SoulBounce: Where did the name All Cows Eat Grass come from?
T. Brown: All Cows Eat Grass is a pneumonic device used to teach kids how to read bass clef, and it refers to the spaces on the bass clef which are the notes A-C-E-G and most teachers are telling their students that the way you can remember is to think “all cows eat grass.” So, I latched on to it as a kid for some reason. And, as the years went by, I thought about, hey, that has a lot of metaphorical meaning. And we were just really tied into how we are all are alike as humans, as people. All the commonalities that we have to live, love and to be loved and to show compassion and to be cool and have fun. I mean most humans really all want the same thing. It’s so strange that we forget that at times and so that’s what All Cows Eats Grass is truly about and that’s where the name really comes from.
SB: So, it’s deeper than just cows?
TB: Definitely, definitely. Or it can be as shallow as you want it to be. We’ve got that side of us too, you know.
SB: I know who All Cows Eat Grass is, and you clearly know who you guys are, but there are a lot of people out there who are unaware of who is behind the group. Are you all ready to peek from behind the curtain and let the folks know who is behind All Cows Eat Grass?
Jeff Cohran: It’s a twofold answer. On one end, All Cows Eat Grass is T. Brown, Reneeka Rae and I’m Jeff Cohran, that’s who you would call the band. But, as you will see over the next coming months, it’s a little bit broader than just us. These songs kind of came out of conversations, we were inspired by a lot of different artists like Cory Davis and so what we tried to do was to make it an inclusive project to where we started to bring in those acts that we really like and those people that we really want to collaborate with and try to flesh out and expose conversations that we were having in private.
The other answer to it is that All Cows Eat Grass is really everybody. We really try to make it a conversation, a global conversation.
TB: Yeah and we mention that on one of our songs entitled “Be Kool” where we say, “I am ACEG, you are ACEG, we are ACEG.” That’s really what it’s all about, letting everybody know, hey this is an all-inclusive movement, a collective rather that we are extremely excited to bring to the world.
JC: We really try not to be biased. My background is in journalism and one of the things that journalists are taught is about maintaining no bias. As we have these conversations, with Reneeka, Terrence and I being friends, we all have different opinions and kind of balance each other out. So for us, it’s really important to try and maintain that even kind of keel and really invite not just one person to a show, but all types of people. We are really comfortable around a broad coalition of people.
TB: Yeah, yeah. Very true.
SB: Now the origins of the group. I know that there are people who have been in the Jaspects, you all work with Janelle Monáe, are part of the Wondaland Arts Society. So, explain to the people the family tree if you will, or the connections that are there.
TB: I have been the music director for Janelle for the last five years, and I have had the pleasure of knowing her and working with her for well over that, maybe about 10 years or so. She has been a true inspiration to us, and she is definitely a strong, strong part of our origins. She was a part of the movement that I began in college, which was the Jaspects movement. I guess you could say we were more of a Jazz/Hip Hop kind of band out of Morehouse College. So, the evolution of where we’ve come from and where we are now and where we are headed, All Cows Eat Grass has all of that inside of it. You can hear a little bit of Jaspects, you can hear a little bit of Janelle and Wondaland, you can hear a little bit of our origins from Memphis and Tennessee. Yeah, a little bit of everything we’ve picked up along the way. You’ll hear that.
JC: Yeah, going back a little bit, Terrence and I have known each other since we were about 11 years old.
JC: When we first started out, we were kids. He stayed in North Memphis and I stayed in South Memphis and we went to middle school together.
TB: Which totally makes us rivals, by the way. I just want to make sure you understand (laughter).
JC: Yeah, we’re definitely from totally different parts of town, rival parts of town.
TB: We are totally not supposed to be friends, but we are.
JC: Yeah, we were from different parts of town, but we went to the same school and we were in the choir together around age 12. By the time we turned 13, we were in the jazz band together. Terrence was playing the keys and saxophone, and I was playing the trumpet. In the jazz band, I played trumpet from probably 13-18. When we weren’t playing the in the school band, we would play at church. Terrence is a PK, and I’m a PK. Memphis is a highly religious setting. So, that was our first band. Terrence and I would travel to different churches probably from the age of 13-18, and we would essentially tour churches and play for these different youth choirs.
Then Terrence went to Morehouse, and I went to the University of Tennessee. So, Terrence started Jaspects, and I helped him as a college student with some of the promoting and some of the tours. Reneeka comes in to the story a little bit later. She was helping us with the Jaspects stuff and had some amazing, out of the box ideas. She was also helpful in filling in the blanks, musically. She is definitely a child of the iPod Shuffle era. She had a really broad vocabulary when it came to music. She was listening to things that were just so inspiring. She became a muse.
After we put out the The Polkadotted Stripe, the last Jaspects record, we were kind of chilling and working on the Janelle thing and producing the show. That was my job at the time and still is, producing the tour.
Reneeka has really been impactful in helping us flesh things out — you can look some of it on The Polkadotted Stripe. You can hear us continuing to grow and turn the corner and get into a real electro kind of vibe. Reneeka really helped us synthesize a lot of it and articulate it, introducing us to all kinds of bands, exposing us to blogs, books and stuff. That’s how everything kind of fits in from a creative standpoint.
SB: That explains the history. Musically, what role does each member play in All Cows Eat Grass?
Reneeka Rae: Well, Terrence, of course, is our MD as well as the amazing keyboardist, spaceship commander. (laughter) We have Jeff on percussion and toys and fun, and then I’m doing synth keys and we’re all providing vocals. I’d like to say that we are the characters on stage, definitely.
JC: And from a production standpoint, Terrence is our lead producer; all of these ideas really originate in his head. Reneeka and I try to vibe as A&R. Typically a project will go like, just kind of be shooting the shit and hanging around, kind of just doing our thing and talking music. We’ll say, “oh, I like this song and I like this song,” and then we’ll just talk music – psychology, philosophy and technical stuff. Lo and behold, a month later or two weeks later, Terrence has made this song based off of what we talked about. Whether it’s thematically or sonically, Terrence comes back with a song that’s 90% done and we kind of go, this should go here and this should go there and we just kind of work together. We have the easy job as far as articulating what’s in our heads and Terrence really does a great job of brining it home. Of late, we have gotten into all of us producing more. That’s been pretty amazing and you can hear the difference on The Kool Collection.
Terrence is a professional and we’re the amateurs at this, so it’s cool to have someone who is so very very patient to sensei you through the process.
TB: That’s kind. Thank you, Jeff.