Catching up with Brandon Cocard regarding his first major snowboard film participation in “Respect Your Elders”, discussing his role as a camp counselor, musician, and avid vintage puzzle solver.
On an late October indian summer day, Brandon Cocard enters my office in lackadaisical fashion. Sporting olive green cutoff cords, dingy white Beta Unit tee, mismatched laced Etnies, and a dirty blonde fro that looks like it hasn’t been washed in a few days, he proceeds to take a seat in the empty desk behind me. He empties his cell phone from his pocket and picks up the Rubik’s Cube on top of the desk and starts to fidget with it as we we begin to exchange pleasantries of the past month adventures. I may have painted a grammatical “slacker” image of Brandon, but this unassuming 22 year old snowboarder from Truckee, CA embodies some of the best natural talent that has graced North Lake Tahoe in a long time. His versatile creative riding style has caught the attention of everyone around him including his peers, aspiring groms, his sponsors Capita, Airblaster, Union, and PorersTahoe.com as a viable and like-able representative of snowboarding in it’s purest form. After a fun long summer of coaching at Windell’s Snowboard Camp, we reflect on last seasons accomplishments, past experiences and his involvement in the “Respect Your Elders” snowboard film.
So you were born in the Bay Area but then your folks moved here when you were young. Was it tough growing up in a small mountain town?
It was real easy actually. We moved here when I was 8 or 9. When your one of a few hundred in your class, you learn real fast who your friends are. You can’t be a loner for that long before someone comes up to you and says “hey, you’re the new kid” and for me that was this kid who snowboarded which was lucky for me. He was watching the old TB flicks and I would go over to his house & watch them with him. Then my dad got into the Mack Dawg videos and was renting the videos from Totally Board and we started watching them together. We all started getting into snowboarding together my buddy, dad & I so we started going out into the backcountry together & it just went from there.
I remember seeing you at the age of 14 at the local USASA contests…..
Yeah it was a few years before I started competing. During that time I was just learning how to ride & I was actually riding powder with my dad and buddy. I spent a lot of time just learning how to ride before I was throwing myself off jumps. Nowadays, kids just seem to be going straight to the park. ( its only been a few minutes and the Rubiks cube is about 1/3 complete with 2 sides of colors matched. In High School Brandon was part of the Rubik’s Cube Klub)
Alright, lets cut to the chase and talk about to the Movie “Respect your Elders” which you have a feature role in, tell me a bit about your experience in your participation of the film:
At first I actually didn’t know I was going to be in the film. I had a meeting with Jesse Grandkoski from Airblaster over lunch at Tacos Jalisco and he told me I was going to be in the film. I was pretty excited just from the expectations and the fact that I knew I was going to be working with one of my snowboard heroes, Travis Parker. I really didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t put too much weight on it as I knew we were going to be on the road. Just kinda rolled with it and I just tried to have a real good time, which we all did. I had some great dudes to travel with Ben Lynch, Travis Parker & our filmer Kyle Schwartz.
How was that, the life on the road & filming?
Our first stop was Silverton Co, and it was a good warm up trip. I don’t like the drive from Tahoe to Colorado because it’s pretty flat and boring. But this time we took the Southern Route through Vegas to get to Silverton. Were travelling with Travis & I got to learn real quick how Travis rolls which is SLOW!
Stop to smell the roses does he?
Smells EVERY rose! There would be all these scenic area signs that weren’t all that interesting & stuff that you would just blow past. Every 15 miles or so Travis would want to stop for half hour periods he’d be walking around looking at stuff & playing around with his dog. Kyle and I would try to pass the time by skateboarding and what not. It got to the point where we told Travis “no more stopping please, lets just get there.” In retrospect I learned that it was a good way to travel, less stressful. When Kyle and I were with Travis we were forced to just slow it down and take it all in as opposed to the go go go that I’m used to, which was quite nice.
Most memorable story of the “smelling of the roses” technique of travelling, what was it?
