Biography

COG are a progressive rock trio from Bondi, Sydney, Australia.

They are one of Australia’s most successful independent bands, touring regularly and commanding crowds of several thousand, having developed one of the strongest and most dedicated fan bases in the country. They’ve been nominated twice for the prestigious J Award, and in addition to their own tours, COG have performed at almost all of Australia’s top festivals, including main stage spots on the 2009 national Big Day Out tour. To date, COG have released two critically-acclaimed EPs, Just Visiting I & II (2002), a Maxi single Open Up (2003), their seminal debut The New Normal (2005), and it’s gold selling follow-up album Sharing Space (2008). Due to popular demand, the band also released a re-mastered combined pressing of the Just Visiting EPs as one album (2008), and in early 2009 they released a limited edition of Sharing Space with a bonus disc of their headlining performance in front of 15,000 people at Triple J’s 2008 “One Night Stand”.

Formation……

It all started with a phone call. In 1998 Lucius aka Loosh was living in America and already secured a new name for his new project titled COG. Loosh recalls “I found the word Cog In the dictionary and like the way is stood out. The meaning was very appealing to me. Also it means “you need many parts to make something work” . Loosh planned to write, work and pursue other musical endeavours in the States after his heavy groove project “The Hanging Tree”, imploded back in 1996. It was a band he’d shared with guitarist and old school friend Flynn Gower and it had been six months or so since the pair had spoken.

Returning to his L.A. abode after a hard day’s work he heard the phone ring. It was Flynn. His old bandmate had holed himself up back in Bondi and he’d been working on new material. They discussed the past and the future and agreed to look at the possibility of working on a new project together. Numerous long distance conversations followed and the two began to exchange riffs and ideas by mail on a boom boxes. The idea for a new venture had begun to germinate. “The plan was for Flynn to move to America and start a band with me” recalls Loosh. Five months later he’d sold his amp, saved enough cash for the plane ticket and was pretty much ready to leave when the doorbell rang. It was Loosh. Broke, disillusioned with the States and freshly fired from his job as we’ll as visa issue’s. Nonetheless, with the drummer returned from exile the project called COG had begun to take its first proper steps with Loosh plucking the simple single-syllable name from the dictionary. This time, they knew exactly what they wanted from their new band.

Pooling resources, the two set about jamming and recorded a 10-track demo with the working title of Pseudo. Sans-vocals, the idea was that they use it to land gigs, and importantly, recruit a bass player and vocalist. The search for worthy musicians proved frustrating however, so one day Flynn suggested to Loosh that his younger brother Luke try out for the band on bass (the younger Gower’s band Tax having recently broken-up). Loosh wasn’t initially keen; “I didn’t think Luke was ready – he’d only just started playing bass.”

Regardless, Luke had seen it as a challenge. He hero-worshipped his brother, and saw this as his opportunity to finally play in a band with his brother and Lucius. “Loosh was the muso in Bondi – the guy everyone wanted to play with. I knew that once they finally got a bass player, I wouldn’t have another chance – this was my one shot. So I practiced like as hard as I could.

With that driving him, Luke holed himself up for several weeks learning the songs, saved up and bought a pro bass rig, walked into the rehearsal room and promptly blew both his brother and the dubious drummer away. “He aced it,” recalls Loosh, smiling. “Right from word go, he nailed it note for note, and after that we were a band… all we needed was a singer.”

Little did COG know it would be another 18 months of false starts, a litany of bad auditions, woeful singers and even the odd promising contender one being actor/musician Justin Cotter who joined the band for 4 months witting and playing on stage. But following his path Justin decided to moved to L.A and joined new band on the rise VAST. It’s also a little known fact that both Ilan Kidron of dance act The Potbelleez, and Matt McHugh from the roots rock outfit The Beautiful Girls’ all tried out for COG at various stages before the band despaired of finding a worthy frontman. Flynn, sick of waiting, started to teach himself to sing and took on the vocal helm while simultaneously handling guitar duties, surprising everyone in the band.

