Photo Credit: Riley Engemoen and Liz Moskowitz
They’d all known one another for about a decade, working together here and there, but in the past couple of years, it was apparent that musically they clicked. So that’s when three members of bands like Dirty Projectors, Chimney, Dustrider – just to name a few – set out to make music together, and thus, Coco was born. Now Maia Friedman, Dan Molad, and Oliver Hill are set to release Coco’s self-titled debut on October 29th. We talked with one-third of the band about coming together, flashbacks, and more in this back and forth exchange.
Kendra: You had gotten to know one another on the road in other bands, and as friends, but did you learn anything new about one another once you came together for Coco?
Maia Friedman: Coming together for Coco only deepened my admiration and appreciation of Oliver and Danny. We’ve all known one another for years; Danny and I met over 10 years ago in New York, and Oliver and Danny have been working together for equally as long. All this is to say I knew them fairly intimately prior to Coco, but I did learn that Danny makes a mean Bo Ssam and that Oliver is the Oatmeal King. He slays morning oatmeal. Also, Oliver and I got to see where Danny grew up while recording part of our record in Spicewood, TX – that was very meaningful for all three of us.
Kendra: As a band, you agreed and said, “Just as releasing music anonymously felt natural in 2020…” Did that have anything to do with the state of the world, because those first few months where we kind of had to face facts and realize this was going to last much longer than we initially thought – was rough.
Maia: Believe it or not, we made the decision to release music anonymously prior to the start of the pandemic. Our manager at the time, Bob Moses, heard a couple of songs Danny, Oliver, and I had made together for fun in early 2019, and insisted the collaboration not be a one-off. He knew we were busy with our other projects; Dirty Projectors was gearing up to release an album in 2020 (5EPS) which meant I was going to be touring a lot that year, and Danny was going to be busy with Lucius. Bob’s proposal of anonymity resonated and felt very natural to us. It wasn’t until Bob died in late 2020 from cancer that we decided the veil of anonymity should be lifted – it didn’t mean the same to us with him gone, and we felt ready to share the music more openly with the world.
Kendra: But you all did manage to keep the music alive. You could always talk virtually, but did work on seeing one another from time to time. When that happened you had this interesting rule that none of you could prep. You had to walk in a void of material previously worked on? How do you think that helped the overall foundation of ‘Coco?’
Maia: We loved being able to develop songs collaboratively from the ground up, so having a no-preparation rule allowed us to really focus on that. I think what was foundational beyond the no-prep rule was the idea of anonymity, which really eliminated some of the typical ego-related struggles of writing.
We put full trust into one another’s intuitions and let that intuition be our guide. And as far as decision-making within writing and recording, the strongest feeling would win, generally. If one of us felt passionate about a chord or production element, it was easy to give in. I feel gratitude toward Danny and Oliver for being so open – I’m never that easygoing with myself in my own songwriting!
Kendra: ‘Coco’ was recorded across the country in LA, Nashville, and Spicewood – a city north of Austin. Do you think each city, in any way, influenced particular parts of the album?
Maia: Definitely! Each studio had its own unique sound. We ended up working on most songs in each of the studios – adding a guitar line here, some piano there. For “Sage,” the eighth song on the album, you can really hear the sound of the room in the recording. I love that when I listen to that song I am transported back to Spicewood, TX.
Kendra: Back to that no prep rule, because “Knots” is the exception to the rule and from it is this ethereal dreamscape that made me think of a cinematic flashback. With that, if we played “Knot” over a flashback to your favorite moment from making ‘Coco,’ what would it be?
Maia: I think the flashback would be what we actually captured in the video we made for “Knots.” We filmed one another on a handheld camcorder my dad gave me in high school while recording in Spicewood, TX. We captured everything from playing and recording our instruments, to cooking and eating our meals, birdwatching, and walking down in the riverbed.
Kendra: With ‘Coco’ out at the end of October, what else is on the table? Will you be touring this fall, or waiting until the new year?
Maia: Coco has two shows on the books at the moment – November 12th in Los Angeles and November 16th in Brooklyn, NY at Zebulon and Union Pool respectively. We’re also really looking forward to getting back into the studio to write and record more songs for LP2.
Outside of Coco, I have another project to look out for that’s yet to be announced – something dear to me I am very excited to share!