Ex Cops Share the Studio with Billy Corgan, It’s No Joke

Jokingly, Brian Harding of New York-based Ex Cops suggested to his record label that Billy Corgan produce his latest album. To his surprise, all he had to do was ask. The Corgan-produced, sophomore album Daggers from Ex Cops (Harding and Amalie Bruun) offers chart-friendly numbers from start to finish, with “Black Soap” being a key standout. We caught up with Brian Harding to get the back story on Ex Cops and how the project went from theory to realization.

Can you just tell me how Ex Cops started?

I moved into a place in Bushwick with this friend of a friend–totally happenstance–this guy named Dan Shapiro lived in the room next door to me. He was a genius with Garageband and all this stuff. I’d just started writing music for this new project that I was going to call Ex Cops. It was like 2011 and we would hang out every night and record. Those turned into some songs and then I did a song with Amalie in Chelsea called “Spring Break.” That was the first song we sang together.

I put all those together on a small EP called White Women and I got those made into CDRs through this dude and brought those to Other Music and was like, “Here’s ten CDs if you want them. Take them, do what you want with them.” And they sold all the CDs that week or that day or something. It turned out that they were starting their own record label- which I had no idea. They were like, “Do you want to be the first band on the label?” I was like, “Yeah.” So, from then on, it just became a thing.

And your latest album, Daggers

We’ve been working on this for what feels like forever but it’s really been like a year. But we’ve been to so many places. We lived upstate during the winter and it was the worst winter ever. We wrote during that. We lived in this crazy, weird house in the middle of nowhere on like a horse ranch and then we got set up with Billy Corgan through our label. It was our idea. We just kind of said it jokingly, like: “Oh, yeah… Billy Corgan.” And they were like, “Okay, let’s get you his email address.” So, we had a courtship with him. I remember he had a really weird email address and then I wrote him and he wrote back in like ten seconds because he has a Blackberry. I was like, “Oh my god, he just wrote me back.” He called us eventually and we talked.


What was working with him like? Is it what you had anticipated it would be?

It was better. We had no idea what to expect—if he was going to be nice or not nice. But he ended up being totally nice and totally cool and hospitable. We went to his house and hung out.

Do you think you have a similar musical vision? Do you have similar taste?

Yeah. He doesn’t believe in indie rock mentality, sort of. The first thing he asked us was, “Do you guys want to be a Pitchfork band or do you want to be a big band?” Like, “Are you cool with wanting to be like Coldplay or U2?” We were like, “Yeah.” So, he was like, “Okay we can work together.”

He’s concerned with singles and pop and Abba and Kiss and Bay City Rollers. So, I would bring in a song and he would be like, “Yeah, that’s good but it’s a B song. Write me an A song.” He pushed us every day. It got exhausting sometimes.

Do you and Amalie have the same musical influences?

No. I’ll torture her with Bob Dylan and Wilco and she’ll play me some… Well, I like some stuff that she likes too. Like, she’ll be into Bjork and maybe some metal. And she loves contemporary hip hop like Rhianna and stuff like that, which I’m learning that I like too. We just played Nicki Minaj for like an hour straight.

What’s your WILD Wish?

To be able to live in Scotland, L.A., and Upstate New York.

Why Scotland?

Because I spent a month there when I was fifteen and it was the most magical, great place. Have you been?


Ah, it’s so great. For some reason it stuck with me and I didn’t even get to experience it as an adult and do adult things… Maybe it’s a nostalgia thing. Maybe if I go back, I wont like it anymore. Maybe I don’t want to go back. Maybe I just want to keep it that way.


Daggers is set for release Oct. 28 via Downtown Records.

All photos by Joe Jagos

text by: Hillary Sproul

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