There were so many but the most memorable was the story of the “smelling of the roses” was the story of “The Bloody Burger” (scratching his chin in disgusted fashion). We were driving to Silverton through this very beat up trashy town I can’t even remember the name & don’t really want to. We stopped at this gas station and Travis just has to talk to everyone that he comes in contact with. It’s a cool thing to see him in action and that’s the reason why he’s so approachable & marketable. Anyway, in exchanging pleasantries with a gas station attendant, he asks where there is a good place to get some grub. He suggests to us a joint right up the road. I’m sketched out a bit as this is a blink of an eye town that I just would not care for and the establishment we pulled up to reinforced that sketchiness. When we walked though the door, the first thing I see in the back of this so called “restaurant” is this very obese woman wrestling her stomach back into her shirt. I was grossed out immediately. For some reason another thing I notice is that she has a band aid on her finger. I didn’t want to sit & eat there, but before I could even say anything, Travis is already talking to her being friendly guy. We all knew we were in for the long haul so we took our seats. The only thing on the menu that looked somewhat appealing was a burger and fries. We order up 3 and wait. Keep in mind she’s the only one working there from what we can see. Burgers finally come out & they looked decent. Kyle start to dig into his fries & as he’s digging in he notices a red dot on the bun of his burger. “Is that blood?” he inquires and I try to mess with him & tell him that it is totally blood, but from my vantage point, it really just looks like a ketchup spot. Travis had ordered a Coke, and the obese lady comes back out with his drink. We then notice the the hand that once had the band aid is no longer present. Instead that hand donned a clear plastic glove, that was just dripping with blood. The burgers weren’t the hockey puck frozen variety as they seemed to be freshly ground & hand-pressed. We all pretty much almost lost what we just put in our stomachs from the site of the bloody glove and the missing band aid. The real messed up part was, we all just looked at each other & didn’t say a word. We all just kinda sat there & took it. Lesson learned there.
That slow it down attitude, I can see that attitude in the movie. For those who have or have not seen the movie, It’s not a film that’s inundated with banger after banger. I t contains more “true life” snowboarding. Could you elaborate on that for us.
For sure, this movie is NOT Snowboard Porn by any means. We were just traveling, riding and trying to document what we did in a low key way. We had a solid crew who was out there to just have a good time. No one was out there to throw it all down and no one really cared either. We were just riding as it should be.
I asked you the last question because before I saw the movie, an undisclosed viewer told me he saw the movie & I asked him what he thought of it, and this was before I had watched it. His response was not overly negative but it stuck out in my mind that his response was “If you like a bunch of old dudes riding powder.” Just the way he said it was almost in disappointing fashion. What is your take on that statement?
Well this movie is definitely not for everyone and we weren’t out there to please everyone. Some people want a ton of action, thrills & BS. There’s different kinds of snowboarding for different people. We wanted to make something on a personal level that we were stoked on and I feel that we did that. As far as old dudes, you’d be surprised how much you learn from those guys. Some of the stuff that older riders do still hold up to this day and you have to respect that. Especially out there in the backcountry, no one is out there to hold your hand it’s really intense out there. You can beat yourself up on a hand rail, repeat & learn. Out there in the Backcountry your life is more on the line, if you don’t have someone out there to show you the ropes, you can die & that’s a pretty serious thing. As for people who can’t respect that, that’s fine, keep doing what you’re doing…more turns for us! If they didn’t like the movie, that doesn’t mean they suck, just different strokes for different folks. I feel that what we captured & how we captured it is true to any snowboarder that loves the mountains.
You were deemed the music director for the Movie & the opening song was something that you wrote and you wrote/perfomed quite a few songs for the movie, please tell us about that :
I recorded the opening song in Portland, but the idea for the song started while Skylar Thornton & I we shoveling this jump in Alaska & he kinda has this tune in his head and started whistling this tune & we just started to put our lives that we were living at that time into the lyrics “ Living in the blue walks waking up at noon” that’s just what we were doing everyday & it didn’t even matter cause it was light out till like 9-10pm up there (Alaska). You could wake up an noon with a wicked bad hangover & still snowboard all day long and get a lot of stuff done. Ride, Party, Tailgate!
The idea of us making our own music for the movie came about on the Silverton trip. We didn’t want to just buy right to songs & fit it into the edit. Frankly, I was nervous about us making our own soundtrack but we had studio time & just went for it. Our editor Graham was a little hesitant and kind of wondering what we were capable of. An editors worst nightmare- edit a video to shitty music. It was a total group effort & we were able to pull it off. I was quite happy with the outcome. (Speaking of pulling it off, the Rubik’s Cube is now completely done within a matter of minutes, most of us get that thing done by pulling it apart, not Brandon.)
The sound track and overall feel from the film had a very big folk music influence what would you attribute that from? And there’s a quote from Alex Horgan I would like to quote that sets the tone but I think you know it better than me.
The feeling was quite genuine & we wanted it to seem real, true & match what it was what we were doing. I think the quote that you’re looking for is from Alex Horgan is “Dudes doing dude stuff”. We wanted the music to be what is was, a true representation of our experience, not something that it was not in essence -No smoke, No Mirrors. When you put it together the music, the riding, it worked. The whole country / folk feel just came from what we were doing, campfires, what we were driving around in, and hanging out with Ben Lynch because he grew up on a ranch in Colorado so that had a big influence on the direction. It was all cowboy boots & cowboy hats for sure on the road.
