With the release of their first album ‘Contemporary Toyboy’, Antwerp producer duo Coco Haram, aka Gavin Vanaelst and Jonas De Houwer, invited us to their home studio for a candid conversation about true emotions, production processes and influences.
Can you explain how the two of you met? How did you start making music?
Gavin: We know each other through a mutual friend. It’s kind of a funny story actually, because us three basically spent large proportions of our time together, but Jonas and I never felt the need to meet by twos.
Jonas: Somehow we were convinced that it was going to be awkward. But one day we did meet, just the two of us, and we started talking. As soon as we realised that we’re on the same wavelength emotion-wise, we started making music. So the sound was there, both of us got along great and the pieces just fit together.
How does the production process take place? There are instruments everywhere here in the studio, which is a pretty big change from Gavin’s (Kassett) way of producing with nothing more than a laptop.
Jonas: We actually don’t use that many instruments. What’s key in our sound though is the piano. Both of us play it, we record it on tape and then sample those melodies and shape them into something new.
Gavin: That’s kind of our concept, really. First we made an entire album on one single tape, at a point when we had no idea of making electronic music yet. When we re-listened to the tracks we had made, we both felt that it could easily be turned into something more electronic.
You both have been very open about the fact that your songs are about „heartbreak“. Is Coco Haram also a therapeutic project in this sense?
Jonas: It’s about more than just „heartbreak“, actually. That’s where it started, but heartbreak brings along a ton of other feelings, too; existential crises, psychosis. But the music came first. We started creating, and I remember at one point we looked at each other while producing, realising that we felt exactly the same, and that we liked the same things.
Gavin: Also, we complement each other. We both felt attracted to this kind of music, and in that sense it does prove to be therapeutic. But it’s just who we are.
Your first album is coming out on tape in October, on Brussels imprint Unknown References. Was it a conscious choice to have it released on cassette?
Jonas: For this release we preferred to have it out on tape, yes. It fits our sound, kind of lo-fi, with our own cassette samples. It’s also our first album, so the number of copies doesn’t matter as much to us. „Unknown References“ is also doing a digital release, which is way more important in my opinion. Both of us listen to music online way more than on hard copies.
On the 21st of September you guys streamed your first ever live show at Parallel Life in Vienna, straight from your studio. Can you give maybe a sneak peek of what is special about it?
Jonas: We did try playing some lives before, at small shows in Antwerp and Ghent, but the show we prepared for Parallel Life was much more intimate, and much more live.
Gavin: It’s really interesting to stream from our studio, where all our songs were created and recorded. It’s no secret that I don’t like performing that much, and I’m thus much more comfortable playing from the studio, which is actually Jonas’ living room.