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Interview with Koko Blue

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Earlier this month I reviewed Crosses and Planks the debut album from the duo Koko Blue (click here to read the review). After listening (and really digging) the record and I was fortunate enough to connect with Koko Bonaparte and get more details about everything Koko Blue.

WHO IS KOKO BLUE?

We are two rock and rollers from downtown Guelph: Koko Bonaparte, that’s me (also of Interstllr), and Evan Gordon (Islands, The Magic). Evan and I grew up going to–and skipping out of–the same schools. We also went to the same rock shows in people’s houses in the Ward and in church gymnasiums. We both play electric guitars in this band, and I sing.

HOW DID THIS PROJECT FORM?

I’d been writing songs to sing in my kitchen and living room. I wasn’t thinking of recording or performing these ones in particular—they were for family and friends. Then, there was a time Evan was often in my kitchen. We were hanging out a lot in Guelph, both of us returned from far flung adventures. That’s about when I realized these were my favorite songs. I whispered the idea of making an old school Guelph record to Ev, and he agreed it was the right thing.

WAS THE MINIMALIST PRODUCTION STYLE OF CROSSES AND PLANKSA CONSCIOUS CHOICE?

The production was all a choice, yes. We set simple form rules and followed them strictly. The songs are one-takes—full through with no chops or punches. The idea was to record them the same way we made songs when we were thirteen. I was, when we did this, a bit tired of fancy studios. When we were kids, we used 4-tracks and it was so damn exciting, and sweet and soulful. Now that we were both better writers and musicians, we wanted to return to that simplicity. And it felt great.

WHAT INSPRIED CROSSES AND PLANKS?

As I mentioned, these songs were written for kitchen parties and fireside nights. They are songs about people and places I love. The inspiration for each song was always something I was trying to parse out, a strong feeling I couldn’t put to rest, but had to sing down.

DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVE TRACKS (FAVE TO SING LIVE, FAVE TO RECORD, FAVE TO LISTEN BACK TO)?

Both Ev and I love playing Judas Had and Mouchette. They are probably the two most intense songs, lyrically, but also in terms of guitars pushing hard, but also quietly. These songs possess us every time. Playing them is kind of like cliff jumping. You wonder what the hell you are doing because it seems a little extreme. We often talk for a sec before we start and say something like, “Are you ready? You ok for this?”

WERE THERE SOME SONGS THAT WERE HARDER TO WRITE THAN OTHERS?

Writing for me is a way to understand something I don’t really get. I’m not putting down things I already know. I never find this process hard, just strange, unexpected. Time and effort don’t really come into it. I stop paying attention to time and to myself, so I don’t perceive myself as at work, or exerting various kinds of effort. It’s just writing: its own thing. I’m not sure if that will make sense to anyone, but it’s my experience.

WHERE DO YOU SEE THIS PROJECT GOING IN THE FUTURE ?

This Autumn, Evan is touring with Islands, so we are not playing out. I’m writing new songs. I think Koko Blue will keep putting out new songs and videos, maybe forever. These are the songs that I write as part of my everyday life, so that will keep going for a bit, I hope.

DO YOU HAVE ANY UP COMING SHOWS/PROJECTS THAT YOU WANT TO TELL US ABOUT?

We are making videos for every song on Crosses and Planks. We’re doing it according to our homerock principles, so all shots are taken on iPhones. You can see the videos here: http://vimeo.com/album/2196647

WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO AT THE MOMENT?

My interesting neighbor brought by a stack of records the other day. A dear friend from Montreal recently sent some records too. As a result of these kind events, I have been listening to Count Basie, Crowded House, Crash Vegas, Romanian wedding anthems, and lots of other random stuff that feels good.