Justin Burford has been a busy man for quite some time now. Three albums and two ARIA awards earned with End Of Fashion, the lead role in the Australian cast of stage show Rock Of Ages, and even his self written/performed cabaret Kurt are just a snapshot of his achievements since 2005. With all that behind him, Justin seems to relish the change of pace and the chance to work independently once again. Coco Blu, his solo project, has been in the works for a while now. But the expression ‘good things come to those who wait’ would be well applied here, as Justin and his band delivered the goods on Saturday night at The Aardvark…
Although the writing and recording for Coco Blu is a solitary process, each song takes on a new life when arranged and performed in a three piece outfit. Juxtaposed with his unmistakably Kurt Cobain look were Justin’s soaring vocals, which cut through the mix of tight drums, melodic bass and dreamy psychedelic guitars. At points his range reaches Jeff Buckley territory, and his ‘soulful white boy’ vocal style pairs surprisingly well with the music; a mash-up of grunge and power pop with a dash of neo-soul for good measure. Billy Shears, didn’t lose the art of the messy grunge riff while still retaining the polish of a well written pop song. On A Leash began with some chorus effect driven chaos, and settled on an infectious early 2000’s New York indie style that still echoed in my head on the drive home. The new single What Is Fate? brought the crowd floating back down to earth, a pure pop outing with an extremely catchy guitar hook that still maintained a stirring vibe. With the aforementioned single appearing on the upcoming Rhubarb Jam Batch 3 compilation, I caught up with Justin before the gig to find out where Coco Blu has come from, and where it’s headed from here…
So how long has Coco Blu been in the works for, and how did it all come about?
“What ended up becoming Coco Blu started at the end of 2015. I’d just not been making any music for a real long time. It was getting on like, five years or something and I thought I was kind of done with music. Then a couple of friends of mine started using Logic (music recording/production software) and showing me some demos they’d done. So I was like, if it’s that easy, maybe I should just start doing some demos. Y’know, just to start writing songs and keep doing that because it’s what I’ve always enjoyed doing. So yeah, I just kind of took it back to my bedroom and started this process of writing songs. I got about six months in and had a little body of work that had this kind of ‘sound’, and once I started exploring that sound the idea kind of expanded into a project, a bigger idea. I listened back on stuff and noticed that I was gravitating toward a particular sound that, I didn’t know, left to my own devices that’s what I’d gravitate to.”
So that happened pretty naturally then?
“Yeah! It turned out like, I’d never listened previously to surf music and I have a lot since, ‘cos I started kinda going “well I like making this kind of sound, why haven’t I ever really listened to it before?”. It opened me up to a whole new genre. So the whole exercise is just...I was calling it an homage to my record collection, but it also helped me expand my record collection. I’m still exploring, always looking to try and squeeze more influences in, but once I fell on a few of the key elements, like that kind of twangy surf rock guitar meets soul bass and drums, I was kind of like “oh hang on, this is a sound”. I don’t know if it’s relevant or not but it’s certainly relevant to me, and so it kind of started pushing me in that direction. So I fell upon it accidentally.”
Do you have plans to write a full length album comprised of this material?
“Yeah well that’s what I set out to do initially, I was like “I’m gonna make a two sided vinyl record, 20 minutes a side”. I actually have a version of that album kicking around with the new single, that’s one of the songs on it. Actually the two songs that are out at the moment (are on it). On A Leash and What Is Fate? have actually been released now, so they’re up on Spotify and iTunes. They may or may not be part of a full length, but…”
So it’s just a process of writing, and then a process of elimination?
“Yeah and it’s like I said y’know, I had a record that I thought “alright this is finished and ready to go”, and this was like...a year ago. But I’ve kept writing and stuff since then, and even though there’s a record already and I’m like “that works as an album”, sometimes it’s just compulsive. You’ve kept writing more stuff and before you know it you’ve got a whole different sounding album. We’ve also got the live thing as a three piece, and even though we play the songs, like, Coco as a recording project is all me, but the live sound is this three piece with myself, Jay Cortex and Nathan Sproule and that’s a totally different vibe. I’m kinda thinking at some point in the future it’d be awesome with the right new songs, or even just to record the way we do it live (at the moment) and put that out as something, y’know. ‘Cos it’s almost like they’re two different bands playing the same songs! The live shows are a little bit more sorta ‘loosey goosey. We rehearse the songs in certain ways, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how we’re gonna play them live. We’ll probably put an EP out pretty soon, and then we’ll be hurtling toward a record hopefully not long after that.”
Beyond tonight, do you guys have any more shows lined up?
“Yeah, we’re doing the Rhubarb Jam Batch 3 launch in September so there’s that!”
Catch Coco Blu along with The Limbs, DUMBLEACHERS and Tanaya Harper for the launch party of Rhubarb Jam Batch 3 at The Aardvark on Saturday September 8th. Doors open at 8pm.
Coco Blu’s new single What Is Fate? appears on Rhubarb Record’s new compilation Rhubarb Jam Batch 3 which is limited to 250 copies on milky clear vinyl with blue splatter. It is available at both Rhubarb Records East Vic Park and Rhubarb Records Vinyl Cafe, and at our website; www.rhubarbrecords.com
You can keep up to date with Coco Blu at their Facebook page, stream their singles on Spotify and purchase the singles at the iTunes store.
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/CocoBluMusic/
Spotify - https://spoti.fi/2nVZwgU
iTunes - https://apple.co/2BsMalW
Written by Liam Lynch.
Thanks to Justin Burford and Coco Blu, Lily-Anniese Pearson, Greg Sanders and Mark Spillane. Photography by Chris Anderton.
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