Artist Interview – Cousin Affect

Cousin Affect are an eclectic Urban Funk band from Phoenix consisting of Tim-O (Bass Guitar), Jessica Thomas (Vocals), Mike Woods (Piano, Vocals), D Stanton (Vocals), Scott Cheaney (Guitar, Vocals), Meech (Percussion) and Dan King (Saxophone). Despite their busy touring schedule they kindly agreed to complete a feature artist interview for Essential Pop. Read on to find out how they create their uplifting funky tracks, what its like living in Phoenix and what they’re hoping to achieve for the rest of 2011.


Cousin Affect


Q: If you could classify your music in a genre or number of genres what would it be?

Our music is an interesting mix between all the personal influences of the individuals that make up our group.  We have focused on trying to find a sound to call our own.  We have flashes of blues, jazz, hip hop, reggae, rock, and pop infused into our base as an urban funk jam band.


Q: If you could use a tagline of less than 20 words to describe your music and who you are what would it be?

Urban Funk jam band with grooves of positive purpose.


Q: What is your musical background?

The musical backgrounds of each member are very different.  I (Mike Woods), personally, began playing drums with a few high school friends at age 14.  We formed and maintained a rock band throughout high school.  This was where I discovered my love for live music and performing.  I started taking it more seriously when I began playing piano at age 19.  I took one low level piano class at the University of Arizona, and I fell in love with the instrument.  With the help of a close friend, I began building a home studio to write and create my own music.  Over the next few years, I became familiar with turntables, guitar, bass, and lots of different unique percussion instruments.  I always learned best by ear and was eager to learn from any and all educated music people I crossed paths with.  From 2003 on, I produced my own beats, wrote lyrics, and created songs.  I went on to release two solo albums in 2005 and 2007.  In March of 2008, I continued this Cousin Affect project by assembling a seven member full live band to perform the music.


Q: How was 2010 for you?

2010 was a big year for us as a band.  In the 3 years we’ve been together, each year has shown us bigger and better things.  We hope to continue this trend into the distant future.  We have really seen our fan base materialize in Phoenix over the past year.  No matter what direction you go in the industry, building up a solid following at home is a step that can’t be skipped.  We headlined a very well known venue in the Rhythm Room in May.  We won first place in a statewide battle of the bands.

Our single, “Where I Go” received a national grand prize in the “Rock the Highway” competition sponsored by Midas and SPIN magazine.  We were featured in the November issue of SPIN.  From hundreds of submissions, we were one of about ten bands selected to showcase at the NACA West Regional Conference in Ontario, CA.  From this opportunity, we built our first tour which is taking place throughout 2011 at college campuses all over the west.  In late November 2010, we released our debut album as a full live band called Fresh Foreword >>. This album features the hit single, “Where I Go.”


Cousin Affect


Q: What inspires you musically?

Music.  Art.  Words.  People.  Good.  Bad.  If you look through an artistic lens, anything can be considered a muse.  We work towards letting the music we write reflect the positivity inside of each one of us in the hopes that it spreads our own inspiration to the fans.


Q: Which modern day artists do you look up to?

I’m sure the answer would vary within the band, but I’ve (Dan King) always looked up to the Dave Matthews Band.  They have been one of my biggest influences writing music and lyrics since I can remember.   Their live show is unparalleled.  Their energy is matched by their precision making their live delivery untouchable.  We have strived to capture moments in our live show and thrive off spontaneity.  We are constantly tweaking songs, extending endings, adding different bridges, and improvising to keep the audience on their toes.


Q: Is there anyone you would like to collaborate or gig with?

There’s lots that come to mind.  Dave Matthews, of course, G Love and Special Sauce, Maroon 5, Jason Mraz, Ozomatli, Fat Freddy’s Drop, etc.  I’m sure there’s more I’m forgetting.


Q: What songs are on your ipod at the moment?

Thousands and thousands.  Recently, I’ve been listening to lots of Fat Freddy’s Drop, Black Keys, and Bon Iver.


Q: What is your creative process for creating a track?

It starts with a beat.  First a heartbeat.  Then a drum beat.  Most of our songs start with an idea I lay down in the studio.  I will drop rough tracks for all the instruments to flesh out an idea.  Usually this inspires some vocal recording as well.  Once I’m a little down the road, I will take it to the band, play it for them, and gauge the reaction I get.  It’s usually easy to tell what ideas they’re really digging.  For every song we end up completing as a full band, there are probably 5 or 6 ideas and beats that went untouched.  Some of those remain that way, and some are revisited.  Our most popular track, “Where I Go,” from the most recent record Fresh Foreword >> was actually written about 4 years prior to its release.  There’s lots of timing involved.  Our process is unique, but it really works for us.  We rarely run into many creative differences at all.


Cousin Affect: Scott Cheaney - Guitar and Vocals


Q: What’s more important, melody or lyrics?

They are both an equal form of expression.  I cannot deem one more important than the other.  Our music is a reflection of our souls while our lyrics are a reflection of our hearts.


Q: Where are you based?

Downtown Phoenix.


Cousin Affect: Jessica Thomas - Vocalist


Q: What’s it like being where you’re from?

Hot.  Only for 3 months.  The rest of the year is wonderful!  I’ve always enjoyed Phoenix.  Sometimes the music scene can be a little frustrating.  It doesn’t seem like the music community is cohesive.  Thus, you see potential being wasted in one of the biggest cities in the country.  However, our fans have meant the world to us here.  We owe them so much of our success.  They have continued to support us and spread our sound.  We have watched the venues get closer to capacity.  We have been asked back to venue after venue.  It’s because our fans come to have a good time.  We feed off their energy.  It is amazing to watch our band’s popularity and notoriety grow in my hometown.


Q: What are you currently working on?

We are working this summer on some career changing things.  I don’t want to give too much away right now, but look for the Cousins to make a huge splash early in 2012.  We are keeping up with regular shows in Phoenix, whilst continuing our tour of the west.  Late in the year, we will be returning to the studio to flesh out some of our newest material.  We are looking forward to releasing our sophomore album.


Q: What’s been the highlight of your career to date?

This is a really difficult question.  There have been so many great times in the past 3 years.  We have won awards, competitions, been featured in national magazines, garnered notable accolades, etc.  However, I would say this past month of being on tour is the highlight of our careers to date.  We have always dreamt of traveling and performing our music for different crowds in different cities.  Our experience so far has been exactly that.  A dream.  We are all looking forward to spending more time together and sharing our sound to anyone willing to listen.


Cousin Affect: Dan King - Saxophone



Q: What are you hoping to achieve in 2011?

The main objective for 2011 is to expand our influence.  We have built up a great reputation and following in Phoenix over the past two years.  Now it’s time to take our sound on the road.  We have done this early in the year and will continue to throughout 2011.



Editor’s Note: Cousin Affect have an incredible and varied live-set which really showcases their talent and diversity. With their current tour taking in many new cities, 2011 could be start of something special as their unique blend of urban funk finds its way to many new listeners. Cousin Affect are definitely one of Essential Pop’s ones to watch!


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