Sophie Cooper is the subject of this inaugural feature in a new series at Ears for Eyes: Fallout Shelter Disks. Those participating choose six albums/EPs/singles/mixtapes, one book, and one luxury item to take down into an atomic fallout shelter come the end of the world.
Sophie performs solo under her own name and has appeared in a number of other bands including Leopard Leg and Remedial Queen of England. She has released music on Exotic Pylon, Tor Press, and most recently on Wild Silence. Sophie recently organised Tor Festival
which hosted artists from across a diverse spectrum, among them were Delphine Dora, United Bible Studies, These Feathers Have Plumes, and Family Elan.As mushroom clouds sprout into the sky and the ash begins to fall, here’s what’s on the shelves of Sophie’s bunker.
Yo La Tengo – and then nothing turned itself inside out
I heard ‘Our Way to Fall’ from this album on an Uncut CD in 1999 and was totally hooked. At 17 years old I’d never heard music which combined song with the weird so well before. Ever since then this album has been my safe place, the last album to listen to before bedtime, so familiar and awe inspiring. This comes to the bunker because I expect to be pretty stressed out down there, this will be my sedative.
The Beatles – Abbey Rd
I’m a massive Beatles fan and it was a toss between this one and Sgt Peppers for the apocalypse but this one won because it is a totally flawless album that I’ll never bore of. The B Side in particular has soundtracked so many good nights in singing along with my nearest and dearest. There will be beer in the bunker right?
Unable to find a decent YouTube version of Abbey Rd, below is a version done in 8-Bit NES style:
Jack Rose – Red Horse, White Mule
Where better for contemplation than deep down in the earth. This is why I’m taking Red Horse, White Mule down there, such an emotional and honest album. I’d also take this with me to remind myself of times gone by and of my friend Kelly who gave me this album on a tape with a mixture of Van Morrison and country music on the other side many years ago.
Serge Gainsbourg – Historie de Melody Nelson
If you’ve been at my house past midnight you’ll have heard this record. I’m fairly confident that if it was in English I would be totally appalled by the lyrics but as it happens my French isn’t great and it’s not going to get any better down in the bunker so, Serge, you and your pervy tunes are coming along mainly for the rocking basslines.
Elliot Smith – Figure 8
Life isn’t going to be easy down in a hole and there will be bleak times that only Elliot Smith will be able to soundtrack. The best thing about Smith’s music is that he had a wonderful ability to write about the worse aspects of life but in major keys with uplifting melodies which I’ve always interpreted as an end to the woe. This album has the perfect “Everything means nothing to me” track on there and I can imagine needing to play that quite loudly within the metal constraints of the bunker and having a good cathartic cry.
David Bowie – Soundtrack to Labyrinth
There isn’t going to be that much to do underground so why not liven things up a bit with a few parties dancing to the Labyrinth soundtrack? I think that imagining myself as Sarah… through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen… would be a good way to pass the time.
The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and back again)
I’ve decided that having one novel to read over and over would quickly become boring but taking ‘The Philosophy of Andy Warhol’ would be perfect because you can dip in and out of it and think about it as deeply as you chose to depending on how your day was going. His attitude would be perfect for a bunker. Warhol would teach you to see beauty in the situation, not to fear death, and to generally accept your lot. I reckon Warhol would have done well living in a bunker: Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, “So what.”
My Tanglewood Parlour Guitar
I promise you that I will never be the person at the party who pulls out an acoustic guitar and starts jamming in front of everyone but if it’s just going to be me there then why not.
Ears for Eyes: Your luxury item is a guitar, could you remain creative in such isolation?
Sophie Cooper: I consider this luxury item to be more of a boredom breaker than a means for staying creative. I’ve no idea if I could continue to write fully formed songs in isolation like that but I’m fairly sure I’d be happy to sit with my ear pressed to the wood of the guitar and listen to the resonance of the strings inside for hours. I’ve got a hamster called Woodstock and he has loads of stuff in his cage to keep him entertained, it’s a similar principle.
EFE: I’m with you on the Yo La Tengo album – all is well when that comes on. Do you think music can help even in extreme circumstances such as being in an underground bunker?
SC: I can’t think of a time in my life, “extreme” or otherwise, which hasn’t been accompanied by music so I can’t see why being in an underground bunker would change this. I have gone through difficult times and used this album to escape into, maybe Yo La Tengo should start marketing it as a therapy record.
EFE: Your selections are a mixture of escapism (Labyrinth) and tools for coping with the situation (Warhol/Figure 8). Could you find a balance? Would you reach a calm acceptance or retreat into full “I am in a fantasy castle and everything is fine” sort of state?
SC: I hope that I would lose it and imagine myself as Princess Peach or something but I doubt I would. My biggest fear is that if I allow myself I can suffer from claustrophobia so if I could deal with that I’m sure I’d accept it down there. What else can you do really and let’s face it I’d be better off in there with these awesome albums than up on ground level.
EFE: How do your current surroundings affect your music? Is there anything specific about your town/environment that can be heard in your songs?
SC: I can’t be stressed when I’m thinking about making music, especially now I’m writing ‘songs’ which are highly emotional things to produce. I work best when I’m awake and calm which just wasn’t happening for me living in London. Now, when I step outside into Todmorden I feel as though I’m still in my living room which I see as a true indicator of feeling at home and I need that. Can this be heard in my music, well, I’m not even sure there’d be any music to hear if I wasn’t in this situation so yes.
EFE: You organised Tor Festival earlier this year. How did that go?
SC: It couldn’t have gone better really, not one bad act on the line-up. The turnout was fantastic, everyone got paid, it sounded perfect, it looked incredible in Todmorden Unitarian particularly with the psychedelic lightshow, the community were really embracing and supportive and I had a really great time. My personal highlights were Irma Vep, United Bible Studies, Delphine Dora, Bbblood and Alannah Chance’s after party DJing, it was all amazing though.
I have a desire to take this to another city for a repeat visit, possibly to Stoke on Trent, where there are some incredible things happening in the arts right now. People I’ve met recently in Stoke are very resourceful and open minded so I’m interested in organising a similar event in unexpected locations there. We’ll see what happens.
EFE: If you emerged after a number of years to find a band of cultists obsessed with your music awaiting you and your leadership, what society would you build with them? (sort of like Tina Turner in Mad Max 3, if she’d played herself).
SC: I’ve not seen Mad Max 3 but I have seen Bill and Ted so I guess I’d just give rock n roll to everyone.
Sophie’s rock ‘n’ roll is currently manifested in a brilliant release for Wild Silence: Our Aquarius. More of her music is available here and to keep up to date with her activities, get yrself over here.