Sam Cooper has made it big. Twice. As lead singer of radio-friendly pop-punk bands Pug Jelly and Saw Loser, Sam was signed to Universal Music in both Singapore and Japan, and — as part of Pug Jelly — even had the chance to open for post-punk rock legends Blondie. But he soon found out that being part of a major record label wasn’t exactly all it was cracked up to be.
“I think one of the things about being signed is that there are a lot of artists that take priority over you, which ends up meaning you’re doing a lot of waiting around,” he laments. “So, when I got to talking to the guys from Pug Jelly about getting back together, we decided we wanted to keep it very DIY, and stay away from record labels. We really want to get back into just doing small shows, getting sweaty, having a few beers and keeping it fun.”
The end result of this reunion is The Dirt Radicals, who’re releasing their debut album, … I’ve Got A Rad Feelin’ About This!, in August. The album will be a departure for Sam and the rest of the band — brother Matt on drums and fellow PJ/SL alumni Mas Kimura on guitar and vocals — as far as traditional distribution goes.
“Money has always been the biggest issue with keeping our bands going,” he explains. “We’re pretty much working with us three guys, and our best friend managing us. No crew this time round. No booking agents or publicists.
“We’ve released a song called Osaka Sundown (Acoustic) through iTunes and Amazon purely to see if Internet sales really are the way forward, and we’ve been doing the whole YouTube / Facebook / Twitter / MySpace thing. Personally, I still feel nothing beats meeting people face to face at a live show, shaking hands and selling a good ol’ fashioned CD, but we’re trying to roll with the times, yo!” he adds with a laugh.
While Sam might be experimenting with distribution, the band’s sound is all too familiar. “I don’t think there is a huge difference between [Pug Jelly and The Dirt Radicals],” he says, citing the So-Cal 90s punk scene as a definite influence on their sound. “People who have been watching us track the TDR record have been saying that if PJ had done a second album, this would have been it. I think The Dirt Radicals are a little more punk rock, and a little less pop. And the songwriting is probably a step up too.”
While Sam’s clearly thought long and hard about where he’s going, musically, he’s a little more liberal with his tattoos. “Tattoos are there to remind you of a part of your life; a time you were going through, whether good or bad,” he says with an honest shrug. “I don’t think about them too much. They’re just kind of there.”
His first foray into the world of inking was when he was just 15 and armed with a fake ID. “I got my first tattoo, as a dare, across my crotch,” he says, smiles and adds, “I won’t discuss what it says. Maybe ask an ex-girlfriend or something.”
Aside from that, he’s also got flaming stars on each side of his chest and a full sleeve on his left arm. “The sleeve is made up of last minute, on-the-spot decisions like piggy banks, birds, bees, stars, diamonds, a TV, a computer with a mouse and keyboard, and a guitar amp, as well as a few thought out ones like a panther on my forearm, and a snare drum with my brother’s name on it under my arm.”
He plans on finishing up parts of his sleeve, but definitely no ‘job stoppers’. “Since people don’t buy albums anymore (*cough* The Dirt Radicals’ new album will be out August 3rd 2010 *cough*), we’re all working day jobs to pay the rent, and keep beer in our bellies!” he says. His own day job in an ad agency allows him to work another part of his creative muscle, creating “fun little clips”.
But the nine-to-five life takes a back seat once The Dirt Radicals’ album is released in (he makes sure to point out yet again) August 2010 — and, record label or not, Sam and the band plan to bust their asses just like before. “We’ll be touring South East Asia and Japan to support that puppy,” he says, adding that the best way to keep up to date with the band is through their Twitter, Facebook and MySpace pages. “If you want to follow me personally, you can go to @luckyvalentine,” he adds.
(Photos are © Eow)