Just Visiting Parts 1 & 2………

Just Visiting Part IFrom their, over the process of another year, COG began to gig. They toured. They rehearsed. They wrote. They played wherever and whenever they could. Their first show (without a vocalist) resulted in a residency at the Forest Inn Hotel at Bexley in Sydney’s south west. Spending month after month playing in some of the seediest bars and clubs in Sydney, the band’s live performances eventually pricked the ears of Australia’s leading booking agent, Owen Orford. He was instrumental in the band taking up their now-legendary four month residency at Sydney’s Excelsior Hotel, otherwise known as the blueprint sessions. It was to be the springboard from which a whole swag of people began to listen and take note of this unusual prog-rock band from Bondi Beach.

Just Visiting Part II“I still remember working in the kitchen at Jed’s (a popular Bondi café),” reminisces Loosh, “and Paris,Texas came on the radio. That was a massive turning point for me. Here’s this little band from Bondi, who recorded their EP for next to nothing on an 8-track cassette tape recorder getting radio-play. I guess, from their things started to pick up for the band.” A cult following began to rise up in the band’s wake. The further development of the Pseudo material saw the consecutive release of two low-budget but sonically impressive EP’s – Just Visiting 1 and its sister Just Visiting 2 –released respectively in Feb/Sept 2002 through Orford’s Little Samurai Records. The band chose not to release the studio session as a full album so they’d get twice the publicity and wouldn’t lose their debut LP virginity. In July the song Bondi was added to Andrew Haug’s – 3 Hours of Power compilation for radio station Triple J and the boys were rewarded with a nomination for “best emerging live band” at the Australian Live Music Awards. Both EP’s were consistently appearing in the ARIA Top 20 Heavy Rock/Metal Singles/EP’s chart over two years after their release.

Open Up………

Open UpThen, in March 2003, came Open Up. Less a cover and more a definitive re-interpretation of the John Lydon/PIL/Leftfield track, the song was a step up production-wise from the EPs and gained high rotation radio-play on national youth network Triple J. After supporting Armenian-American metal stars System Of A Down at the Hordern Pavillion in Sydney, all of COG’s three releases were in the Top 20 of the ARIA charts, something once unheard of for an independent ‘heavy’ band. COG had somehow morphed into an act that everyone talked about, that blew audiences away night after night, that other musicians aspired to, and a band who live performances were discussed with something akin to awe. A band, that after six years as unknown underdogs had seen their committed regimen of touring put them in a position to record their debut album. They were rewarded for their efforts with a Sydney spot on the national Big Day Out tour and the award for best emerging live band at the Australian Live Music Awards.

Loosh, whilst conceding that they served their purpose more than admirably, was unhappy with the quality of the Just Visiting EPs. He demanded that a big, lush, superior production would be required for COG’s debut album. And for that, they needed a name. A respected, big-name producer, who would lend COG’s first record the kind of credence it deserved. By now, the band had been courted by various record companies, major and independent, but nothing was offered that reflected the potential of the band, considering what COG had already achieved under their own steam. As Flynn and Loosh both tell it, they were unconvinced that any label recognised the musical vision that drove the band plus the labels had no faith of vision for what COG was producing.

And so, COG consolidated. They had begun to write and record demos of the new material, but with no offers materializing, in trademark fashion, COG took things into their own hands. Assisted by local producer Sean Boucher whom they’d recorded Open Up with, the band assembled a remarkably good version of their debut album in demo format as a means to entice the kind of heavyweight producer they wanted. Eventually Loosh aiming high contacted acclaimed Californian producer Sylvia Massy (REM, System of a Down, Tool) who took the bait, expressing keen interest. COG’s agent and manager, Owen Orford, thought the Massy idea too expensive and risky, and pressured the band to release the Boucher-produced demo instead. Unprepared to compromise their musical vision for the album, the band refused and parted ways with Orford amicably. Fortunately, they were picked up immediately by one of Orford’s protoges Mark Lackey, who signed COG to his fledgling business, The Atlas Agency.

Even with a new booking agent onboard, as Flynn outlines, the band were still without an interested manager or label. “When the Sylvia Massy scenario presented itself there were many times it felt like it wasn’t going to happen. And then it was, and then it wasn’t. It must have gone on for months and it was so frustrating. Something would present itself as an option, and then disappear. And then we’d start talking with someone else, and then their offer, or lack thereof, would disappear.” Then, in a whirlwind of motion, the band signed with Aloha Management (Shihad, Faker, Sparkadia) and found an Australian label, Difrnt Music, to release and market their album. With former Universal Music head Paul Kriger running the label and having nothing but total belief in the band, everything came together at the right place, right time. All of a sudden COG found themselves on a plane to San Francisco, finally able to work with Massy in Weed, California, and record what would become The New Normal.