The background on the movie is all starting to unravel a bit. Obviously this movie is esoteric. Every element in the movie seems to work down to the small details. Speaking of details, who’s big blue “redneck” truck was that in the movie?
That was Ben’s. The “Blue Ox””, 65 Chevy?(scratching his head as he tries to recall), 454 Big block, drove all the way to Alaska in that thing and all we had was a tape player. Not hooked up to the car Stereo system just a tape player that sat between Ben & I on the seat. The only tape we had was Hank Williams until we started making stops in Canada. We picked up a Sabbath tape but we kept switching back to Hank cause it was just right for what we were experiencing. Very low tech, refreshing & fun.
There’s a scene in the movie when you guys get to Alaska & Travis announces that you’re going for a heli-adventure , the look that you and Ben had in your faces was like that of a kid in a candy store embellish on that for me please:
OK…it’d probably make a better story if I lied but that was kinda the 2nd take on that segment in the movie. The first take Kyle popped his head in the window, since we were camping on the pass and they were staying in Valdez. He proceeds to say “ Hey guys, I got something real exciting to tell you about” and Ben and I were just kinda groggy still waking up we got out of the Blue Ox & Kyle was filming and Travis is standing there and goes “Hey guys, we’re going in the Heli today!” It didn’t really register cause Ben and I had plans to go out that day to the Valley of the Tusk on sleds. We sere still perplexed as we were like “Really? Well how much is that going to cost?”
Essentially you blew the moment?
Yeah it was kinda super lame on our part cause we were not all on the same page of what just went down. Also we were worrying about the costs. Later, we found out that Travis was covering the tab. Captain spur of the moment smell the roses Travis Parker was stoking us out, then it really set it. Like oh SHIT we’re going on a heli with Travis! The thing that really stuck out in my mind was when Travis said to me was “It was so cool being a professional snowboarder & I remember when people used to do this for me all the time, and I just wanted to do the same for you guys.”From that point on, Ben and I were super stoked & thankful. Very hard to describe the gratitude that we were feeling at that moment.
So here’s Travis giving back to the future of snowboarding as you gladly accepted. You’re giving back to snowboarding as well by being a Coach at Windells all summer. What do you do to stoke kids out at camp & is there a feeling of accomplishment on your end when you have a happy camper?
The kids I have at camp, I just want them to be stoked and have fun you know. There is for sure a feeling of accomplishment when they learn something new and have a big old smile on their face and you know that you were able to help them out with whatever riding goal they had that day. It stokes me out when I see them say the following year at camp & we catch up & I get to see their riding improve. That’s real cool.
Your camp counselor career started at a very young age. How did that come about?
My first job I ever had was a camp counselor at Tahoe Donner when I was 16. I went to the job fair they were having because I wanted to work at the Marina on Donner Lake. The hiring staff thought I was “cool & hip” (laughs) so they asked me to go hang out with some kids. Essentially I was baby sitting for the homeowners really. At first I was really battling these kids, because I was young and I looked young too. After a while it started to click and I started getting good at it because I figured out how to manipulate their little minds. It also helped that I have younger sisters and already acquired a lot of real world experience. You know…..dangling your sisters over the dirty cat box to make them do what you want! You gotta be able to break those little bastards down! Then it came to me that, it would be really cool if I could hang out with kids & snowboard all day. Eventually I got a job at Windell’s. There you have it, my camp counselor career.
So whats on your plate for this season besides breaking down little kids?
It looks like i’m going to be really working on getting a part going for the Capita Movie this year. Gonna try to get Kyle as my filmer to follow me around and get footage. I need to be able to work with someone I really like & and very comfortable with because they will be with me ALL the time. Maybe do a few contests this year and try the Dew Tour again. Really, it’s all up in the air pretty much everyman for himself at this point and fly by the seat of your pants.
Brandon’s cell phone rings and interrupts our epic conversation. I turn away to tend to a text I just received and we both look at each other in agreement and we knew time was up. The future is looking very optimistic for this young talented snowboarder from Truckee, Ca. If you pay attention real closely the next time you’re riding any of North Lake Tahoe’s resorts, it is pretty easy to pick Brandon out of the pack. He’ll be the guy riding with power & style in lacksadazical fashion, painting the mountain with the greatest of ease. No matter what Brandon does, it is always 100%.
Brandon Rides -
Capita Black Snowboard of Death
Union Forces Bindings
Airblaster Finisher Jacket
Airblaster AK Pant
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