Then it all went quiet, well that is until the end of 2010 and the arrival of 2011.
“My dad is super proud” Anita remembers her parents reaction to early success.
“He also drives a bus and whenever I’m in the metro he tends to show all the passengers even if people aren’t interested – which isn’t at all embarrassing, haha!”
“My mum is your super typical West African mother – she’d rather I do something more academic – which is fine ha! She is happy for me though.”
Born to Ghanaian parents Anita was born in Clapton, moved to Walthamstow, then did most of her adolescent growing up in Hackney Central. At the tender age of ten she decided pop stardom was her calling and after a string of talent shows and dance competitions she joined an East London youth music project called Tribal Tree, the very same place that kick started Plan B’s career. There 7 days a week she would learn to perfect her songwriting.
“I’ve always been involved in writing in some form or another. When I was 16, I joined a studio called Tribal Tree – A community project that was started in Camden. It was a place us kids would go and learn how to use Logic and write with other people. A lot of people started there and it was a great place to start. Then I started on myspace finding and working with different producers and I guess it just escalated from there.”
She wraps up her skyrocket ascendance in almost one swift breath – really though as If it were that easy. But then again she isn’t the type to boast.
Ask Anita about her influences and she voices Swedish electronic outfit The Knife, the entire 1983-1998 Madonna catalogue and folk legend Morrissey as the principle go-tos. With each influence sharing points of darkness and brightness similar to her own music.
I’m thrown back at how charming and suitably very funny Anita is. She has a way of looking at herself, a self-deprivation, that mirrors a very British humour. Finding the comedy in despair is a theme that powers through all her music too. In fact she was quoted as saying ‘I wish pop music was a bit dark sometimes. Understandably it can be quite zany sometimes.’
“Yeah I still think so.” Anita admits, “That was one of the reasons I wanted to make music in the first place. I didn’t feel very good at all. So I think making music is a very good way to sort of vent, create something out of darkness. It’s almost a necessity.”
“So it’s just like ‘I feel a bit shit maybe I’ll write about it’.. then again I also have a huge respect for the craft of songs and I have learnt loads since I started.”
It’s the two years or so away refining and further respecting her writing craft that has resulted in the possibility of Adulthood by all accounts being the most interesting and credible pop record of the year.
An honest celebration of Anita’s life; teenage depression and the colourful confusion of her Catholic-turned-Pentecostal upbringing to her Ghanaian uncles and their hi-life band in Accra and of course a few heart breaks along the way.
“A lot of it is autobiographical, some embellishment. The album is called Adulthood. As it documents all my emotions from prior to now.”
“I’m not at all lucky in Love either. I’m very unlucky in fact. That’s why I write songs. Come on!” Anita giggles.
“If I was lucky what would I have to write about? I think it’s almost a catch 22. In order to be creative I don’t think you can be a very happy go lucky person. It doesn’t work for me. I don’t think your make your most honest and interesting pieces of work when that happens.”
“In the past I have sometimes sabotaged myself. It depends what you’re passionate about, because I know if I’m happy in another part of my life the music tends to suffer a bit.”
And it’s her insistence that her songs should turn negative emotions into high-saturation pop songs that has me like so many others in intensely interested.
“Now I really want to make ambitious sounding pop songs. Definitely that is the aim. I think that is what the album is. In terms of production sonically I think it’s confident sounding, but it’s still being very honest with the dark sides.”
She smiles and raises her eyebrows.
“I think you have to mix the dark with the light to for people to understand it sometimes and make it more powerful.”
Recorded in London, Paris and Stockholm with production from Liam Howe (man behind Marina and the Diamonds and member of ’90s band Sneaker Pimps), the project has an array of writing collaborations that include Joseph ‘Metronomy’ Mount who produced Blay’s early Moshi Moshi-released songs, and long-time collaborator Mark Tieku.
In short, Adulthood is a vintage synth coming of age disc in the millennium and Anita’s favourites on the release include..
“Oh god! I don’t know. I’ve been very proud of songs but it would be depressing to think I have written one of my best songs ever already. But you know I really like songs ‘Happy Birthday’, ‘I deserve it, and ‘Dumb’.” Before I know it my time is up with Anita. As I catch a fidgeting manager in the background knowing full well she has to run of to pick a dazzling number for the evenings show she leaves me with one final thought about her pop music.
“I want people to get that emotion when you’re laughing so much you’re about to cry and you’re crying so hard you want to laugh. It’s that really heavy middle ground. A feeling you can’t really quantify. That’s what I would love.”
A sense of really high and really low, Cocknbull Kid wants you to experience her life, her emotions through her music so prepared to be hooked.