Interview with The Designs: “One New Voice”
by Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen
The electronic-metal duet The Designs consists of Billy T. Cooper (JTR SIKert) and ‘Sno’ Drake (Snovonne) who began by their collaboration to work on the single titled “Choose Your Life.” Once they dove in, their joined creativity was undeniable and they were a perfect musical match. What began as just one song, turned into a full-blown album and duo project! The Designs are in the final mixing stages of their debut album, which is tentatively titled ‘Porno Riot,’ and produced by Eddy Cavazza (Paramore, Machine Head, Genesis, King Crimson). Once the album is released they plan to play some European dates, followed by a U.S. Tour later in the year.
Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen: Hi Billy and Sno, it’s great to be interviewing you both. Let’s start off by talking about how the two of you connected. How long have you known each other and how did you decide to put together The Designs?
Billy T. Cooper: Hi Alison! We’ve known each other for about eight years.. Our bands (my JTR Sickert and Sno’s Snovonne) used to tour together pretty often. We always wanted to work together. I called Sno about a year and a half ago to do guest vocals on one of my new songs and to direct some music videos for the stuff I was working on. She filmed, then did more vocals on other songs, then helped out with more lyrics and became an undeniable part of the whole process.
Snovonne ‘Sno’ Drake: Basically our creativity blended really well. We wanted to hear and see the same things but had different approaches to achieving it, which made it fun and exciting. Then with Eddy Cavazza’s producer’s approach to it and it just grew and grew. I originally thought I was just helping out… But we kept adding my vocals in places, and suddenly it sounded like a duo project. So we figured we’ll finish it that way. It felt natural to make it a new project, a new chapter in our careers.
Alison: You never know what’s going to happen until you jump in! Let’s talk about what everyone is really excited about… The release of your debut album! Where are you at in the process?
Sno: It’s that anxious time of mixing 🙂 We’ve had many twists and turns along the recording… And spent soooo much time with the raw material that we really can’t wait to hear it finished. We’re more excited than anybody else!
Alison: What is the projected release date? Is there a title?
Billy: Actually, I don’t think we have a projected release date. Once it’s finished we’ll be consulting our management at Music Gallery International, and see what plans we put into motion. The title we’ve been working under is ‘Porno Riot,’ there’s also a song of that name. It’s about obsessions, contradictions of self, freedom turning into prison through exaggeration, and so on.
Alison: How did you connect with producer Eddy Cavazza and what has it been like working with him?
Billy: Well, I was working on some new material a couple of years ago and realized its importance to me and how different it felt from things I’ve done in the past. So I wanted to work with someone new, someone inspiring to complete the vision. My friend Max recommended this great producer, Eddy. A couple of days later we met up for dinner. I remember that I just played him my demos from my phone. He said ‘I like it, let’s work with it,’ and we ended up talking about music for hours. Actually, I had no idea about all the names under his belt until a lot later.. He doesn’t waste time showing off. I just thought I was gonna make an album with a talented pro and a good guy who sees music the way I do.
Sno: I love working with Eddy, he knows what he’s doing and is great at it. It was also extra cool for me because I was a part of something that I didn’t write on my own as I usually do. I enjoyed it very much. Everyone plowing away, leaving their blood, sweat and tears on various parts of the process. I thought we need capes.. The CDC power trio, haha! (Cooper-Drake-Cavazza) With Eddy we have a very good understanding and we trust him, which is very refreshing. And let’s not forget he’s a sweet and patient person too!
Alison: So glad to hear. From what I’ve read, it’s a pretty dark album lyrically, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Can you elaborate on some of the concepts used and where they came from?
Billy: Sure! Yes, you’re right, it is a dark album lyrically. I wrote these songs going through a pretty dark phase. As mentioned – obsessions, addictions, flashes of confusion and clarity, self-hate, self-love, and self-criticism. I just needed to really purge mentally, more than before. I was also inspired by art made by mental patients, since I council them as a criminal lawyer. They use art to reflect on the crime they committed, just like I use music to reflect on my bad thoughts. Sno’s been through her share of similar stuff at the same time, so that’s also what brought us together and made this album what it is. I think we’re both trying to say goodbye to certain things in our life with these songs and hopefully welcome new ones. The light at the end of the tunnel… For example “Choose Your Life” is kind of our personal anthem. Self explanatory, I guess. More for us than anything else. It sums up a lot and reminds us of how far we’ve pushed this over the past year.
Alison: I’ve watched the teaser videos that have been released and am looking forward to hearing the album. How would you describe your music? Is there anything you would compare it to?
Billy: I started it as a purely electronic album.. Dark and groovy. Then with Eddy we decided to add parts for a live band, and given the concepts, those parts were pretty aggressive and dark too. So it gained some metal balls and now it’s an electronic-metal album. It’s a nice mixture. Also the vocal approach is cool. We have mine and Sno’s voice together simultaneously as much as possible, so the two voices create one new, different voice.
Sno: It’s an album that’s very in-your-face. Big loud choruses, great verses… But at the same time, a lot of little intricate details happening constantly. I love the electronic arrangements. I wish we could also release a purely club version of the album. Having said that, playing these songs live with a full metal band will be an absolute blast!
Alison: I bet! It’s great to have that diversity and different options as well. How does it compare to what you’ve both done individually in the past?
Sno: It’s a combination of both of our characters, and our other projects. It’s melancholic and creepy like Snovonne, but the electronics are a lot more prominent. It’s also faster overall, I think, and it has the decadent aggression of JTR Sickert. And there will be some similarities visually to my solo project too, since I’m taking care of all the graphic and video work for The Designs as well.
Alison: What can fans expect from a live show? Will you have a full band and/or any extra guests for your touring band?
Billy: We will have a full live band for tour. If we can, we’ll also have extra guests, we’ll see. We are currently rehearsing and should be able to announce the line-up shortly. Both of our previous projects were pretty emotionally aggressive shows, so we’re hoping that the effect multiplies when we’re together like this. We’ll enjoy every second of it.
Alison: So will the fans!
Sno: Yes, there’s so much we want to do, the problem is pulling it off technically, but we’ll get there. We want to prepare something a bit theatrical and cinematic. And a visceral show, for sure.
Alison: What are your plans once the album is released? Do you have any full-length videos in the works?
Sno: We’ve been filming a lot. Two full-lengths are basically finished and the third is in the works. Trying to get ahead of the curve, since soon we will have even less time than now. There’s a lot of other things we need to take care of, and then of course… touring.
Alison: Great! What final words would you like to say to our Readers?
Billy: Thank you for your time! And we’re very thankful for all this initial support and interest.
Sno: Like we keep saying, it’s a new project and to have all this buzz before the album is even done is amazing. Thank you!
Alison: Thank you Billy and Sno! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the album and catch a live show when you play L.A!
Billy: Thank you, we’re looking forward too!
Sno: Thanks Alison, we will hopefully see you soon!