Members of the indie pop supergroup Coco guide us through their beguiling eponymous debut
Out in stores today is the eponymous debut of Coco, an indie pop power trio comprised of Maia Friedman (of Dirty Projectors, Uni Ika Ai), Dan Molad (of Lucius, Chimney), and Oliver Hill (of Pavo Pavo, Dustrider).
They’ve created a feel that fans of both Arthur Russell and Lana Del Rey can fully appreciate (especially with a nice demi-glaze of Trinity Sessions-era Cowboy Junkies); and one we can recognize after Maia, Dan and Oliver revealed themselves as Coco following the release of three singles over the last few months. All credit to this stealth campaign goes to the group’s mentor Bob Moses of the sorely underrated 80s-era Boston indie band Busted Statues, who sadly lost his battle with cancer last December.
“I’m over the moon,” he wrote to the band after hearing an early version of the Coco LP before his death. “I can’t think of a work I’ve heard in forever that has such a complete sense of its own voice, the integrity of its own musical language, and doesn’t sound like anything else I’m hearing. I thought of the color and unresolved melodic ascension of Debussy or Ravel.”
The Rock & Roll Globe was lucky enough to have Friedman, Molad and Hill offer us this insightful breakdown of their debut, which you can find at better streaming services on the Internet.
“Empty Beach” (DM)
The song that ignited this whole thing. I have been working on a follow up Chimney LP for what feels like an eternity. I had this instrumental track that had been sitting in the ‘LP 2 FINAL POTENTIAL’ folder. One afternoon in spring of 2019 Maia was over at my studio. I was sharing music from that folder with her and played her the instrumental in probably some flurry in between stony musings. I can’t remember exactly how it all unfolded from there, but eventually we were sitting staring at our notebooks for hours trying to write lyrics to what ended up being the chorus melody in the song. Fast forward a few hours and we were sitting with verses and choruses and we needed a bridge. We decided to try Oliver who was a very close neighbor (and friend obviously). He was around, came by and we finished the tune a couple hours later. I believe we recorded it that day or the next. We cut the drum kit, the tenor bass and Maia’s vocal live. The organ as well as Oliver and I’s vocal were overdubbed. Empty Beach is about the end of a long fraught relationship and that pull between wanting to cling on and wanting to let go. I am a sucker for really sad songs that are painful and beautiful at the same time. This song definitely fits the bill. (DM)
VIDEO: Coco “Knots”
Fun fact about this one — we clipped the piano felts at Danny’s Dad’s house in Spicewood, TX, and attached paperclips to each piece, which created that rattly, harpsichord-like sound. This song is a memory piece; recalling someone from the past and pulling their essence into the present. “All of our yesterdays are gone / Ah, will you let me in your garden again? // When the wonder’s there, how could I not care? / I loved her before I loved her.” (MF)
“Last of the Loving” (OH)
This was the song that eerily predicted the 2020 quarantine. We wrote it about that precious moment in the beginning of a relationship where the world falls away and a temporary cocoon-universe is formed — but looking at the lyric sheet now, it seems to just describe pandemic times: “Holing up and watching movies while you sleep / The sun glows on the curtain and a month is like a week.” (OH)
The skeleton of “Come Along” was recorded live, all together, with Oliver on guitar, Maia on drums, and Danny on bass. The underlying chord loop plays hypnotically throughout as other instruments are weaved in one by one, picking up momentum and rolling forward as everything joins in harmony. (OH)
VIDEO: Coco “Come Along”
“Hard to Say Hello”
We recorded this one in February 2020 in Nashville, TN. I had just come off a long stint of touring and ended up catching the illness that was making its way through the rest of the band, & started our session off quite sick! You can hear my lil’ stuffy nose but I think it provides a nice vulnerability and I quite like it. Beautiful Oliver at the end there on the strings. (MF)
“One Time Villain”
This one came together in that same first window with Empty Beach. Oliver was the final missing piece with the 12 string acoustic and the harmony vocal. To me, this song has 4 pieces. 1) the bed: drums, bass, rhythm electric guitar and 12 string acoustic. They all just kinda chug along 2) the synth solo: an amalgamation of Oliver, Maia and I all taking passes on a Gakken SX-150 running through an old Echoplex tape echo. 3) this 150 year old upright grand piano that sounds like if a great grandfather were a piano. 4) Maia’s vocal: a tripled vocal which really adds to this make believe world that this song conjures up. (DM)
“Over the Houses”
Another one from the two-week session in Nashville in February 2020, when Maia was quite sick. She did this vocal masked and clutching a ginger tonic. We were thinking of Yo La Tengo with the interaction of the voices and overall mood. (OH)
This song is about my first love! It’s a nod toward the proverbial “one-that-got-away.” We recorded this song at Danny’s Dad’s house in Spicewood, TX right in the middle of the living room. Favorite line: “with shit-brains for life.” (MF)
This song started as most of my songs do, improvising melodies with nonsense words over a chord progression that felt good in my hands on the guitar. Eleanor was the only word that I could really pick out from the iphone demo I made. Eleanor is the name of my 2 year old niece. She is the sweetest! Oliver and Maia really helped lyrically make this song feel like a lullaby written for her. A sort of prayer of hope for the generations to come. I’m so grateful that Elenaor remained the muse of this song. I can’t wait till she is old enough to realize that this song is for her. (DM)
VIDEO: Coco “Anybody’s Guess”
This song is probably my favorite from the record. It feels like by the completion of this track in Nashville we had really dialed in the strengths of everyone in the group. Oliver’s knack for clever one liners such as “I’ll open up, it’s only love, it’s only someone to be dreaming of.” I love the sarcasm there. Maia’s knack for top lining over any chord progression on both vocals and bass! And my endless fascination with the slow and steady groove. When I close my eyes I kinda envision a group of flappers dancing at night in a rich green swamp to this song. The guitar feedback loop that drones throughout acting as the fireflies that light their path. The dancers chant “doo doo doo doo” as they move in sync with the music. As the track fades out they all sing along and dance into the horizon. (DM)