Interview with Bad Cop/Bad Cop vocalist/guitarist Jennie Cotterill | By Scott Murry (from NN Issue 24)
The triumphant three-part female harmonies of Bad Cop/Bad Cop capture the ears of punk fans globally, inspiring fun, tenacious vibes. Releasing their debut album Not Sorry on Fat Wreck Chords in 2015, the album cover art reflects this attitude with a female-wrestling Luchadora posed stoically. Her clenched fists rest powerfully on her hips underneath the band’s shimmering name. Her mystifying costume or blue, brown, and gold tones matches this glow creating a strong presence.
This empowering image is brought to life by the band’s guitarist/vocalist Jennie Cotterill who carries an MFA in illustration from California State University, Long Beach. Interviewing over email during their recent UK tour, she detailed her process for creating the iconic character. “That was the last in a long run of lady-wrestler themed art pieces I’d made last year. I talked the girls into letting me do the cover with one. We got into who or what she should be wrestling—I definitely didn’t want her fighting another lady, and didn’t want to show the band as anti-anything. A few articles on the personal benefits “assuming a powerful pose” were bouncing around, and I liked the idea that this was a strong, self-possessed, capable human.”
The resilient positivity of the Luchadora appears in much of Cotterill’s work—whether song lyrics, a brightly sprinkled donut logo, or personal paintings. Having taught at a college level, she speaks about not over-inflating definitions of being an illustrator. Rather than setting out with a one-track mind on how a career should evolve, Cotterill embraces strengths of any given situation, “It’s important to keep a flexible definition of ‘success.’ Lots of people think the only way to make it is to be a superstar. But most of us are not—and that doesn’t mean we’re failures. A lot of art students have that very narrow aperture for success. It’s a terrible way to go through life. I always hope my students grow out of it and accept whatever they’re doing as successful,” she says.
This can be a challenging mindset for a field as subjective as the arts. Thankfully Cotterill had more thoughtful teachers, attributing her strong frame of mind to inspiring teachers from her undergrad years. “Growing up, I’d never met a working artist so it all seemed kind of impossible. When I was at community college, a few of my teachers clued me in to the Illustration program at Cal State Long Beach. Having their support was tremendously encouraging and gave me some much needed direction and confidence. Illustration seemed like a viable way to make art as a living.”
Working full time as an illustrator wielding many skills and medium, Cotterill has balanced band life and art life in proportion. Her brushes thrash an eclectic variety of found surfaces, most commonly in acrylic paint, to which she says with a modest laugh, “I’m better at mediums that allow a lot of adjustment.” This didn’t stop her from tackling the forthcoming NOFX autobiography cover in gouache, a thickly opaque, chalky medium. While gouache was her nemesis in college, she loves the look of it. Rightfully so, the book has a nostalgic, childhood charm—its thick brush stokes and animated stippling effects for the sky and grass make it look like a Golden Book series cover gone awry.
Cotterill’s work is highly approachable, rich with bright color and graphic punch. Through whimsical pet portraits and detailed mixed media sculptures with humorous phrases, this Renaissance woman’s ability knows no bounds. This spirit reflects her multi-talented inspirations: Claes Oldenburg, Wayne White, and “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” to name a few. Each of these represents a modern optimism. Cotterill says frankly, “I like art that’s fun and engaging rather than elitist and alienating.”
Perhaps this is informed by her relocation from suburban Detroit to the West. “I wouldn’t have pursued art if I didn’t move. Everything I learned and developed art-wise is from Southern California. It’s a more hospitable environment for creative lives: there is more disposable income, and a lot of companies interested in crafting a brand identity make good work for artists.” Psychologists debate nature versus nurture, trying to solve whether an individual’s personality stems from the environment they grow up in, or if it’s the DNA they’re born with. Cotterill feels her personality affects her output in the SoCal punk scene saying, “Some things I learned from art have worked their way into my music and the art I do for the band: [1.] It’s okay to be influenced by someone else, but be sure to let your own voice come through clearly. [2.] Let the ______ do it’s thing and don’t force it to be something it’s not (When you paint, let the size and shape of the brush do the work. If a wall has heavy texture, use it to your advantage. If your drummer hits like fucking Donkey Kong, save the quiet songs for another project and GO WITH IT.) [3.] A purely negative statement is pointless.”
With a powerful voice and positive outlook, Cotterill has managed to work on projects that bring joy to many. It’s an inspiring approach that informs her entire collection of work. Blast Not Sorry across your speakers while looking at that Luchadora on the cover—and see if your happy meter doesn’t spike to at least an 8 out of 10.
UPDATE: Cotterill is also the artist of our rad, volcanic issue #27 featuring a NOFX cover and flexi disc. Subscribe and get yours in the mail!