Today’s Feature, November 17th-18th: Koop

November 18, 2007 at 6:34 pm (Today's Feature)

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You can’t capsule the style of Koop, but they can take a shot at it – “We have a love / hate relationship with Jazz music. No music can be so swinging beautiful and no music can be so boring as jazz. We sometimes are accused of being retro, but no other jazz related music sounds as modern as Koop Islands.”

While Sweden’s Koop continues to progress and excel on their latest album, “Koop Islands,” the record is also a sort of back to basics for this distinctive duo. Perhaps basic is a bad choice word – Koop’s music sounds like it’s made by a small orchestra. But the music is actually based on samples; “thousands of small clips from records puzzled together into new songs.” With that said, “Koop Islands” still has remnants from when Magnus Zingmark & Oscar Simonsson pieced together melodies for the first time. Sitting on the floor of Magnus’ parent’s living room with two turntables, the pair found that “playing a little flute melody from Debussy and a double bass line from a jazz record at the same time created a totally new sound.”

The album that follows the success of “Waltz for Koop” does more than remind listeners of how the group first discovered their sound. You’ll also notice a new level of songwriting, lyrics sang by an assortment of gifted vocalists such as Yukimi Nagano, Ane Brun, Hilde Louise Asbjornsen, Rob Gallagher and Mikael Sundin.” Check out their single “Come to Me” – it sums up “Koop Islands” quite nicely; “Come To Me is the point where the Swedish summer solstice meets a Caribbean Christmas.”

Luckily for American audiences, Koop is touring the U.S. before they head back to the studio to record a fourth album. When you see them live, Mangus will be on the sampler while Oscar takes over the piano and accordion, but you may also notice a 7-9 piece swing orchestra including one or two singers. The ensemble’s purpose: “to make people move their feet.” Buy the album, find a show and read their XXQ’s.

XXQs: KOOP

Pen’s Eye View: How and when did Koop first form as a band?

KOOP: We met at student clubs in the mid nineties. I played in a jazz band and Magnus was DJing at the venues we played. We became friends and the first time we made music together we were sitting on the floor of Magnus’ parents living room with two turntables trying to find samples that fit together. We found that playing a little flute melody from Debussy and a double bass line from a jazz record at the same time created a totally new sound to our ears. So different music and eras but it totally made sense. That sound lead to the song “Glomd” that is on our first album “Sons of Koop,” released in 1997.

PEV: Hailing from Stockholm what kind of music were you listening to growing up?

KOOP: Abba and (early) Beatles. In our teens we discovered jazz and Hip Hop. When we were old enough to visit clubs we started to discover technological music.

PEV: What were the earlier days like for Koop, before the sell out crowds and tours?

KKOP: An example: Our second album was ready in January 2001. We were signed to Universal in London since our first album, which was no success for them at all. They didn’t want to release the new album and we had to use lawyers to try to release us from the contract. Time went on, and after a half year it still wasn’t solved. We had our instruments and samplers at the pawnshop, and I was starting to think that it was never gonna be released and all this work we’d put down making the album was wasted. Luckily Universal let us go a few months later and the album “Waltz for Koop” was released January 2002. One year late.

PEV: Tell us about the first ever live Koop performance. When and where was it? How did it go?

KOOP: First gig was on a poets night in our hometown Uppsala in 1995. We claimed we had some poet samples in our music and that’s why we should play there. We played the song Glomd (which means “forgotten” in Swedish) featuring Magnus on sampler, me on moog and a girl playing harp that we met earlier at the venue. People actually liked it a lot, which was a strange surprise to us.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life where you were like, “Okay, music is going to be my full time career”?

KOOP: Koop has had a very slow and bumpy career. It’s been so many ups and downs, so suddenly you are there without noticing it.

PEV: Tell us about the first time you both stepped into a recording studio together to lay down some tracks.?

KOOP: After starting at Magnus’ parents living room floor, we decided to borrow a studio from another band. We were allowed to be there on Friday nights and they had a sampler that could store 1 megabyte(!), but that was enough to produce our first EP.

PEV: When you sit down to write music, what kind of environment do you surround yourselves in?

KOOP: We meet at the studio every day. Make samples, have coffee, smoke and argue about music. Then we give up after 6 hours. All the good ideas, melodies and lyrics come on the way home or later in the evening. Then we text each other for a while. The next day it starts all over again.

PEV: Your latest release, “Koop Islands” has been very well received. What do you want people to take away from this album?

KOOP: After making music together for a long time, and evolving, we are now in a phase where we want to improve ourselves as songwriters. Our sound has been defined for a long time. There are a couple of songs that are really up there. Great melodies, and with the same surreal feel as the first time we mixed jazz with debussy back at Magnus parents’ living room floor. “Come to me” is one of them.

PEV: How is Koop Islands different from any other music out today?

KOOP: We don’t have to struggle to be different. The way we make music is so fundamentally different in the first place, so it can’t sound like anything else than Koop.
We have a love / hate relationship with Jazz music. No music can be so swinging beautiful and no music can be so boring as jazz. We sometimes are accused of being retro, but no other jazz related music sounds as modern as Koop Islands.

PEV: What can people find different on “Koop Islands” then they did on “Waltz For Koop”?

KOOP: Well, it’s even more about classic songwriting. Less about sound and grooves.

PEV: What is a normal “show day” like for the band? Any pre-show rituals or anything?

KOOP: Before the show we do our make-up and have a couple of drinks.

PEV: In all your travels, what has been your favorite city to perform, International or US and why?

KOOP: It’s all about expectation and comparing to how the previous show was. It’s always nice to be surprised. When we played in Seoul last month it was complete Beatlemania. We could sometimes not hear what we where playing because of the screaming. But that must be annoying in the long run. The shows we’ve had in LA. have been great. Our American audience is focused on the music, and also gives a lot back. When it comes to things like environment and food, nothing beats Italy.

PEV: Speaking of traveling, how do you like life on the road? What are the best and worse parts of road life?

KOOP: The best is when the gigs are good. That’s the reason we do it. The worst part is that you loose your routines in everyday life, and the phone bills.

PEV: When you are not traveling or performing and you get some down time, what can we find you doing?

KOOP: Sleeping.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your success?

KOOP: They don’t see so much of that. Even if our records have sold gold in Sweden it’s not like we’re on TV every day. People tend to measure success by how much you are on TV.

PEV: Is there an up and coming band that you think we should all be listening to?

KOOP: I like Beirut, and a Swedish band The Tough Alliance.

PEV: Who is currently in your CD player or on your iPod now?

KOOP: Metallica. The black album.

PEV: What’s been the most memorable part of the band’s career so far?

KOOP: It’s was a real struggle to follow up “Waltz for Koop”, and we had a very hard time, both musically and personally, making “Koop Islands”. But it feels like we are starting to be understood for real with this album. People seem to like the music for exactly the same reasons we do.

PEV: What is something that fans would be surprised to hear about Koop?

KOOP: We are straight.

PEV: So, what is next for Koop?

KOOP: We have to move our studio on the 1st of January. We see that as the start of making our 4th album. But first we’re gonna tour America.
Bye!

For more information on KOOP, check out on MySpace.

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