Interview: Charlie Cooper, Ace Elementary

A band from over here who sound a lot like they come from over there – Edinburgh’s Ace Elementary have a lot of similarities with American indie-rock bands of the mid-1990s.

Scuzzy, lo-fi, and devilishly loud, the four-piece make a rare appearance at Sneaky Pete’s tonight alongside Thirty Three Connection and Exmagician.

Access All Areas caught up with Ace guitarist-vocalist Charlie Cooper.

  • Who are Ace Elementary, and how did you all come together? 

“Our current line up is Charlie Cooper on vocals and guitar, Grant Scrivener on lead guitar, Mads Mitchell on drums and Cal Harper on Bass. The band formed entirely through Gumtree; I was looking to put a new project together in 2011 after a previous band had come to an end, which was how I met Grant.”

  • You’re named after Charlie Brown’s school. What was the inspiration behind this?

“We didn’t have a name for ages and ended up making a shortlist in the pub one night, and then taking a vote – very democratic. I’m a massive fan of Peanuts, it’s just always had a special place in my heart since I was a kid. I guess you could say Charles Schulz’s all-American whimsy, with an edge of genuine emotion/insight, is a good fit for what we try to do as a band. We actually have a song which combines the music from a song called Skating (on the Charlie Brown Christmas album) with the lyrics from Sailin’ On by Bad Brains.”

  • The band’s sound is reminiscent of early-to-mid-nineties American indie-rock. Can you tell us a bit about the band’s influences?

“Yeah, early-to-mid nineties American indie rock about sums it up. Seriously though, as well as all those kind of bands (Weezer, Dinosaur Jr, Archers of Loaf, Guided By Voices) we do all listen to all kinds of stuff, and hopefully that comes through in our music. Everything from prog and jazz to punk (specifically US hardcore – Black Flag, Minor Threat) exerts a big influence.”

  • You stand out because no-one is really playing this kind of music anymore. Given your own background in music, why get it into this style of music now? 

“The band has developed really organically. I originally started it with quite a different idea of how it would sound, but that never works when you start a band, it’s always the sum of its parts (or hopefully more). This is just where the four of us come together musically.”

  • What are the themes in your music? Any particular inspiration behind the lyrics? 

“I’ve always been an avid reader so there’s a lot of themes and references from books as well as from life experiences. Everything from Peanuts and X-Men through to classic American novelists like Kerouac and Larry McMurtry, to Kierkegaard and Walt Whitman. Hopefully that doesn’t make me sound like a massive w*****.”

  • What’s your views on the current music scene in Edinburgh? What would you like to see happen?

“Quality over quantity. It’s not like Glasgow where there’s thousands of bands playing every night, but if they all sound like Oasis or The View then who cares how many gigs there are if they’re not worth going to? I think there’s really cool stuff happening on the Edinburgh music scene if you know where to look. The doom/alternative metal scene has historically been pretty great here, and there’s quite a lot of other good experimental stuff going on, too, with people like Braw Gigs and NEHH. Not quite sure where we fit in with any of that but hey-ho.”

  • Describe Ace Elementary in three words…

“Vaguely experimental pop.”

  • Ace Elementary, Thirty Three Connection, Exmagician, Sneaky Pete’s, Cowgate, Tonight, 7pm, £7 (£6), 0131-225 1757 

Words: Barry Gordon