You may not recognize the name Coco O just yet. But if you watched Baz Luhrmann’s "The Great Gatsby," then you experienced this soulful, emotive voice. She was selected by Jay-Z to be featured on–probably–this year’s most anticipated movie soundtrack. Coco is the other half of Quadron, a Danish duo, comprised of her and producer Robin Hannibal (also the producer of breakout band Rhye), who makes infectious electronic-soul.
Last week, KCRW hosted Quadron at the intimate Apogee’s Berkeley Street Studio, the private recording studio of legendary producer/engineer Bob Clearmountain. He recorded and mixed the session. As soon as Coco began singing, a small audience of 150 listeners instantly became enamored with her amicable presence. She clearly was a singer who was genuinely grateful and excited to be performing. Everything about her performance seemed naturally done with ease. She gently swayed to the music, smiled and sang as if she were simply conversing with the crowd through song. It was comfortable yet captivating to watch her.
When the duo was in Copenhagen and began recording music in Robin’s basement, Coco recalled the moment she found out a radio station in California, KCRW, was playing Quadron’s music. She dismissed it at the time, thinking it was “random." She now credits KCRW DJs as playing an instrumental role in getting Quadron signed to an indie label, which then led to their eventual move to Los Angeles.
During the short Q&A session hosted by KCRW’s music director Jason Bentley, Robin was asked why he never performs with his counterpart in either Quadron or Rhye. He humbly replied that he believes his particular job is done in another place: the confines of a studio. He pointed out that Coco is in the place where she belongs. He is completely right. The stage is definitely where she is meant to be, as it’s hard to imagine her happier anywhere else. Robin recalled the memory of how in awe he was of Coco’s voice when he first heard her. He speculated that if he was this blown away by hearing her cover other artists’ music, how amazing would she sound if she sang her own songs?
Three years later, the band is signed to the LA Reid-headed record label, Epic Records. However, Quadron’s artistic integrity remains intact. Every song is still a collaboration between the duo. But an increased exposure affords them with greater opportunities to share their music with a wider audience, which is one of Coco’s ultimate goals. Coco was featured on a blockbuster movie’s soundtrack. Quadron also had the opportunity with their new album to record some songs at Westlake Studio, where Michael Jackson, a hero of theirs, once recorded.
Quadron performed a song that they wrote as a tribute to the influential legend Michael Jackson: "Neverland." During the Q&A, Jason gently encouraged Coco to do a cover of one of Jackson’s songs, foreshadowing what would be included in the encore that evening. Coco began her return to the stage with a heartbreaking rendition of “Baby Be Mine." It was a beautiful interpretation. She did it in a way that showed signs of reverence and respect for someone she admired.
She followed up and ended the night with “Pressure." She introduced the song in a drawn out manner and utilized sections of it to finally release the true power of her voice. It seemed as though she saved an extra bout of emotion and strength to be unleashed at the very end. It was during the last song that it became realized that Coco’s voice was not memorable because it was noticeably powerful, and she may not let her voice wander through a dynamic range. But she managed to channel a sheer amount of emotion through her voice that left her vocals lingering in your mind.
Quadron is a band that is beginning to put back important qualities into music that have been missing for too long. And at the very least, we should all be appreciative and excited for that.