Editor’s Note: Consequence of Sound is an editorial partner of Mad Cool Festival. Today’s artist profile highlights Pamplona band Kokoshca.
Any longtime festivalgoer will tell you: half the fun of attending a music festival comes from checking out new artists who you might not otherwise encounter. That’s doubly true when attending a festival abroad. For the next part of our travel guide to Mad Cool Festival in Madrid, we’re looking past the festival’s gargantuan headliners to find a few of the must-see Spanish artists whose music might wind up as your favorite sonic souvenir. Next up: Kokoshca.
The sonic blueprints for Pamplona band Kokoshca could’ve been borrowed from the grungiest room at the New York Public Library. The name on the library card belongs to singer and co-founder Iñaki López, who is upfront about the creative debt his band owes to acts including The Velvet Underground, New York Dolls, and The Modern Lovers. To these titans of proto-punk, López and his bandmates added influences (musical and otherwise) that originated closer to home.
“Spanish tradition beats deeply in us,” Lopez said, citing everything from local folklore to Goya’s Black Paintings to Spanish new wave and pop of the 1980s as ingredients in his band’s creative process. Taken together, these disparate influences create a transatlantic bridge through time and space, upon which Kokoshca is the sole, speeding occupant.
First-time listeners might find the band’s Bandcamp page slightly overwhelming (in a good way); since forming in 2008, the band’s released five full-length records, a rarities collection, a live album, and various 7″s and singles. Where you start depends on how you feel about the low end; after beginning life as Beat Happening-style boy-girl duo, the band evolved into a no-bass trio (“just like The Cramps in the early ’80s”) before finally settling into its current configuration in 2013, when the addition of a new drummer and bass player revitalized their rhythm section (“just like The Cramps in late ’80s. Haha.”).
When I asked López for a way in, he pointed me in two directions. One lead to 2016’s Algo Real, which he describes as “direct” and “[showing] everything said before.” Highlights here come early and often, from the razor-wire guitar attack of opener “Mi Consentido” to the fuzzy Vaselines-style duet of “No queda nada”. The other led to 2018’s El Mal, which López calls “complex” and “darker than usual.” He also says it’s their best work yet, and it’s easy to hear why; ominous organ and fragile duets add an element of tension to early tracks like “El Ray” and “Calle Lloviendo”, setting the stage for a record that opens out onto everything from a swirling Cocteau Twins-style haze (“Frio”) to cold wave synths in conversation with earthy percussion (“Bom Bom”). If this is a sign of where the band’s headed, they’ve chosen the right road.
Songs from both of these albums (and likely more) will be on full offer during Kokoshca’s set at Mad Cool, but don’t expect them to sound exactly as they do on the records. Even as their sound expands, the band retains ample stores of the punk energy that powered their earliest explorations.
“The audience doesn’t look for the same feelings at home or walking with their headphones on that they do at a gig, you know,” López said. “Basically, our songs are faster and more powerful. We give people the chance to go a bit nuts with us. If you don’t know us, you’re gonna love the show, but if you already like us and can sing the lyrics, it’s gonna be the best night of the year for you.”
Kokoshca takes the stage on Mad Cool’s opening day, where they share the schedule with huge names including Vampire Weekend, Bon Iver, and Iggy Pop. For López, it’s an opportunity to provide one of music festivals’ most important services: the act of musical discovery.
“Mad Cool is massive, but we’re the kind of band that can make your experience at the festival worth it,” he said. “[You can tell] your friends who were attending Vampire Weekend, ‘Oh, I discovered a great live band while you were watching that…’ We toured Argentina last month, and a guy who discovered us in Buenos Aires [followed us] to another three shows in different cities. He discovered Kokoshca, and he loved it.”
Bonus Insider Travel Tips: Madrid
Here are a few of Kokoshca’s tips for how to make the most of a visit to Madrid:
“Madrid is a great city with real social life, and everybody is friendly. It’s still a bit far away from the gentrification and standardization process of western cities. Look for the essence, because few cities can offer you so much. Just talk to and ask locals. You never know how a visit in Madrid is gonna end.”
For more schedule and ticket information, visit madcoolfestival.es.