It’s a fairly difficult task to introduce yourself as an artist in just four songs, but rising British artist Cody Frost has accomplished just that with her debut EP It’s Not Real. Inspired by a host of personal experiences like mental demons, her upbringing and loneliness, the EP serves as a clear and concise introduction to Cody as an artist with massive talent and a huge willingness and desire to evolve. With nods to grunge, emo and pop in equal measure, Frost makes no secret of her many inspirations, and even takes on the role of lead creative when it comes to the tattoo-style album art and music video direction. As a full-time tattooist herself, Frost shares her work frequently on Instagram, and treated the designing of each single cover like an opportunity to provide a free tattoo design to her listeners.
The EP’s four distinct tracks, all catchy in their own right, all bring their own flavor of Cody’s unique vocal style to the table, while remaining together as a cohesive effort. The grungy and DIY-inspired “verbal warnings” leads seamlessly into the tongue-in-cheek “HIGH/BYE”, which both contrast beautifully with the tripped down ballad “(I should) take better care.” Rounded out with the groove and intensity of release-day single and video “STOMACHACHES,” the EP fulfills its purpose of letting us into the mind of the irreverent and introspective Cody Frost, and the promise of the future holds nothing but innovation.
We sat down with Cody Frost to talk all about her debut EP, how she got to this point, and what’s to come.
Congratulations on It’s Not Real releasing this month! We’ve heard some songs from it already, but if you were to describe how it sounds to someone who hasn’t been introduced to your music before, how would do that?
It’s very alt-pop, but there’s a lot of highs and lows. Basically the theme is me learning how to deal with growing up and being an adult and moving out and dealing with my mental health issues, which is something I’ve struggled with since I was a kid. It’s learning how to be on your own, but also finding comfort in other people.
“HIGH/BYE” is a particularly funny song because the lyrics are very introspective and deep, but the video is very cheeky. Where did the ideas for that video came from?
I struggle taking myself seriously a lot of the time. In real life, I’m just basically a clown. I’m always taking the mick out of myself. I think that the video is basically feeling like a fool because you let people not treat you very nicely when you’re young for some reason. I feel like a lot of the people that I was friends with when I was younger weren’t actually very nice to me. I look back and they all try to talk to me now and it’s like, “oh, you only want to talk to me when I’m doing all right, but you didn’t really care before. And if you did care, you would have stuck around.” It’s basically about the feeling of growing up and realizing that you don’t need all these friendship groups that you cling onto as a kid.
The video is something that me and some of my oldest friends — the friends that did stick with me — actually made. They helped me form the idea of the clown. One of my best friend suggested: “why don’t you be a clown and why don’t all the audience be balloons?” And I was like, “whoa yeah that’s exactly what I want.” I definitely wanted to show my silly side because I feel like I’m different all the time, but mainly I’m just a foolish person.
It’s important not to take yourself too seriously at all. I know you’re quite open about your struggles with mental health, and you’ve mentioned before that your early ADHD diagnosis brought a new clarity to you as an artist and as a person. Can you like elaborate on that journey a little?
So going back to not taking myself seriously, I didn’t know how to write a song and not throw it away until I got my diagnosis. I used to write little bits and then just not carry on with it. But I think getting my diagnosis was so critical to learning who I am. I’m medicated now, so I can concentrate on actually getting what I want rather than flitting about all the time. When you get diagnosed with something like that, you kind of mourn the person that you could have been. And I had to take time off to do that and come to terms with the fact that like, this is my brain, this is how I am; how can I use this to push forward?
So would you say your ADHD plays a strong role in your songwriting, or are you at the point where you try to just deal with it and just have it there, but not hindering you?
It definitely plays a big role in every part of my life. I think a lot of people have this misconception that ADHD is just like a fun, quirky trait where you forget things and you talk fast, but it’s a whole different neurotype and we think completely differently in the way that we structure our conversations and the way that we remember things. Things like that are all elements of it. That couldn’t not affect my songwriting, and I definitely write on my experiences of being forgetful, losing things, getting bored, things like that; they’re all symptomatic of my ADHD.
I want to talk about your working relationship with Dan Weller. It’s kind of crazy how over half a decade ago, you started by covering songs on YouTube, many of which were produced by him, and now you’re working with him. Tell me how you feel about that full circle moment.
It’s absolutely a dream. My manager heard me talking about my favorite band, which is Enter Shikari. I don’t shut up about them because I’m so inspired by them, and they’re really good guys. She heard that I had this love for them and she was like, “I know, I know the guy who produces them and helps them out.” So she immediately put me into contact with Dan and we got on like a house on fire. He’s like a big brother to me. He definitely has brought out something in me that I don’t know if I could have done before without him. So it’s really magic working with him because he’s like a wizard.
You’ve heard from Enter Shikari themselves too! Have you met them in person?
Yeah, we chat from time to time. I’ve traveled to go see them, I’ve seen them in different countries and I’m just a massive fan girl. I say this all the time, but before I’m a musician, I’m a fan of music, and meeting them was like everything you could want because they’re really good people to look up to. They’re always helpful and nice and good with their fans, and they’re good role models for upcoming artists because of the way that they treat other people and the things that they do socially and politically. It’s always really inspired me and I just have a big love for them.
