If you had to choose one song that you would have liked to do throughout your time with Kokoroko, what would it be?
sheila: Only one track?! I think there’s a lot of songs I wish I had done, but there’s a song right now and I love the middle sequence in it, I just think it’s so funky. It’s called “You Send Me Swingin” by Mint Condition.
Why this track?
sheila: I feel like when you listen to the album we have, it’s such a development in our sound production. Especially when you listen to the synths that Johan plays and our producer who worked on this album, Miles James, you can hear the soundscape of all the synths and I think that’s something that comes up a lot in the music that we play now, but also in a lot of music coming out now too. So it’s a good step back.
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Your debut album, ‘Could We Be More’, is out on Friday. What was the process like behind making it?
Onome: We planned it and had two or maybe three years to do it. We did little things that we all took away and took time to write ideas and songs, and we had a few sessions, so we slowly built it all up and came out with new ideas. But when the lockdown happened, we had plenty of time and empty calendars. It’s hard to get eight people together in the studio, but we’ve booked the studio in Eastbourne and a few rehearsal sessions in London over the past few weeks and brought ideas to those sessions and then got together and played them as that group. with the producer.
During our first week in Eastbourne with our producer, Miles, and our engineer, Christoff, we recorded everything. We received drafts, took them away, listened to them and then came back and recorded them the way we liked them. It was exciting to have so much time to spend creating something. It’s quite long too – 14 tracks – some of them are shorter or interludes but they don’t count! But there are others that we have also done that we haven’t finished, or there are ideas that we are cooking or clinging to. We really did a lot during this time.
If you had to explain the band to someone who doesn’t know what you do, how would you describe Kokoroko?
sheila: That’s a good question…I would say a group of eight musicians based in the UK who have the same interest in music and are very different, but when we come together on stage we try to create magic – an experience which seems magical to the beholder. I think our recent shows have all been based on a journey, so basically taking people on a journey and wanting them to feel something good.
What are your biggest influences when it comes to making music?
Onome: Initially, we started playing Afrobeat and working with highlife musicians who really inspired us. I think our first shows were mostly Fela, Ebo Taylor, who else?
sheila: We used to play William Onyeabor which is slightly different from those two, and bands like Earth, Wind, and Fire, Funkadelic, and more modern stuff like Tyler, The Creator’s shows – we love the amount of energy put into it and the way it connects with its crowds. For us, it’s like, how do we make our world feel more like this? When you’re in that space, everyone really notices. All of these artists have created a world and something that you buy into, follow, and truly indulge in. One thing I love about most of these artists is that they’re all really playful, and I think that’s pretty underrated.
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Beyond the release of your first album, what is the next step for you? Or haven’t you thought of that yet?
sheila: We are still planning a lot of things. The hope is that we’ll be back in the studio very soon and start recording, we really want to make the most of this time as it’s new to us. I think there’s a lot we’re going to learn and explore, we’re all super excited about what’s to come.
Onome: We loved recording the album, and now we’re all like, ah, I want to do it again! If it were to be done again, it would be completely different. We learned so much doing it this way, you look back like oh we did it all wrong, here we go again!
sheila: Yes, the world of recording is also endless. We’re in the early stages and we just understand how it all goes, but it’s amazing.