Quadron is best at gently stunning us, over and over again. The Danish duo, made up of vocalist Coco and musician/producer Robin, have an achingly beautiful sound. Rooted in an electronic soul-meets-folky R&B, their music reaches into 90’s pop melodies, walls of rich jazz chords and electronic rhythms to create a world of quiet simplicity. This is headphone music at its finest.
Signed to Plug Research, a staple in the evolving L.A. electronic scene, Quadron released their self-titled album earlier this year. The album was full of left-of-center gems that pulled at our heartstrings and helped us to relax on sleepless nights.
The Revivalist recently sat down with Quadron in Fort Greene Park in Brookyn to get a fascinating look at their songwriting process, and of course, to frolic in the trees.
The Revivalist: I wanted to go a little bit into your creative process both lyrically, musically, production-wise, and as a whole. I picked up a couple of songs that I personally really like if you wouldn’t mind telling me how they came about. “Slippin” has a great 60’s Motown retro feel. What’s the background on that track?
Coco: The beat of the song was in reference to Phil Spector.
Robin said that he really wanted to do a kind of song like Phil Spector would do with a song.
Robin: There was this bass loop that I had running. It was so simple but there was also something so beautiful about it being so simple. Almost so simple you wouldn’t play it, kind of like what a child would come up with. And I remember we just tried adding all different parts, getting new parts or new chords, and it just seemed, that loop/that vamp was so powerful, it became the backbone of the whole song never changing. We just started freestyling on top of it. We tried a lot of melodies. We disagreed on how to do it. Coco said, lets just freestyle and she started freestyling and the melody suddenly…
Coco: fell into place. Because it was so simple, you know, sometimes you want to try a weird or different melody but it was too simple, lets just try to make a really simple melody. And then when you get into the melody you can always do different things.
Robin: There’s not that many songs where there are four different drum patterns, difference chords, and different rhythms, even more like a little adventure. You go through and slip in as much.
The Revivalist: Can you speak on the lyrics for this track?
Coco: Sometimes I can be a bit dominating. It’s more about ego. Even though you know it’s bad for yourself and the people you around, you still love yourself, sometimes it’s difficult to compromise when you think you’re right. It’s more like the lyrics are saturated in the ego. When you think in your head, “I know I’m right.”
The Revivalist: Coco – On the song “Tone” you have really unique vocal timing as far as phrasing. You don’t sing a lot and then when you do, it’s beautifully effective. Is that something you feel you were influenced by from somewhere or did it develop organically for you?
Coco: Before I met Robin I was all about delivering and trying to show as much as I could do in one song. I was always asked to feature on somebody’s songs and do the chorus, so I never had the time. I always had to do the best with 30 seconds. I think working with Robin, because we are two, and he would always sit right next to me and be very critical about what I did and I think that made me, ya know, when I had a whole album you can get more rest in one song, and you don’t have to sing all the time. So I think “Tone” is an example for trying to get it all down to the most important, the essence, what would be the most beautiful right now for this song. If I did it alone, I’m sure I would’ve put much more on it, but Robin is more simple-minded. I grew up listen to a lot of R&B where they would phrase all the time. I mean, Beyonce and Lauryn Hill, they phrase all the time and they are really good at it and Robin is, “That’s too Mariah” he would say.
Robin: I love phrasing too, but it has to be at the right certain time where the impact is the strongest it can be, and I think as Coco is saying rightly, if you are phrasing through the whole song you are not really noticing. It’s about..—
Coco: It’s like a game of cards. You have to pull the right card at the exact time to win. If you do it, too much or too early or you will miss the game.
Robin: You’ve gotta play your cards right. That’s what it’s about. You’ve gotta make sure it comes at that time where people will really be surprised.
Coco: And sometimes you know, I’m really glad that we are two people. There’s always one person next to you when you record melodies. I have friends who do it by themselves and I say “oh man” I feel sorry for you that nobody is there to say that it is too much. Also, like big stars, I think a lot of people would be afraid to say to Beyonce “Hey, chill with the phrasing girl. We’ve already heard that.” It’s really important to people for someone to just be there to say that’s too much.
The Revivalist: Another great song is “Simili Life.” That’s a gorgeous one. How did that one come up?
Coco: Well, I think it started out with the chorus which was something Robin had done some years ago in Danish and I had it in my Ipod, so I could choose some of the old things. That was before we started working together, and I told him that I really liked that part, and he was like “Cool, Let’s work on that.”
Robin: We had another beat for it. It was more electronic. I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. I just remember we had all of these different parts Coco really liked. I had also put in all the parts to it. There were 4 parts. It’s always like that. You always have 4 parts and then it’s like,“Where’s the song? What’s the verse? How are we going to work this?”
It all made more sense when we invited the drummer that plays with us, that’s a part of the live band in Denmark called Hets Duda. He came up with all these incredible drum patterns and ideas for each part to all the parts. All the parts had kinda the same rhythm so you could put all of the different drum parts on top of every part. So we just started playing around with that and suddenly there was a story also with the drums in some interesting way. And that kind of made it easier to do an arrangement. This is the song, this is the C part, this is the D part. Then we harmonized the chorus and the verse.
Robin: I think the last thing we did was getting the melodies. I don’t remember how, I had picked that Simili Life, I had picked that up somewhere. Being a simili version is kind of like, not a cheap version, but an unreal version, a parallel world, and we just played around with that. Started writing together and Coco finished the song alone and we started getting ideas for what that could be. That’s the way I remember it. That’s the beauty of lyrics. It’s always different—always have different ideas or feelings about what it’s about. But for me, it’s about someone, or us, or Coco and me telling another person you were in a wrong place and you needed help to get back to the real world, and you were in that simili life and you needed directions, thanking that person, because you were on a wrong direction, wrong path or some sort.
The Revivalist: Are there any underlying themes that you feel are central to the album?
Robin: There is a lyrical theme through a lot of the songs that I really like, that I’m really proud of. It wasn’t like we agreed on it before making any of the tracks, like this record has to be about this. But when looking back at it, a lot of the songs are about emotions and feelings for people in their twenties. I like that. I like that it reflects intelligently about our life. Of course, it’s also universal and timeless. You can always read whatever you want into it. Some of the songs are about types and persons in our age. Situations, problems, in our age in our part of the world and that I think that can be hard sometimes, getting into songs. They can sometimes be too universal. That’s something I’m really proud of that we were able to do that. Lyrics about things that weren’t always joyful and happy and put them on top of some songs that were not happy, but were more upbeat. That’s something I’m really proud of.
Words by The Revivalist
Photography by Deneka Peniston