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The “Duh Moment” Turned Into the Musical Mosaic Trio, Coco

Although I wish I was starting this story painting an image of me on my way to a Coco show, I’m writing this half in my bedroom, half in a coffee shop around the corner, with echoes of Coco in my ears–watching people carry shopping bags and walking their huge dogs. It’s a rainy, foggy day in Chicago (which Coco’s music works well for), but would work even better on a beach, holding a book above my head, desperately trying to block out the sun. Over email, I got to ask Coco members, Maia Friedman (guitarist), Oliver Hill (bassist), and Dan Molad (drummer) a few questions about their new album, songwriting, touring, and the inspiration behind their single “Cora Lu.” 

The three members have orbited each other in the music industry as members of Dirty Projectors, Pavo Pavo, and Lucius. Hill describes, “We all met in Brooklyn around 2012 and collaborated in various ways for several years, touring with each others’ bands, recording on each others’ albums, etc.” This orbit finally collided in 2019, when Coco first wrote together. Instead of the big bang, Hill calls it, “a ‘duh’ moment.” Coco’s sound seamlessly blends together, no stitches visible–it’s clean, melodic, easygoing, definitely feels like a duh moment–it works so well. Their history in previous bands and now their own, carries into the projects they’re putting out today. Hill says, “You are what you eat - years of playing any particular music on the road or in the studio always finds its way back into your hands and voice…the vocabulary of our other bands is baked into what we do together.” Although past projects have impacted and shaped their sound, Coco’s newest album 2, released on March 1st, cements themselves as their own trio. 

Photo by: Monica Murray, From left to right: Dan Molad, Maia Friedman, and Oliver Hill

Each track stands on its own in the album, yet they all tie beautifully together, smashed and brought back again in a melodic mosaic, piecing together notes of shoegaze, dreamy indie, and synthy undertones. Appropriately named 2, Hill describes the new album as “a sequel, but a little bit more intentional, moving 10% slower in the studio, and making sure we got all the songs and sounds just how we like them.” Each track shares its own story, but my biased favorite being a fellow Kora, is “Cora Lu.” I had to ask what the inspiration was behind the song, to which Hill responded, “When my cousin was pregnant with her first daughter Cora Lu, she requested a few friends and family write music to accompany the birth. I wrote this song for the occasion :).” 

Both Hill and Friedman take their respective turns at the mic, differing in tone and emotion, yet keeping the sound of Coco as one fluid motion–feeling like this repeated loop of waves and hours in bed. Concerning the songwriting process as a whole Friedman says, “We usually convene to write and record without any material prepared - fully fresh, clean slate, clean palate! Sometimes we arrive with little slivers of musical ideas and develop them collaboratively…It’s a very organic, democratic process.” The record itself reads to me, as a back and forth of emotion, thoughts that swirl, experiences that bring moments of bliss, as their song “Precious Things” describes, watching a butterfly “land on your freckled thigh.” To Hill, these blips in time “are always hoping to gather up our collective experience and shape it into a feeling that is honest.”

On April 9th, Coco embarks on their tour, starting in Boston and ending in Belgium. Casting their sparkling musical net across the globe, they hope to bring the energy of “being invited into the studio of friends making songs together” into the crowd. Additionally, they'll have a new member joining them, Friedman says, “We’ll be bringing my daughter on tour and you can bet I’ll be doing my best to keep her as content as possible. In some ways, it will be a grand experiment.” Maybe now, Coco will be a quartet. 

One question that I felt needed to be included fully was: What are 5 takeaways that you would want to pass on to young aspiring artists?

Friedman and Hill collaborated to answer:

  1. A song can be anything. It doesn’t have to follow the traditional song forms (verse, chorus, bridge, etc). It was very freeing to realize and embrace that.

  2. Practicing kindness is more important than fitting into a clique (which, yes, these still exist - even in the music industry)

  3. It’s very hard to have a 9 to 5 and still have the energy to be creative. Try to stave them off, and if you manage to, even if it means being frugal, you will be living the dream in some sense.

  4. Relatedly, there’s no shame in side-hustles. The arts have existed within a patronage system for most of human history, and it’s a newer idea that you need to make a living by selling records. Make a living however you can! As long as it’s not a 9 to 5.

  5. Maintain a steady practice of some kind - whether it’s writing, recording, playing shows, or all of the above. It seems obvious but doing actual musical work will always be the engine of a music career - don’t wait around for some “break” or spend your life on Instagram.  

As Coco glides across oceans, mosey to a show for their tight-knit, emotive, wave-like tracks that bring you to different memories and flashes of time–make sure to catch the light in the panes of their mosaic.


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