Xylaroo Interview

Kai Nicol-Schwarz interviews Xylaroo before they support Matt Berry & The Maypoles at Riverside

Kai Nicol-Schwarz
21st November 2016

So, where did Xylaroo come from?

Coco: Sometimes we make up stories about the name. But Holly started the band when we were quite young. She just started writing music, and I was learning guitar so she asked me to help her out with songs. Then we started doing open mics and little gigs. Holly came up with the name with a friend, who had a puppet called Minziroo (an art graphics project) which was combined with the instrument xylophone (a favourite of Holly’s) to create Xylaroo.

Holly: Tell him the other one that’s better…

Coco: …That you can put to print if you want, is that Xylaroo is the music of god in our mother’s village in Papua New Guinea, we told a radio station that one once.

How did the first gig that you ever did together go?

Coco: It went alright, it was an open mic night. Some guys came up afterwards, who ended up helping us a lot when we were younger, and they’d get us a lot of gigs and things like that. It was a bit scary, we’re still scared now.

How would you describe your music?

Coco: That’s such a difficult question. We tried to figure it out, what was it? Obviously when the two of us play its acoustic and folky. One guy was saying downstairs that we were mournful and soulful. And I like that sort of music, folk and country. But with the band it’s a little bit different. Its gives a different vibe. It’s more comfortable, you get less nervous and you can get a bit more loose on stage. Yeah I guess folk…

"our sound is very much one that’s like American music as we’ve listened to that a lot"

Holly:… Sort of pop rock, it can be when we play with a band. Someone called it Ditty Boppy. (Laughs)

Coco: Pretty much we don’t know.

What are your musical influences? And would you say there was anything in particular that has influenced Sweetooth?

Coco: It’s difficult because some of the songs, we wrote when we were about 15.

Holly: But Rilo Kiley has been a massive influence.

Coco: So Jenny Lewis, Elliot Smith, and there’s mournful.

Holly: Especially as a teenager, we were both listening to those kind of west coast bands.

Coco: And Postal Service. But now I listen to more Nina Simone and Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash.

So did you take that from your parents, or did your musical tastes develop on their own?

Coco: Some of it from our parents, some of it from our aunt. I remember watching a Bob Dylan documentary with her. A lot of it comes from YouTube. You know when you go home, a little bit drunk, and you just sift through various songs.

So what’s it like working with family, does it ever get heated at all?

Holly: Yeah of course!

Coco: Of course it does. Even when you’re not family and you’re working in a band, and I can imagine in bigger bands even more so.

Holly: You wouldn’t choose to spend that much time with someone (Laughs.)

Coco: I guess it’s different from working in a band with people who aren’t your family because you have different professionalism.

Holly: I can be a bitch. (Laughs)

Coco: We might have real arguments and stuff, and other people might just walk out. We’ve said it, but we don’t mean it.

"There is a Britney Spears mashup that we’ve been wanting to try for ages. Just like loads of Britney songs"

I listened to your cover track “I bet that you look good on the dancefloor,” and really enjoyed it. Is there a certain quality that makes a cover song successful? Does it have to be a completely new spin, or can it retain some of the original material?

Holly: Personally, I like covers that put a new twist on it. Unless it’s done in a fun way, like not seriously.

Coco: You can also have ones where you love that band, and some bands could do any cover and I would like it because it was them.

Are there any particular songs you would like to cover in the future?

Holly: Any Dolly Parton song, like “9 to 5.” I can play it but I don’t perform. We like to do covers a bit differently.

Coco: We don’t want to sing it just the way it is. There is a Britney Spears mashup that we’ve been wanting to try for ages. Just like loads of Britney songs. A lot of her songs seem to be about domestic troubles, “hit me baby one more time,” “Oops I did it again.”

Holly: You could make a play about them. We like doing pop songs, and folking them up.

Coco: Maybe Destiny’s Child “Say my name” or something by Kanye.

If you could collaborate with anyone in the world, who would it be?

Coco: Easy.

Holly: Jenny Lewis!

Coco: Or Rilo Kiley. That would be who I would choose. I mean a lot of people who I would want, are dead now. Maybe Leonard Cohen.

Holly: Because it would be nice to have some deep male vocals.

What was the first album that you got your hands on?

Holly: Probably “Take offs and Landings” by Rilo Kiley. I bought that one, it was the first one that was my album. Coco: Maybe something by Shania Twain. Specifically I remember Shania Twain. Our mum would play it in the car, and we would all sing along.

If you could watch one band or act live, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Coco: I think it would be Nina.

Holly: Yeah me too. That would be beautiful.

Coco: There’s just so much emotion in here performance. So yeah, definitely Nina Simone.

So I’ve read that you’re both well-travelled, would you say that any music from the various destinations you’ve been to has influenced your sound?

Coco: I don’t think so much our sound. Because our sound is very much one that’s like American music as we’ve listened to that a lot. But maybe the things we write about, like being Papua New Guinean. Being in Hong Kong and Sri Lanka just generally affected how we are.

And finally, where do you two see yourselves in the future? You were talking earlier on about writing new stuff and a little bit of a break. So have you go a new album or anything like that in the pipelines?

Coco: We’ve got a lot of new songs, a lot of the ones we played today were new. We’re working on writing new songs, and also developing more with the band.

Holly: So maybe doing something more experimental.

So are you looking to get more ensemble members of the group, or is it just going to stay as you two?

Coco: If we can, we like to pay the guys, and it’s expensive so sometimes we just can’t afford to bring the band around. But if we get paid more for a gig we like to bring them, and we would like to develop that side of things more.

Holly: It’s more fun with a lot of people, and they’re great musicians.

Coco: Also it would be good to get them more into writing the songs and arrangements. So I think that’s the direction we want to go.

Holly: Just experiment a bit, and see where it goes.

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