Bad Cop/Bad Cop Battle Their Demons to Become the First Ladies of Fat Wreck Chords
Photo by Mario at JC Penny
Bad Cop/Bad Cop aren’t trying to fit into any mold. They don’t give a fuck if you don’t like “girl bands” either. Its no surprise that their heavy hitting punk mixed with smart songwriting and complex three-part harmonies has catapulted them from humble beginnings in a San Pedro rehearsal space to signing with Fat Wreck Chords, touring Europe promoting their 2015 full length Not Sorry. But beneath their recent accomplishments lies years of hard work as well as battles for their health, independence and recovery. For each one of them, their success represents a shot at reinvention and redemption.
The band started in 2011 from the ashes of the Orange County based all-lady Cocksparrer tribute band Cuntsparrer and San Francisco based punk band Angry Amputees. Jennie Cotterill, Stacey Dee, and Myra Gallarza, along with friend and original bassist ‘little’ Jen Carlson met up with plans of becoming “ a gutter punk band with funny songs about poop,“ Dee says. But as Dee and Cotterill shared solo material while effortlessly harmonizing, it was clear that the band would take a different direction. Carlson was the one who suggested their name. “It’s a play on good cop/bad cop with a little more reality,” Cotterill says. Later that year Carlson left, and Philadelphia transplant Linh Le joined the lineup after moving to Huntington Beach. Her energy and vocals supported and solidified the current Bad Cop/Bad Cop sound.
Each member of the band comes from a different place and perspective, something that informs the powerful music they create together. Before becoming a bassist, Le was a hardcore and metal fan, and a budding gymnast, but before her athletic career could take off she suffered a back injury that ended her days at the gym prematurely. As part of her recovery, Le spent months laying in bed healing. “When you work so hard and for such a long time on one thing, then it’s taken away in the blink of an eye, it’s hard not to question what your worth is,” Le says.
During months of soul searching, she picked up bass as a way to cope and in hindsight considers it one of the most fortunate events to have happened to her. “The bass introduced itself to me, [now] I’m able to exert energy and passion through playing bass like I did when I was a gymnast. I knew I was born to be a performer, turns out it’s for the stage instead of the balance beam.”
In 2012 the newly solidified quartet wrote a set of melodic high-energy songs, recorded a self-titled EP, and hit the LA and OC punk and DIY scenes hard, quickly becoming a local favorite. Their songs are a combination of Dee’s East Bay influenced punk and Cotterill’s intentionally crafted, anthemic pop infused hooks. The Michigan transplant first became a musician at twelve after finding a plastic toy guitar in the crawlspace under her house. She joined her first real band “as a step out of a pretty terrible controlling, emotionally abusive relationship,” and has used music as a way to process ever since.
Her songs are frequently personal. “Saying this and knowing that I have angry songs is a little weird,” says Cotterill, a Huntington Beach resident. “I have appreciated the opportunity to be loud and outspoken and honest with music. I write songs to figure things out and to spin situations that hurt or are out of control into something I enjoy; that’s why I have a lot of negative songs. Some people meditate; I have to write songs to deal with things. I would do it if nobody were listening, and have.”
In late 2013, Bad Cop/Bad Cop’s honest and eclectic pop punk got the attention of "Fat Mike" Burkett from NOFX, who quickly signed them to his label Fat Wreck Chords and released their 7” EP Boss Lady. In 2015 the crew worked on their first studio full length Not Sorry, under the direction of Burkett with the help of long time friend and producer Davey Warsop. The material ranged from punk, to pop, to rock, to reggae, a combination of existing songs as well as a few written specifically for the album.
“Each song on the record has it’s own life and presence,” Dee says. Le concurs, “We’re a punk band and proud to be so, but we’re also not afraid to incorporate other genres into the mix. There’s no doubt that our harmonies are one of our signature sounds, but everyone gets to interpret the songs in our own way.”
Although Bad Cop/Bad Cop is a pop-punk band, their music is wrought with complexity and while it is fun, it’s anything but adolescent. “I’ve always been a fan of really catchy music with lyrics that are much darker,” Dee says.
Since signing to Fat, the quartet have toured relentlessly across the US, UK, and Europe supporting Not Sorry, with upcoming dates in places like France, Germany, and the Groezrock Festival in Belgium. “Being on Fat is like having the key to the city,” says Cotterill, who grew up a fan of many of her label mates. For Gallarza such trips are humbling. “The fact that we have the opportunity to travel and play our music is amazing, and our fans make us feel like we’re at home.” In addition to European dates, Bad Cop/Bad Cop will appear as themselves in a yet to be named television pilot on NBC this Fall, have an upcoming split, and US spring and summer tour dates on the horizon.
Even in the midst of their seemingly unstoppable momentum, the realities of living with depression and anxiety caught up with Dee and years of self-medicating her anxiety with drugs started to spin out of control in 2015. “I thought it would be romantic to start doing more drugs as the band became more and more popular,” Dee remembers, “I was taking pills and doing coke and drinking on top of it all [which] brought me to my knees in a very public and horrible way.”
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Dee was sent to detox by the label, and getting clean became a process filled with both clarity and uncertainty. Fortunately for Dee, her band members were by her side. “I couldn’t be on my own for a few weeks, someone had to literally be with me all day everyday,” Dee remembers. “My first call was to Myra [Gallarza]. I was crying and asked her if she could please come over and help me clean my house. Of course she did.”
After Dee’s release, Gallarza remained in close contact with her and was the catalyst for the band to get back into a room together. “She convinced us all that we had something to do, and we had to do it together.” With many months of sobriety under her belt, Dee is now able to see how she’s grown and recognizes that her band members were instrumental in that growth. “I told my ego to ‘FUCK OFF.’ I found beauty in everything. My eyes saw differently, my ears heard differently, food tasted different. I am finally happy and confident and stronger than I have ever been and that translates to how I perform and sing now. I am better guitar player, fuck I am a way better person. I am not interested in competing with anyone anymore.”
In anticipation of their European dates kicking off next week, this weekend's back to back shows at La Escalera Fest in San Diego and opening for NOFX at The Belasco Theater in LA will be a celebration for Bad Cop/Bad Cop, especially for Dee who finally seems grounded after treading the road to hell and back. Bad Cop/Bad Cop’s music reflects the badass, talented, creative, and driven survivors who create it, and the members of Bad Cop/Bad Cop have hope for the next generation of youth listening.
“I’m not sure pop punk is in it for the long haul, especially if it stays male-dominated,” Cotterill says, “[but] young people give me hope for the future. They’re blurring gender lines and thinking inclusively, [Increasingly] free of machismo and interested in human rights.”
Ultimately for Dee, getting her life back means appreciating every moment she gets to affect people both on and off stage. “Turning your back on what you’re supposed to do in life can create a very sick and miserable person. I don’t want to live a mediocre life. I want everyone to live up to their full potential and have the most amazing ride here while our hearts are still beating.”
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