The New Normal…

The New NormalWith their startling 2005 debut The New Normal and its clutch of ready-made anthems, COG had crafted an album that single-handedly projected them to the top of their genre and set the benchmark for all alternative heavy rock acts in Australia to come. Original and epic, The New Normal remains nothing short of a seminal Australian rock record. The intelligence of the music, the uncompromising musicality, the epic grandeur of the songs.

Whether it be the unconventional rhythms, the syncopated flair, the passionate conviction in Loosh’s drumming, or the way the kit becomes at times the lead instrument of the band – a pummeling, thundering, concussive percussion – COG’s debut came out swinging, sounding like no other band. Flynn Gower’s guitar-work, a tasteful mixture of tight riffage and massive, open chordal sections, tempered by sparse lines and the textured approach of delays and swirling effects, gave the music it’s colour. All the while, Luke’s bass brought everything together, serving as the driving pulse of the band, pumping like some vital artery beneath the music. And of course, the range, depth and melodic prowess of the elder Gower’s voice had taken giant leaps since the Just Visiting EPs. COG were now not just a band with mere hooks. Rather, they had mantras. Muscular melodies that looped and repeated in one’s head.

What COG captured in those 2 months in Weed with Massy was something truly magic, and not just because of any technical proficiency, or the progressive sound, but because each track took the listener on its own sonic journey. Debuting at #19 in the ARIA charts, The New Normal was an album that would crystallize perfectly the volume of air that gets shifted by the trio, the hypnotic sway of their music, and the sheer dynamic power of the band. It’s still hard to believe there’s only three of them making that wall of lush noise.

Thematically, the name The New Normal came to the band early and had its genesis in the aftermath of September 11. “A social commentator in the States was describing what people once considered ‘normal’ in terms of lifestyle. Things had changed quite drastically in a short period of time. They were calling the kind of social and political environment in which we now lived, ‘the new normal’,” Flynn explains. Dually, COG wanted to clearly state this was to be an album of ambitious scope, and set a new benchmark in their genre. “We were influenced by the title of that legendary Refused album, The Shape Of Punk To Come. We wanted a title that made a strong musical statement; basically saying ‘this music might sound a little strange to you now, but in a year or two it will be considered normal.’”

Lyrically, The New Normal has somewhat of a concept, whereby the band sought to articulate universal themes that people in Australia and around the world were experiencing in the new world of globalization and insidious governmental control. “There’s recurring ideas of anger, alienation, isolation, dissension, disillusionment and disempowerment in The New Normal,” states Flynn. “A feeling of being removed from the decision-making process and not just locally, but nationally and internationally. We wrote it from the perspective of a lot of people out there who felt like they wanted to take the power back..”

Even the The New Normal’s subversive artwork was a do-it-yourself guide to civil unrest and protest. “We deliberately chose artwork with symbols or icons that are associated with a modern protest. Things like the laptop and the mobile phone, mixed in with things like the Molotov cocktail and the brick. I like the starkness of the message. It’s very clear and easy to decipher.”

It was also an album that reaffirmed COG’s status as a band’s band, a musician’s band, and Flynn is content to accept the charge. “The reason musicians like what we do is because COG is probably a lot more challenging than what you hear on the radio most of the time.”

Nor did their Australian audience want to turn back – The New Normal’s powerhouse singles Real Life, My Enemy, Resonate and Run propelled the band to national recognition, while epic live favourites such as Anarchy OK, Silence Is Violence and The Spine, with their subversive themes of misanthropy and fermenting social unease, cemented the band in the hearts of the hardcore fans. They were also rewarded again for their efforts being nominated for the prestigious 2005 J Award for album of the year.

