When Quadron released their self-titled debut album, the Denmark-born, Los Angeles-based duo, which is multi-instrumentalist/producer Robin Hannibal and vocalist/lyricist Coco O., quickly established themselves as an exciting young act to watch. Their minimalist electro-R&B caught the attention of a host of tastemaker blogs and media, including New York magazine, which included the album on its list of the Top 10 Albums of 2010. They also earned props from such artists as Adele, Prince, The Roots’ Questlove, and Raphael Saadiq, who remarked that “Coco’s passionate vocal performance coupled with Robin’s beats and chord combination choices is fresh yet classic.”
Always looking to evolve, Coco and Robin take their sound into lusher, more expansive territory on their new album, Avalanche — a funky, soulful game-changer characterized by Coco’s shimmering voice and Robin’s meticulous, modern production. It shows what these two can do when armed with a live band, an actual budget, and the luxury of time to deliver their vision. Quadron’s first shot across the bow in 2013 is “Hey Love,” a collaboration with British producer Fraser T Smith (Adele, Florence and the Machine) that Pitchfork has called a “pop-friendly tapestry of busy beats and pounding piano,” adding that “Coco delivers an agile, complementary performance; when she takes over the song in its final minute, it’s a display of both vocal power and chemistry.”
The remainder of Avalanche also reflects Coco and Robin’s love for buoyant melodies and insistent grooves as it summons up the gritty synth-driven funk of Stevie Wonder’s 1973 landmark album Innervisions and the dancefloor euphoria of Michael Jackson’s 1979 classic Off The Wall — two albums that the duo say served as touchstones during the writing and recording process. “Disco has a weird connotation, but we loved certain aesthetics of that era,” Robin says. “It really was just soul music at a higher tempo so you could dance to it at a club. The music was amazing — great singers, great songwriting — we’re really inspired by it. But we wanted to merge it with who we are and how music is arranged and produced today.”
Lyrically, a raw, emotional undercurrent about Coco’s search for love runs beneath Avalanche’s giddy sonic landscape. “I’ve never had a boyfriend,” she says. “A lot of the songs are variations on that theme, like ‘Hey Love,’ ‘Favorite Star,’ and ‘Sea Salt,’ where I’m blaming myself for giving my heart to someone who’s not interested. The struggle is such a big part of my life that I found myself preoccupied with writing about it. Also, it was important for me to acknowledge loneliness, because it was definitely a big thing to move from Copenhagen to L.A. and feel lonely for the first time, because my girlfriends are all back home. ‘LFT (Looking For Trouble)’ is a ‘girls night out’ song about them.”
The title track, an aching ballad with lush strings and delicate acoustic guitar, acknowledges Coco’s feelings of fragility and vulnerability even while she looks forward to what’s on the horizon. “It’s me taking a breath and admitting that I do feel this way, but it’s okay because new things are coming.” Robin points out that the title “Avalanche” resonates with them because it’s akin to how they felt uprooting their lives in Copenhagen and moving to the Los Angeles when indie-label Plug Research offered to release their debut album. “It was a huge change, like a quantum leap into another world,” Robin says. “It felt like a fall or a slide of a large mass and we are that mass. We had to pick ourselves up from that place figure out how to grow up.”
As with the greatest soul singers, the emotion is palpable in Coco’s voice, not only on Quadron’s recordings, but also in the live show, which features Coco backed by a live band. “There are a lot of amazing singers in the world, but there aren’t that many who can captivate onstage as well,” Robin says. “Coco has that presence and knows how to change things up each time to keep it interesting. When I watch her perform, I still get chills the way I did the first time I heard her.”
Coco was 16 when she first met Robin, who had been making music with a DJ/Producer collective in Copenhagen. His parents and extended family are all artists and Robin caught the music bug when he found his father’s vinyl collection and became fascinated with the process of making records. He began studying musical theory and composition and learning to play instruments, eventually managing a record store, interning at a recording studio, writing his own songs, and collaborating with different singers. When Coco came along, he knew he was in the presence of someone with a special gift. For her part, Coco thought the older, musically seasoned Robin was out of her league. “It took me at least six months to stop feeling intimidated,” she says.
They two bonded over a mutual obsession with Michael Jackson and began making music together, which quickly took a soulful turn. The early songs were included on their debut album, which earned them major blog buzz, a 2011 tour with Raphael Saadiq, and eventually a record deal with veteran music industry executive Sylvia Rhone’s Epic Records imprint Vested in Culture, which will release Avalanche in June 2013. Along the way, the accolades have poured in, including props from producer Mark Ronson (who called them “dope as hell!”), British soul singer Jessie Ware (who says “Coco is the most perfect singer”), and Odd Future’s The Internet (who credits Quadron with “changing my entire outlook on music and where you can go with it.”) Odd Future’s leader, Tyler, The Creator, has said that “Coco has the voice of an actual angel” and invited her to join him and The Roots on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon to perform their collaboration “TreeHome” in March.
As Quadron gear up to release Avalanche, Coco and Robin are looking forward to listeners experiencing the album on different levels. “I hope people hear the whole spectrum of it, from the ballads to the up-tempo songs,” Robin says. Coco adds: “I want them to feel like dancing the first time they hear it, and eventually to realize I’m actually singing about something meaningful. I hope they appreciate the musicality, that there’s a lot of arrangement and production. I just want people to keep finding new things in the music each time they hear it.”