New York pop-punk dance band Cobra Starship is coming off of its biggest release to date. The group's third album, Hot Mess, released in 2009 by Decaydance/Fueled by Ramen, debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200. It was powered by the smash lead single, "Good Girls Go Bad," which featured "Gossip Girl" actress Leighton Meester and peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 with more than 2 million copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan. But the success came with a price.
"My job became my world," Cobra Starship frontman Gabe Saporta says of the aftermath of Hot Mess. "That caused me to lose my girlfriend, who I had been with since before Cobra started."
On Aug. 29, Cobra Starship (Saporta, along with guitarist Ryland Blackinton, bassist Alex Suarez, drummer Nate Novarro and keytarist Victoria Asher) returns with Night Shades, arriving on Decaydance/Fueled by Ramen. Led by the polished Euro-pop single "You Make Me Feel . . .," featuring Sabi?released May 10 and peaking thus far at No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100?the 11-song set plays to the band's club-tone strengths, swinging from club anthems like "1Nite" to the reggae-tinted "Fool Like Me" and slow jam "Anything for Love."
"There are multiple singles on this album," Fueled by Ramen president John Janick says. "They delivered an album that has the Cobra sound but delivers those radio records."
In the past, "the Cobra sound" has hinged on Saporta's sassy pop-culture-commentary lyrical style, but Night Shades eases off the attitude and allows listeners to be privy to Saporta's romantic turmoil. "This record might be the most commercial record, but also our most honest," Saporta says.
Saporta led late-'90s New Jersey punk band Midtown before launching Cobra Starship in 2005. The act's 2006 Decaydance/Fueled by Ramen debut, While the City Sleeps, We Rule the Streets, became a viral hit of sorts thanks to its catchy lead single, "Snakes on a Plane (Bring It)," which was featured in the 2006 comedy horror film "Snakes on a Plane." The band's sophomore project, ¡Viva La Cobra! (Decaydance/Fueled by Ramen), made noise as well. But it was Hot Mess, which teamed Starship with producer and former "American Idol" judge Kara DioGuardi and found the band working with Bruno Mars and B.o.B (pre-"Nothin' on You"), in addition to Meester, that pushed the group into the mainstream.
For Night Shades, the band has been engaged in a staged rollout, offering fans sneak peeks into the finished project through prerelease tracks starting with "1Nite" on July 26, "Fool Like Me" on Aug. 9 and "Middle Finger" on Aug. 23. The songs are available exclusively through iTunes, where fans will be able to collect them with the option to complete the album on release date for the remainder of the $9.99 album price. Fueled by Ramen also has three separate preorder options: a premium bundle that includes a hoodie, T-shirt and white "night shades" for $75; a shirt/album package for $25; or a CD for $10.
"It's about getting to the kids and doing the grass-roots marketing, then moving on to bigger things like radio," Janick says.
Cobra Starship will spend October supporting Justin Beiber on a swing through South America before returning stateside for more promotion and a tentative tour early next year. It also will perform as part of a pre-Video Music Awards show that'll air on MTV on Aug. 28.
"I always said a band can only have three good records," Saporta says. "Trends and styles change and bands get stuck. [But] we took our time to make sure that doesn't happen to us."••••