World Up Exclusive Interview: Quadron of DenmarkBY Staff, July 22, 2010
Photo Credit : blog.fairtilizer.com
The evocative sound of this Danish pair, Coco Owusu and Robin Hannibal, comes by way of Coco’s youthful exuberance, dynamic stage presence, and sultry vocals, collab-ing with Robin, who often doesn’t perform with Quadron, darting back and forth from the sound board to perfect their full-bodied melodies. The duo brings intelligent, focused, and playful aural consciousness to listeners, leaving a goosebumpy and emotional crowd in their wake. WU saw this firsthand as Quadron performed tracks from their self-titled debut album at Southpaw this June, and we got the chance to speak with the Danish duo about the meaning of “Quadron,” their love of body painting, and plans to reinvent the electronic soul scene on their first American tour.
Coco: This is Coco and Robin, and we’re chillin with World Up.
WU: How did Quadron come about, and how is your sound is distinct from the Boom Clap Bachelors?
Robin: We kind of grew out of Boom Clap Bachelors or it came about while working on songs for BCP. The distinction between those in English [versus] BCP in Danish, is it’s probably more directly soul influenced. Whereas BCP is a mix of different things, [from] different people. Me and Coco found a common ground, which was soul, and we like to explore that.
WU: How did you come to call yourselves Quadron?
Co: There is a certain point in a music relationship where you have to figure out a name, when you realize that you are a real group. I don’t even remember the other ideas. I know we talked about calling ourselves Robin and Coco or Coco and Robin and we talked about calling us, my biological grandfather was African and his name was Orino, and we would call us Orino and Hannibal but that would be [hard to understand], I think. So we had to find something we had in common. And the word Quadron means being a quarter black and Robin’s grandfather is African American and my grandfather was African so that makes us Quadrons and we think it’s a beautiful word also written and we are proud of our heritage.
WU: Can you talk about some of the tribal imagery used in your album?
Co: I would love to talk about that. Nobody asks us about that.
Ro: How long do you have?
Co: Denmark is still interested to know about people’s backgrounds. If people have dark hair or have curls or look anything besides blond and Danish, then people always ask where they’re from. I’ve always been very interested in Africa, maybe because my biological grandfather was African and I never met him, but also just because I think Africa is hot, and I think the Masai painting is very, very cool, and jewelry as well. It fit well to the name Quadron to have something taken from African, because I think what they did was to try to make more Indian tribal. For me it’s still African. I think it’s hot.
Ro: We all came from Africa.
WU: There are so many tracks on your album that are extremely evocative “Day” being one of them. Can you talk about what this song means to you?
Co: It means different things each time, I think. It’s nice, the song didn’t have any specific personal emotions, like pointed on a person for instance, or a specific day, it’s more like an ode to the day-to-day. You can put different meanings in it every time you listen to it. People who listen to the song would all think different things, because we didn’t spell [out] what the song is about. It’s very simple, the lyrics. So all the emotions can be what the listener would feel. Or they can try and figure out what we feel. For me it changes from performing it or listening to it. Sometimes I try to remember what I thought of when I recorded it, but it’s still fresh.
WU: It doesn’t seem like Copenhagen has much of a soul scene, how has Quadron been received?
Ro: Really well I think, taking into consideration that there really isn’t a scene for the music. There are people who like it and there’s foreign artists dropping by playing at some of the bigger venues. There is an audience but it’s nothing like other genres like rock, pop, or electronic music. It’s like a minority in Denmark, in that regard people really accepted it and have taken it into their hearts. We’ve been really well-received, [our music has been] played a lot and we’ve been blessed with the opportunity to play at really nice venues and get good press. Especially because it’s our debut album, its always easier the second time around.
WU: Coco, you’ve mentioned that your major influences are Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill, these influences are apparent in your sultry vocals. How do you anticipate being received by American audiences?
Co: I was really scared. There is a mess of talent in the US of soul singers, female vocalists. It’s always been unreal for me growing up wanting to be a major superstar and coming from such a little country. I always thought about which approach should I do to make it. Should I meet a very dope producer in the US? Should I get married to an American? How can I make it? At one point, when you stop caring about it, you start to get into just wanting to make good music and that is the key. That’s why some people make it and some people don’t. It’s all about the songs that they write or perform. That’s why Lauryn Hill made it instead of another girl in a church. Maybe the vocal talent is equal but it’s all about song-writing. It kind of calmed me down when I got frustrated about so many good talents out there, that we’re different, we’re from Denmark. I didn’t grow up with the whole church soul background so when you stop trying to be like them, it’s nice.
WU: What is your creative process?
Ro: It’s very different and it’s changing all the time. There’s always a period of getting to know each other, working out how you get the best result. It’s like every other thing, trial and error. You try this approach and see how it works and try this approach and see how it works. When I look at all the songs most have a different approach or started in a different way. Now we’ve collected all these experiences, now we know how to get to that result, or what we like doing and how we like doing it. For this time around, we both really feel it’s an emotional record. You should always challenge yourself and try to make it even more personal and emotional and now we’ve found a way to do everything together or get close to doing everything together and that way it’s even more a collaborative, emotional effort. We’re actually starting in the same place and going to the end result together.
Co: We go straight to the emotions now because all of the practical stuff, we kind of know how each other…we don’t have to keep bumping into the same walls of disagreements and a way to do things.
Ro: It’s a trust thing, I think, also. At some point you trust the other person, you’ve seen the end result and you know how that process was. You come to a point where you just trust the other person. I know she’ll get there or I know this idea will work because she pulled it off last time, she can do it. I shouldn’t be worried about it and hopefully it’s the same the other way around and then you feel like he’s got it or she’s got it. And that helps a lot too.
WU: Your music has been compared to groups like Little Dragon and Lykke Li, how do you feel about these comparisons?
Co: We like them. I was definitely a fan of Little Dragon before we were compared to them. Robin introduced me to them. The song ‘Fortune’ is one of his favorite songs. I bought the record after we were compared to them I wanted to check it out. I think they’re great. They’re really great. I’m proud of all of them being from Scandinavia. Lykke Li is just…after I saw “New Moon” three times on the airplane I want to buy her album too. When you’re from Scandinavia, it’s like, “but they’re from Sweden we want to see what’s going on in The States.” And now we keep getting compared to them, so it’s like “oh, yeah.”
Ro: I think it’s nice also because there are some similarities. There is the accent thing, the part of where we’re coming from Scandinavia, maybe more open approach to other genres and fusing them, very the same but also very different. Also sometimes I’ve heard it right after each other, it is very different the approach and the way it’s put together. Everything stands on its own but it also Scandinavian.
Co: I would love to meet them, all of them are ahead of us and it would be nice to share experiences.
WU: So as I mentioned before World Up is an organization that believes that music can be used as a tool to bring social awareness and change, particularly in young people. As an artist do you feel that it is your responsibility to create music that’s socially aware or conscious?
Ro: Definitely. Without a doubt. I don’t think that it’s always something you think of in the process, and I think there needs to be creative freedom and freedom of speech and I don’t think it always [has] to be politically correct, but I think you should be aware of what you’re doing.