Coco Hames :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

Coco Hames likes to crack wise about "getting away with it" -- as if her career as a musician and record store  is some trick she's pulling off. But the singer/songwriter's newly released self-titled solo debut is no fluke or chance occurrence. Though it's  her first for Merge Records and first released under her own name, it's a work of undeniable craftsmanship, honed over years. The LP finds Hames  expanding on the garage rock of her band The Ettes, maintaining that group's direct punchiness, but adding sun-dappled country soul, R&B,  jangle rock, and classic Spector Wall of Sound pop to the mix. Twangy and sly, the album reflects Hames'  roots in the South. It's easy to hear  noted inspirations   Patsy Cline and Bobbie Gentry in songs like "I Do Love You" and "You're Calling Me," but Hames still rocks  too, particularly on the charging "I Don't Wanna Go." Though it's not easy to categorize -- pitched somewhere between a power pop record and a traditional singer/songwriter outing -- it feels whole and natural within Hames' discography. The same spirit she caught on tape with The Ettes is here, only matured and refined.

Coco Hames :: You're Calling Me

AD caught up with Hames over the phone from her place in Memphis. The conversation was freewheeling, with Hames bouncing from Simpsons  and  Broad City  references to discussing writing songs for Tom Scharpling's  long-running comedy/music program The Best Show, covering Tommy Stinson, and coming into her own as a solo artist.  This conversation had been condensed and edited for clarity. Coco Hames is available now via Merge Records.  

Aquarium Drunkard:  You've been writing songs for a long time. Have these  songs been kicking around in your head for some time now?

Coco Hames: I would say maybe half of them. Some of them were maybe gonna be on the next Parting Gifts record; one of them is fifteen years old. Straight up I wrote it when I was...oh, yeah twenty. I was kind of like, it was time, you know? I was just ready to make a record. The Ettes sort of petered out -- I guess we broke up -- but  Poni [Silver] and I are still really good friends. I remember, talking with [Reigning Sound and Parting Gifts songwriter] Greg Cartwright, and he told me, "You get tunnel vision when you're in a project like that." As individuals we're human beings and we all have stuff that we want to do that doesn't just exist in this vacuum of the band and that's okay.

After the band ended, there were like two years where I wasn't really writing songs for myself. I wrote songs for Gary the Squirrel on The Best Show. That was fun, but I didn't feel like I needed to do anything else. But eventually I was like, "Yeah, I'm a songwriter, this is what I do, and I love it. I think maybe I should put some songs out."

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