BY: AVALON CLARE
Erin Cookman is punk, and I’m telling everyone. From the various piercings glinting in her face to her blue hair to her patch covered pants and tattered bandanna, it’s quite obvious. She’s the lead vocalist and guitarist in local street punk band Drunk Diggery, where she can be heard screaming her way through songs with names like Punk Riot. Anyone who has heard the grit and anger in her vocals for Drunk Diggery (think Brody Dalle or Laura Jane Grace) might be surprised to know that this sometimes mohawked queen of spit and combat boots also has a beautiful singing voice only showcased in her solo music.
At just 23, Cookman has experiences under her belt that would likely make her the envy of other young punk musicians. In 2013 she opened as a solo artist for Alkaline Trio, Bayside, and Off! With their Heads at the EXDO Event Center in Denver. This show came just two months after recording Ha Ha Ha at the Blasting Room in Fort Collins. Ha Ha Ha is Cookman’s first solo album, and it gave the world a glimpse into the beauty of her voice as a solo acoustic punk artist.
Things have not slowed down for her since then. In 2014 she was signed to Die Laughing Records, a bay area record label founded in 1988. Once signed she released Ms. Shitskey in February of 2015. While touring California with The Vibrators later that year, she recorded a three song collaboration with Cinder Block, better known as the vocalist of the early 90s East Bay punk band Tilt. As if that’s not enough, she’s also collaborated, recorded, and toured with Austin hardcore band Millions of Dead Cops.
A singer since age 5 and a guitarist since 12, today Cookman stays busy writing, recording, and playing shows. She is set to release Medusa, her sophomore album on Die Laughing Records, in February of 2017. The name was inspired by the idea of a scorned woman who is untouchably powerful, and came to Cookman after she had to take a closer look at some of her own problems.
“I was recently diagnosed with manic depression and clinical depression,” she said, leaning into the picnic table behind Pickle Barrel where we talked. Her upcoming album will focus more on themes surrounding her diagnosis, such as redemption and rebirth. Struggling with self-mutilation for over a decade made it a consistent theme in her songs over the years, whereas her new writing on Medusa focuses on healing. One new song entitled “Ulcer” compares her body to a broken home.
“My music is always from a place of emotion,” she said, hesitant to characterize her acoustic sound with labels like folk punk.
“I can’t really write about politics, [but] people make sense to me,” she added, noting that the emotion in her songs has more in common with Elliott Smith than folk punk bands like This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb and Defiance Ohio.
Due to the stigma surrounding mental illness, Cookman felt strongly about sharing her struggle with depression. But she also has a hard time hiding it.
“You’ll see it on me,” she said, lifting up her arms to show the scars she’s acquired from cutting herself.
More than anything, Cookman hopes her music helps other people get through their own struggles. She’s not ashamed of the person she’s been, and she knows sharing her pain can help other people parse through their own.
It’s in this clearing in the woods where Cookman can look back on who she used to be while simultaneously looking forward to the future. Somewhere in the middle the heartfelt songs of Medusa are being born, and soon we’ll be lucky enough to hear her sing them.
Check out Erin Cookman’s music here: https://erincookman.bandcamp.com/ & catch her live at the Zodiac in Colorado Springs on September 21st with The Vibrators and November 9th with Michael Graves of the Misfits.