Q&A: Quadron

Categories: interview
quad.jpg
Beth Stirnaman/OC Weekly
Quadron at the Commonwealth Lounge last night
Hours before their gig at Commonwealth Lounge in Fullerton, we found Coco O. and Robin Hannibal of Quadron hanging out by the stage. So we figured we'd help them kill some time with a probing interview about a wide range of topics: favorite drinks, stories from their native Denmark and thoughts about their recent swell of indie soul cred.

OC Weekly (Nate Jackson): The first time I got to see you perform live was at last month's UCLA Jazz and Reggae Festival. What was it like to be a relatively new band on a bill that included Q-Tip and Raphael Saadiq?
Coco O.: That was a tremendous honor to play for that kind of crowd with that kind of line-up. If we probably would've been to the festival if we were in L.A. and we'd be like "damn, one day we will be standing on the stage." So that was amazing to be invited to play.
Robin Hannibal: We're big fans of all of the artists that played.


It'll be exciting to see you guys play in lounge setting like Commonwealth. Are these the kind of gigs you're used to playing in Denmark?
CO: We don't have many clubs like this in Denmark. Copenhagen is so small that you wouldn't do a gig twice a month, or even half a year sometime. So we haven't been playing that much in Copenhagen, it's been more like festivals. So it's very nice to play in clubs like this.
RH: So far [the U.S.] has been very different, from [playing] the Echoplex to an Amoeba in-store KCRW [studio-performance] to Bordeaux to this, it's been totally different places. 

KCRW (89.9 FM) has really gotten behind your sound and pushed you guys. Were you anticipating half of the response the album has gotten in the States so far?
CO: Sometimes taking a breath to think about everything...it really is amazing. It's kind of funny that it always has to be that way. In your native country it's hard to get noticed. And you know all of what you can accomplish there. I think that when American bands do that, it is kind of the same thing. And then in their home state it's harder.
RH: We definitely have an advantage in that we are a bit more exotic in our approach to playing. It's a little different because of our backgrounds. At the UCLA festival, that was the first time we heard our music and a lot of other amazing artists that we really like playing back to back. It does sound different. I'm not saying it sounds better, it's just different. The big music styles in Europe and Denmark is different than here and the sounds are different. So it kind of switches it up a little.

In terms of your past work together with Boom Clap Bachelors, you exhibited a lot of your electronic and orchestral influences. Do you consciously try to use some of  those  of sounds in Quadron as well?
RH: There is possibly a mixture of more European-based music mixed with R&B and it's kinda like you can't run away from what you've been hearing or what's going on around you. The orchestral elements come from a lot of European composers like Ennio Morricone. French composers have a sweet, sophisticated way of writing scores but also pop songs. We try to put all the counterpoints between the vocals and what is happening in the track. Electronic music is big in Denmark and Europe as well.

You're big Charles Stephney fans, right?
RH: Oh, yeah. All the work he did with Rotary with Connection...it's killer stuff. Instead of looking at barriers [in music], it's kind of like opening up and just going for it. Why can't we have a 50-piece choir in the background or a big string section.

How did you first meet each other and eventually team up to write songs together?
CO: We met through a mutual friend who was record shopping with me one day. Robin worked in the record store and that was the first time we met. Later on, he heard me performing with a DJ and he invited me to join Boom Clap Bachelor's live band and from then on, we just started working with the live band and tried to work on new tracks for Boom Clap.
We started to see each other all the time and had parties together and started a friendship.
RH: You rented my apartment...I totally forgot about that.
CO: I rented his apartment for a year, yeah. Slowly we just started to work on songs and we kind of figured out that we had more in common music-wise than maybe the rest of the band. So we kind of had our own sound.

There's a six year age difference between the two of you Was it still pretty natural for you to bond musically and personally despite [Robin] being 28 years-old and Coco being 22-years-old?
RH: I think a lot of people who aren't involved with music think you just meet and start writing songs, but it's kind of like a courtship. You get to know each other, what the other person likes, ambition, how you work, how much focus you have. You have to find each other. It takes time. You can't always work with everyone. So when it works, it's magic. It's a good feeling.

Have you had any strange stories on the road?
CO: At Amoeba the other day, we had a show and afterwards they asked us if we wanted to do autographs and we were like, "yeah, if anyone's gonna show up." And there was actually a line. That is way different from Europe actually. Unless you're a big star in Europe, they don't have a lot of signings and things like that. 
RH: In Denmark, we don't have CD signings like that. You almost don't even have record stores anymore. I think in general, the American audience is much more enthusiastic and encouraging. They're not afraid to show that they like something and they'll tell you.

Have you noticed if there's been more of a response to your music in Denmark lately, despite not having a lot of music venues for you to play there?
CO: The thing is, there are venues, just not for our type of music. We have a lot of venues but it's more rock-based show. So it's kind of hard for bookers in Denmark to book us because we people don't go out to see shows. The music scene over there is kind of dying. And there's  not that many people going to see soul music because there's not a lot of soul fans. The popular music is electronic, pop and rock. So I think it's more about the genre and history of music in Denmark.
RH: It's going to be interesting once we get back from this round of touring. And we were back there for 10 days and already our coolest newspaper had like three photos of [Coco]. Maybe there will be an interest that is a little more mainstream, not a lot but, maybe a little more.

Coco, you've mentioned that one of your favorite songs to play right now is "Day." From a song writing or production stand point, how did that song come about?
CO: The inspiration for the song was simplicity and beauty. That's what we wanted it to sound like. I didn't have a certain song or artist inspiring it.
RH: The concept was to fuse that sort of chord progression you see in standards or jazz music and put a modern feel to it and have a melody that could tie that all together.
CO: The picture I have in my head when we do that song is like from an old musical where you can see [the backdrop] is just scenery and it's not real streets or outdoor lights. Can you feel that [laughs]. Taking control over people's feelings is the funny thing about doing music. When you're a DJ you can control the party, so that's a power to have. And with music you can decide what people feel when they listen to it and you can decide a lot of things and I like power. I like control [laughs].

Are there any artists from Denmark or in Europe that are pushing genre boundaries the same way you guys are that are fighting to get their music heard?
CO: There is definitely one girl we should mention, Liv Lykke. She is one of the most talented singers, period. 
RH: I think we're really privileged because between the people we know, there is some of the most interesting music in Denmark. With the mainstream acts that are doing really well, they're definitely the most interesting. We've worked with some of them in Quadron and Coc's worked with some of them as well. 
CO: There's another band called When Saints Go Machine and I really love it. It's a totally different genre [from us]. If you listen to them, you'll find out what's really hot now in Denmark. And they do it with out compromising their creativity.
RH: There's also Philip Owusu. And he's working on his own record which sounds really promising. We worked with him also and he helped us with the Quadron record.

Since we're in a bar, I figured I should ask you what you're favorite drinks are.
CO: We have a favorite drink in common, which is rum and ginger ale. I would say that I'm very disappointed in American ginger ale, it doesn't taste like ginger at all. That's one one thing you don't have that have. But I'm also into dark rum with two ice cubes, straight up.
RH: We both like beer. Dark beer. Ales. We both like red wine but we have to watch out for it.
CO: Love red wine, but we'll get black outs [laughs].

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