COG spent the next three years playing all the major Australian festivals including Homebake, Pyramid Rock, the Falls Festival and their first national Big Day Out spot. A sold out tour of New Zealand with good friends Shihad saw the band playing outside of Australia for the fist time. But with an album as critically acclaimed as The New Normal, the band looked to their second record. And this time, expectations were even bigger…

Sharing Space…

Sharing Space“It was a conscious decision”, says Flynn, “not to follow up the first album with a “New Normal Part 2”. “It had been three years since we first wrote that album, and not only had things changed in our own lives but the world had changed too. We wanted to explore new musical territory, we needed to make something very different from our previous albums.”

After the incredible success of The New Normal, COG would once again choose to record their follow-up with acclaimed producer Sylvia Massy in Weed, California. After all, it seemed a perfect way to cement what was already a strong relationship, a known quantity, and a proven environment for pulling out their best. How wrong they’d be. What was meant to take four months ended up taking around eight.

“We arrived in Weed and pretty much picked up where we left off. It felt really good. Sylvia had started her own label, The National Recorder, and we’d engineered a U.S. release of our previous album, The New Normal, through this label. The only sticking point was that we had to fund the release from Australia. It looked great on paper but after witnessing the reality of our situation it became abundantly clear that it wasn’t a good idea. Our appearance at SXSW in Austin was a total schamozzle. With great disappointment and regret we decided to pull the pin on the release. From there our relationship with Sylvia deteriorated to the point where we were relegated to an inferior studio and ended up virtually producing the album ourselves. The whole thing got very intense towards the end. It became a full-blown marathon, some kind of endurance exercise. It took a lot out of everyone, but in the end we got there…”

Indeed, they did. There are two ways to look at the second COG album: One, that the band spent eight long, hard, expensive months overseas away from friends, family and fans alike; or, although the band crawled through a world of shit, they emerged clutching a diamond in their hands. That diamond was 2008’s Sharing Space.

As drummer Loosh rightly points out – “You can’t really put a timeframe on creating art,” he says. “Sometimes you have to struggle through in order to come up with the goods musically. Otherwise it’s not going to have any validity or longevity.”

Truer words could not be spoken. If The New Normal was COG’s opening salvo, an album that put their name on the map, then Sharing Space was their masterpiece. “For my money, it’s an album that is a lot more accessible to people’s ears,” comments Luke. “But instrumentally, there’s a whole lot more going on; keyboards, synths, pianos, violins, and a whole lot more backing vocals and harmonies tucked in there as well.”

Sharing Space was released on the 12th April, 2008 exactly three years to the day after The New Normal, debuting at No.2 on the mainstream Aria charts. Bookended as it is by two ten minute epics, No Other Way and Problem Reaction Solution, COG once again threw down the gauntlet to the listener. Both tracks were as ambitious as they were nonlinear, defining the uncompromising, progressive musicality of the band. “From the first song, I wanted people to think ‘O.K, I can either roll up a big joint or go make a cup of’ tea,” quips Loosh. “‘Either way, I’m about to experience something special’.”

Lyrically, all three members see Sharing Space as a step up from the last album. “Even though I think a lot of people may have jumped to a certain conclusion about what COG was about, The New Normal’s lyrics were a lot more impressionistic or abstract,” says Flynn. “This time we really tried to nail things. We tried to be as articulate and clear as we could in an effort to get to the heart of the songs.”

He’s wasn’t wrong. Throughout Sharing Space, COG brought the revolution as much they did the riffs. With its signature guitar line and immediate hook, Are You Interested? rams home the bitter truth that personal privacy is now an extinct ideal. That fear is the tool employed by both government and corporate business to control and exploit populations. That paranoia is justified. That what was once the realm of conspiracy theory is now reality.

“We’re just saying it the way we see it and after much research into 9/11 and many occult and political subjects we new this type of information just needed to get out ,” states Loosh. “Sometimes you have to be literal and get to the guts of it, rather than be all airy-fairy and obtuse.”

It’s a compelling theme – Flynn Gower’s melismatic vocal acrobatics signal the urgent stomp of The Movie’s Over, a track where disillusionment collides with revelation; the utopian optimism of first single What If suggests the infinite possibilities in a solution; while Swamp, with its looping anarchic mantra and leviathan groove, builds and builds in intensity, before swelling into soaring melody and golden release.

