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‘Look out for the fish’: Sheffield students Cora Pearl on their band name, best gigs, and new tune Graffiti

Their tune Graffiti is out on 6 July

It's safe to say that Sheffield guitar based four piece Cora Pearl have made a splash on the local scene.

Like their mates Heavy Lids, the band met at Sheffield Uni. They have already packed out several gigs and supported We Are Scientists.

Will McMahon (lead guitar), Jack Hardwick (vocals, guitar and trumpet) and Luke Hawtin (bass) spoke to us about how they met, the meaning behind Cora Pearl, and their plans for the coming months.

How did Cora Pearl come together?

Jack: It was quite a weird one. Back in first year I got a solo loop pedal set that I play, and my flatmate at the time was doing Dig Deep. They were putting an event on at Doctor’s Orders so he asked me to play. Will played just before me, playing guitar for a girl, and we just got chatting at that event. We started jamming together, we got (drummer) John in, then John moved to drums and Luke joined through mutual friends.

Luke: I only joined in February but we found out I was also at that Dig Deep gig a year and a half before, so we were all actually at that thing.

Jack: Except John, which is apt because he’s not here now.

Luke: I’m glad I joined after you’d done all the hard work of making a name for yourselves.

Will: Like Nick O’Malley.

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How did you get the name Cora Pearl?

Jack: Interesting story actually. It came out on my great-grandma’s deathbed. My great grandma’s like “this is a deep dark family secret, we are related to Cora Pearl.” So we did a bit of research, and she was a courtesan in Paris who was really rich and famous.

Luke: Bit of a rockstar, yeah.

Jack: She was born in Plymouth which is where that side of my family’s from, and became one of the wealthiest, well known people going.

Will: She had sex with one of the Napoleons.

Jack: She just made a living out of people who wanted her favour. She was the first person who ever dyed her hair pink. In our opinion, she was a very good example of an early feminist.

Will: Yeah, that female agency.

Jack: It’s so lovely to know I’m related to this person. We took on the name in a way to draw awareness of this really incredible woman.

Will: Also because band names are really hard to come by.

Luke: If you look at Cora Pearl, it’s an example of a sex positive feminist. Our respect for her comes from being able to use her sexuality to succeed in an otherwise oppressive and exploitative system. We’re aligning with burlesque and the whole ethos of that.

Tell us more about your links with burlesque.

Luke: Will’s girlfriend used to be president of the university burlesque society.

Will: Her and the other girls disliked not being able to make money out of the performance. A collective called Folie de Lunes disbanded, so her and a few friends decided to start their own collective called Spectre. We’ve chosen to work with them partly because we’re friends, but they also have similar worldviews.

Jack: If you have a look at their Instagram, it’s pretty shocking in a really sex positive way. It’s just so so important that people are open to those ideas, and that’s what we try to get across.

What do you think of the Sheffield music scene in general?

Will: My opinion is that anyone with a bit of talent in Sheffield can succeed because Sheffield looks after Sheffield. It’s different from other cities in that everyone’s eager to help each other and that’s very Sheffield. It’s made doing anything creative really positive and successful for us.

Jack: Yeah. What you said.

Luke: I’d agree with Will. It comes from the fact it’s not big enough to be a big music scene, it’s not small enough to not have a scene. The reason everyone’s so supportive is there aren’t loads of bands that sound exactly the same, so there’s not a huge amount of competitiveness.

Jack: You’ve got the promotions companies, but their primary focus is the bands, and the progression of the bands and trying to create a scene in Sheffield that is so bloody lovely. And everyone just fucking loves music. Everyone supports everything.

Will: It’s not hard for you to go and see a band.

What have been your biggest and best shows so far?

Will: My favourite gig we’ve ever played is Peddler Market.

Luke: It’s got to be Peddler and O2 (with We Are Scientists) for sure.

Will: That was mind blowing, things ran behind, so we didn’t have time for a soundcheck. Biggest show of our lives and we were shitting it.

Luke: It worked out quite nicely for us. We went on at almost eight, so actually had a much larger crowd than we would have done.

Jack: That was really good fun. It’s always nice to play the bigger stages because you’ve just got more space to run around.

Luke: That was the first time you really came into your own.

Jack: I was all over the place, climbing over barriers and shit. I always take a tambourine out and dance with the audience, just engage them more, and that’s really important for a support band to do.

Who have been the biggest influences on your band?

Will: We gel on the fact we have different music tastes.

Jack: Me personally, I love Yannis from Foals, his guitar work is incredible, his use of effects. In terms of performance, the best in the world is David Byrne from Talking Heads. Luke’s into jazz, hip-hop, John is as well.

Will: It’s a shame John’s not here because the last interview we did he went on a tangent about Nigerian disco. He likes everything with a groove.

Luke: It’s collaboration and compromise. When you’re bouncing off other people it’s better, and other people having different ideas.

Jack: We take influence from so many different things, all of us individually and together.

Who are your favourite bands?

Luke: Foals.

Will: Car Seat Headrest.

Jack: We draw inspiration on particular parts of an artist. Arctic Monkeys I love and take inspiration from the way he writes lyrics. So it’s different aspects of people’s work, and finding ways to fuse those together.

Luke: One of my favourite bands in that regard is Crystal Fighters. It’s just a party, it’s very upbeat and they do it all live.

Jack: Jungle as well.

Will: One of the most rewarding things when playing live is to see someone dance. People singing along is pretty rewarding, but making someone else want to move – not like mosh, it wouldn’t make sense for our music.

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What are your plans for the next few months?

Jack: So we’re releasing second single Graffiti, which we’re really excited about. It’s sounding really good.

Will: We’re getting it mastered at Museum and they’re responsible for Tourist History by Two Door Cinema Club. We’re releasing it on Friday 6th July which we’re so excited for. It was the first song we wrote together.

Jack: I’m really proud of it, goes down really well.

Will: We always end our set with it.

Luke: It’s very catchy, I think that’s what it is.

Jack: Then after that we’ve got a release planned, then a lot of live shows and a little mini tour at the end of August and September. I think the onus now is just pushing out of town and spreading out. We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved, but there’s so much more to come.

Look out for the fish.

Graffiti by Cora Pearl is out on 6 July.