January 06, 2009

Interview: Cocoanut Groove

What would it sound like if Tim Hardin or Nick Drake had written some songs for The Left Banke and Love? Well... it would sound nothing like Cocoanut Groove, probably. Still, those are the easiest references to get a first idea of what Olov Antonsson’s music sounds like. We were introduced to his addictive baroque nostalgia on one of the finest 7-inches of the year, The End of the Summer on Bookbinder Road, released on Phonic Kidnapping Records. His album Madeleine Street, finally released on Fridlyst last month, is even better. Who is this talented Swede?

Hello Olov! You started making recordings as Cocoanut Groove in the summer of 2007. Musically, what did you do before that?

Hi! I’ve been involved in two other bands in the past: The Tidy Ups and Everyday Mistakes. I played guitar in both those groups. Cocoanut Groove is the first musical project where I sing, write the songs and get to decide everything!

The album has finally been released, after continuous delays since April. Are you relieved now it’s finally out there? What caused the delay?

Yes, I’m very glad that it is finally released. I am very proud of the songs on Madeleine Street. It was delayed mostly because of incompetence at the pressing plant.

Cocoanut Grove is probably best known as a neighbourhood in Miami, Florida. I also found the name as a reference to various American nightclubs, one of which even with that extra ‘o’ in there. It’s also a song. Possibly all of this is completely unrelated. How and why did you choose this name?

I took the name from the song with the same name on the Roger Nichols-album. It’s a John Sebastian song originally.

For some reason, 'Olov Antonsson' didn’t seem like a great name for an aspiring international pop act! I liked the song Cocoanut Grove, and I just thought CG sounded like a nice name for a band – a bit exotic and tropical, and at the same time naïve, and cheerful almost. I was listening to a lot of sunshine pop and 60’s psych pop at the time when I chose the name and I thought it sounded like the kind of a name that a great 1960’s west coast group could have had!

You are Cocoanut Groove, alone. Still there’s the Cocoanut Group that plays on the album and joins you at shows. Is it your own preference to officially remain a solo artist? If so, why?

Yes, it’s sort of my own choice. I’ve been in bands before, as I mentioned earlier, and it’s a great thing to play in a band, but with Cocoanut Groove, I just feel like I want to be able to decide everything for once, and work with different people at different times, and vary between solo gigs and big orchestral gigs.

The songs are very personal to me, and I would not want other people interfering too much with them. However, I am very, very grateful to everyone who is or has been involved in one way or another, I simply couldn’t do it without them.

I see on your myspace you play bass, piano, harpsichord, organ, guitars, percussion, harmonica, et cetera. It seems you don’t even need a band! When did you discover you had any talent in making music?

Oh, I’m really not that great at any instrument to be honest, and I like to use as many other musicians as possible when I record, but sometimes it’s just more convenient to play the damn thing yourself!

I always used to have problems writing songs, and I could never finish a song, until maybe two years ago. I’m still not a really prolific writer, but it is a bit easier for me to write songs nowadays than it used to be. You pick up these little tricks here and there I guess.

What kind of music did you grow up with?

I didn’t really listen to much music as a child, and wasn’t really interested in music until the age of 11, 12, when my older sister introduced me to britpop and 60's music like The Beatles. From then on I’ve always been strangely drawn to 60's music. When I got a few years older I started listening to Bob Dylan, who was very important to me when I was 14, 15, 16, as were The Smiths. When I was about 17 I started playing in The Tidy Ups, and was introduced to quite a lot of indie pop.

In Shadow you sing "He seems a little bit familiar / He seems a little bit like someone I know". Those words can be taken out of context and used to describe the feeling I had when I first heard your music. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Who would you consider your biggest influences or inspirations?

Lets see… Lennon/McCartney, The Zombies' Odessey and oracle, Simon and Garfunkel, The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, The Clientele, and Love's Forever Changes are my main musical influences and inspirations I guess. I love those artists and records, and I think you can hear that in my songs too.

I’ve also always been inspired by (and not seldom envious of!) friends who make music – Mattias Malm from Everyday Mistakes, Peter Möller from Crime Time, Jenny Westerlund from Déjà Vu Experience/Patience Worth and Calle Thoor from Bolywool to name a few.

Most Swedish pop nowadays seems to draw from other sources for inspiration, like Sarah Records or classic Motown, including the other two bands I know from your city Umeå: your own The Tidy Ups and Funday Mornings. Maybe Jens Lekman and Pelle Carlberg share some of the bitter sweetness in your songs, but you're quite alone on the sunshine pop front. Do you feel part of any scene or pop community?

I sort of feel connected to groups like Everyday Mistakes, Bolywool, The Autumn Apples and Kont because they are all good friends and most of them have recorded in the same studio in Umeå as I have. But other than those groups, not really.

The first time I heard you was on the Indietracks 2008 compilation CD. In the end your actual performance on the festival was cancelled. What happened? Do you think there’s a chance you’ll play the 2009 edition?

It didn’t happen because of financial reasons… We waited too long to book the tickets, and they became too expensive. I really wanted to play though, and I would love to play next year.

What else is coming up in 2009?

I am writing new songs at the moment. Once I’m happy with them I will try to record them with a little help from friends. Then, hopefully some label will want to release a new album later on. I’m also trying to learn to play the mandolin at the moment, and I just got a new wristwatch, so I hope to be more on time in 2009.

Thanks Olov. Have a brilliant year!

Cocoanut Groove website
Cocoanut Groove myspace
Buy the album on Fridlyst
Buy the 7" on Phonic Kidnapping Records

Download (Mediafire)
1. Cocoanut Groove - The end of the summer on Bookbinder Road

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