It’s not all politics, though – the anguished Bird Of Feather was the COG vocalist’s heart-rending paean to his partner from afar. Eight months is a long, long time to be separated from the ones you love. Too long. Even more so, when there’s a three-year-old involved who just wants her Dad to come back home. You can almost hear the catch in Flynn’s throat as he sings. But for all his raw pain at their separation, when the chorus comes, it comes like a rock thrown through a stained-glass window, spilling light glorious. Such is the power of COG’s music.

While the singer was grateful to be home at last with a brand new album under his belt, the same old feeling of being torn between career or family, music or children, art or love, still cuts him to the quick. “That’s the heart of the song there – that conundrum that faces us all,” he says soberly. “Everyone is having to work harder and longer, and in most cases both parents, just to get by. It’s a consequence of the global predicament that everyone sees less of each other.”

Sharing Space, with its slow-burn atmospherics, multilayered harmonies and dense tapestry of instrumentation signified a new sonic standard for the band. Which made sense doubly then, says Loosh, that the song became the album’s eventual title. “Living and hanging around some of the awesome people we befriended in Weed, instead of saying ‘see you later’ or ‘good to see you’, the phrase they would use instead was ‘it’s been great sharing space with you.’ To me, those simple words made the experience seem a lot more important, and I took it back to the band and said ‘let’s call one of the song’s Sharing Space. The boys liked it so much they said how bout we call the album Sharing Space?”

Luke Gower’s sinuous, arterial bass line heralds the bittersweet kiss-off of Say Your Last Goodbye – Another track based on relationship casualty’s the band suffered while in Weed. Meanwhile, the gentle acoustic brushstrokes of How Long reveal a completely different side and dynamic to the band. The song’s soulful chorus-line ended up epitomising the very question COG continually asked of themselves whilst in their long self-imposed exile.

The seditious parable of The Town Of Lincoln leads into what was arguably the album’s definitive track: Bitter Pills. A grand song of subtle beauty, Bitter Pills boasts some of Flynn’s most powerful lyrics yet – existential and poetic, they unfold through a lush cavalcade of overlapping synth-lines and warm acoustic guitars, the song’s sentiment resonating long after listening has ceased.

Closing the album, Four Walls explored a precarious balance of the claustrophobic and the agoraphobic, before the record comes full circle with the powerhouse epic of Problem Reaction Solution (a phrase coined by conspiracy researcher David Icke).

Sometimes, triumph requires adversity. The best art born of the worst suffering. If so, then Sharing Space was testament to COG’s conviction and the passion of their artistic vision, and once again, the band had risen above the odds and come up trumps. As an album, it was everything their fans had come to expect and love from COG – the mighty progressions, the muscular mantras, the virtuosity of the drums, and the undeniable intelligence and originality of their song-writing.

“We’ve tried to create a freedom in COG’s sound where we’re not limited by what instruments or style we use,” summarises Loosh. “I feel that it’s a real genuine heart-on-our-sleeves musical statement. We’ve really tried to explore as many possibilities in what music has to offer.”

2008 saw the band embark on perhaps its most ambitious touring to date playing some of the biggest and most prestigious venues in the country, as well as a London showcase at the famous Shepherds Bush Empire. For the second time they received a nomination for the J Award for Album of the Year and once again they were rewarded with main stage spots on the 2009 national Big Day Out festival. August 2008 saw the much anticipated release of Sharing Space in Europe and the U.K. with the help of Thomas Waber at the German label Superball Music. More recently the band parted ways with Aloha management and have been looking after their own affairs since then.

The Future…

Today, COG are as inimitable as they are influential, one of Australia’s biggest, most exciting bands and one of the world’s finest. Never catering to formula or template, eschewing the safe or conventional in their songwriting, the powerhouse Bondi trio have at heart always been a truly progressive band, one driven by sheer will, a tenacious belief in themselves, and an uncompromising musicality. So what if COG’s perpetual battles and quixotic struggles are ongoing – even now, it’s what informs their music, inspires them, becomes the very thing that spurs them forward. There isn’t another act in the country or arguably the world that comes close to what they do. As Luke states with a cheeky grin “Cog is Cog, and you’ll know it when you hear it”.

In the present moment Cog remain on hiatus taking a well deserved break…Stand by!