Alt-folk collective Cocos Lovers formed in Kent in 2008 when its members decided to quit their day jobs and travel through Europe, busking and making music however and wherever they possibly could. Predictably, the influences on their style are widely varied, including English folk and choral music, American Southern gospel and Spanish flamenco, as well as the complex rhythms and tonalities of African and Eastern traditional music.
The band fluctuates from six to eight members, presumably as dictated by circumstance and musical requirements, and all of the members take part in the songwriting and arranging process. Their eclectic instrumental orchestrations include flute, mandolin, banjo, trumpet and varied percussion in addition to the typical guitar, bass, and drums. Those unique instrumental timbres are particularly effective in accenting the rhythmic virtuosity and melodic craftsmanship of the songs. Also notable are the band’s flawless vocal harmonies, which shift from solo voice to multiple parts and vary among the vocal combinations of the band members, alternately mixing and separating male and female voices.
With all the complexity in their music, it’s easy to overlook the poetic beauty and simplicity of Cocos Lovers’ lyrics. For example, the bluesy, haunting ‘Emily’, from the band’s most recent album, ‘Gold and Dust’, is at once sad and hopeful, with a mournful guitar melody and an ethereal flute descant framing the chorus: ‘Emily oh don’t you weep / When I am gone it’s time to sleep / Spark the flame that never dies / The ghost a shadow by your side’.
Cocos Lovers have released all three of their albums through their own co-operative label, Smugglers Records, which has expanded to include 12 artists and 15 records since its inception in 2008. The record label has also sponsored three yearly Smugglers Festivals, showcasing underground roots music, art and theatrical performance in the Kentish countryside.
Cocos Lovers have earned a reputation as fantastic live performers at larger festivals including Glastonbury, Cambridge Folk Festival, Green Man Festival and Sidmouth Folk Week, as well as touring in support of Mumford and Sons. They recently sold out their Christmas show at the Lighthouse in Kent, and after taking some time for writing and recording, they will appear at SXSW in Austin this March.