Cop City Chill Pillars exist on a different wavelength than the rest of us. Although the band — guitarist Chris Jankow Jr., drummer Jordan Pettingill, bassist Jimmy Bradshaw, and occasional guests — grew up in the same Palm Beach County scene that spawned Surfer Blood, Cop City has very little in common with those Florida hipster indie pop darlings.
Instead, they make music that could be called psych-garage-art-punk — if the sound wasn't still so off. The guitars, synth, and horns are so queer at times that it's lucky it's all held together with a sturdy rhythm section. All three dudes sing simultaneously (the blogs that write about Cop City prefer to call it "chanting"), reciting lyrics that can sometimes be directly confrontational, depending on that night's interpretation. When Cop City incants about the detriments of the 21st century over a discordant, repetitive guitar line, they sound like alienated Oompa Loompas.
Frankly, it's some pretty weird shit. But Jankow doesn't like saying it's weird. "It's OK for people to say whatever they want, but it is kind of peculiar how the same things always come up," he says. He thinks Cop City is just a punk band — sometimes they joke that they play metal — and he likes what they're doing. Some people may think they're annoying, but others get really into it and get where they're coming from, he says.
It's not even easy to play this kind of music, especially because Jankow thinks most people can't really get into it. "They kind of don't know what to do," he says. "But we like that part of it too. We get some sort of pleasure out of playing weird music."
And being so undefinable means they can play with the weirdo bands, and they can play with the rock 'n' roll bands, and it's up to the audience to decide what they think. "We're kind of like an odd man out everywhere we go, it seems," Jankow says. "Sometimes it does have that 'we're too hippie for the punks, too punk for the hippies' thing going on."
The Cop City guys have known each other for years; the first band Jankow ever played in was with Pettingill, and Cop City itself has been around about six years, even if they didn't start getting serious until 2009. In the time since, they've put out two full-length records on Orlando-based label Florida's Dying: Held Hostage on Planet Chill (2011) and Hosed (2012), and a follow-up is pretty much ready, despite some tape machine setbacks.
This new record took a lot longer to write than the first two. Previously, Cop City would write a couple of new songs here or there, and once they amassed 10 or so songs they'd go and record. This time around they were more deliberate, taking as long as they needed to develop the songs, which they have yet to play live.
"We keep it loose, but when we first started we were way more 'Ohhhh, whatever, slackers,' but I think we tightened up a lot," Jankow says. "I think Jordan and Jimmy, I rarely see bands with a better drummer or bass player. Maybe not technically, but most bands aren't that interesting to watch, especially the bass player, or if they play around too much, they just sound like they're geeking out in Guitar Center or something."
Cop City's new stuff is heavier. Jankow is using a different guitar setup with two different amps, one that's really distorted and another with a cleaner sound. "It's not more complicated, but [the songs are] cooler, what the bass and guitar is doing," he says. "We like it a lot more. They're kind of busier. And there's a lot more words, and everyone contributed to the words this time ... We do keep in constant themes. We started this donkey theme that we talk about donkeys all the time now. We make up our own little style."
Charleston is the second stop on Cop City's tour. They're traveling up to Chicago and back and they're taking a tent with them so they can camp as much as possible. It's one of the bigger trips the band has ever done, but they're doing it without Pettingill. He's married and expecting his second child, so he'll be replaced by a mix of recorded and electronic drums for these shows. "I don't really know if I necessarily want to do that regularly because it's kind of weird," Jankow says. "The band's really important to all of us, but we're kind of getting to the point where we might just get together every once in a while and work on an album or something."