Speaking of role models, do you feel any pressure as a young queer artist to be a role model for the LGBTQ+ community? Do you feel that your identity as a queer person plays into your music at all?
I think it’s tough because I don’t see myself — I guess nobody does, I feel like a lot of people my age can relate — but I just don’t feel complete enough for people to want to follow anything that I do. Which is so strange because I do get people messaging me from years ago when I was making YouTube videos. It’s a difficult one, because again, I don’t feel like I’m finished. But I guess that’s in itself kind of a good example [for artists] because it’s showing people that it’s okay to just be floating about in space. I feel like that’s very much my motto: learning to be comfortable with the chaos that is this world. I think I write a lot about just sitting in hellish or chaotic places because you can’t control everything.
I think that’s something any queer person can relate to. Do you intentionally put any queer theming into your music or does it come into play when you write?
On the EP not necessarily because I didn’t really write about love in general because I was in such a dark place. But I feel like I’m coming out of it now a little bit, which is nice because never in my life have I written a love song or written about my partner. But in all the stuff that I have been writing since, I’ve actually got to talk about my girlfriend and it’s all very lovey. I was really lucky to just be able to be whoever I wanted to be.
I was a really independent kid, so nobody ever stopped me and I didn’t really care. But I understand that that’s also a privilege. I just don’t care what people think about my sexuality or just being queer in general. So I didn’t necessarily write about it on the first EP, but I have been writing since about it, which is refreshing.
I understand you used to busk in and around Manchester. Has that sort of directly prepared you for anything that you’ve been doing now?
Busking in Manchester was hard. I started out with a little nylon guitar that was too small for me, and I just used to scream because I had no microphone. And it was a fun experience and I met a lot of people, but it definitely toughens you up. I had somebody walk past me and say “that’s not very nice. Is it?!” So you kind of learn a lot when you busk and it’s not for the faint of heart. You’ve gotta be a bit brave to do it. And I guess it did prepare me a little bit to just not care what other people think.
You have this wonderful ballad, “(I should) take better care” that you’ve put out two versions of, the live and the studio version, both of which are very stripped down compared to the rest of the EP. Did you make it a point you wanted some sort of stripped down element on the EP?
The song itself actually started out as an upbeat song; I had started writing it on GarbageBand and it was quite fast. But at the time that I actually went to go and record it, me and Dan both agreed that it was time to make something that was a little bit more sad, and a little bit more like how I had actually been feeling. He wrote this beautiful part on piano and it just went from there. I think it’s a good song to have on there as well because a lot of people know me from singing sad songs and stripping songs back and making them sadder, and this was a way into that side of me. But I wanted to make sure that I put the upbeat stuff out first, because I don’t want people to misconstrue what I intend to do in the future, which is upbeat stuff.
But it’s also good to show people a bit of vulnerability, through my own words, because I’ve only ever been singing sad songs through covers and other people’s words. I wanted to show people what I actually thought.
Let’s talk about your tattoos and your work as a tattooist. Did you design the tattoos you’ve got on?
Yeah! I think I designed all of the ones on my arms. There’s not many [I have] that were designed by other people. Where I live there aren’t many artists that do the style that I like, so I can’t really go wrong with drawing my own. And if I do, then it’s my own fault. I’ve tattooed myself a few times. [For example], I’ve got the verbal warnings [release] date. I tattoo full-time during the week, and then on my days when I’m off, I write and make music and meet fun people.
Where did your love of tattooing come from? How did you break into it?
So I’ve been singing and drawing since I came out of the womb, as far as I know, and I distinctly remember watching tattoo programs and falling in love with it when I was about 12 to 13, [by which time] I’d already become part of the alternative scene. I started listening to My Chemical Romance at the age of 10, and I was like “I just want to be an emo! I just want to be covered in tattoos!” I then made it my mission to teach myself how to draw in a tattoo style. I went to loads of shops as soon as I was old enough to tattoo, and then I finally found one where I got my apprenticeship, and I’ve run with it ever since. But it was hard. It’s hard to get into tattooing if you’re going to do it via the shop route just because often people aren’t looking to take an apprentice on.
Do you have any personal philosophies when it comes to songwriting or even just as a tattoo artist or artist in general?
If I get a thought I should write it down, otherwise I’m going to forget it. I keep little poems on my phone — I say they’re poems, they’re not, they’re just little lines – and when I go to write I put them all together like a jigsaw puzzle. I think I need to remember to do that when times are good, as well as when times are bad so that I can write about things other than being sad. I just think remembering times that are good as well as bad would help me develop my style and talk about other things.
Do you have any live gigs or other projects on the horizon we can look out for?
There’s definitely going to be some little bits and bats. There’s nothing set in stone yet, but there might be more things to come after this first EP. I’m very excited! I can’t say much because nothing’s been confirmed, but as soon as I know, I won’t be able to hold it in!
Well we can’t wait to hear it. Thank you so much for speaking with us!
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. It’s been great!