QUADRON: Journey Thru Sound
Hailing from Denmark, soul-electro duo Quadron creates music that is unlike that what you may be used to, but in a really good way.
Words: Andrea K. Castillo
Images: Eric Kim
Collaborating first within the music collective, the Boom Clap Bachelors, music producer Robin Hannibal and singer Coco realized their meeting would spark an entirely new creative endeavor. They called it Quadron and their self-titled debut has reached the ears and hearts of music fans around the world. (And it’s only the beginning.) We caught up with Robin Hannibal to chitchat about the evolution of the group and their journey to now.
I’ve been listening to the album and can pick up a lot of Spector-era R&B, some Neo-Soul, and some Electro elements. Who would you say are some of your biggest musical influences?
For that record [the first Quadron record], I was very much inspired by the Phil Spector period. I had been reading his biography and listening a lot to his music. How he could use so many instruments and recording techniques and make it very rich and full, but still having a lot of room while focusing much on songwriting, fascinated me. The R&B element, that is deeply rooted within us, of our liking to Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder—all the greats—Prince, Michael Jackson, all of those. Neo-Soul is obviously the sound of our generation. The vocal stylings of that era which Coco grew up with—Lauryn Hill, Mariah Carey, Erykah Badu, and Jill Scott—it’s an amalgamation of all those things, but it was always really important to us that we made something we would also like in five or 10 years time, and not something that just sounds really “cool”. I think there are so many people spending time on doing that, we’d rather just not compete, and make sure that what we do, we will really like and that it will hopefully stand the test of time, songwriting wise. Maybe in periods it will sound corny, but hopefully in 10 or 20 years time, it will still be relevant, and some of the songs, still interesting.
Earlier this year, you went on a mini US tour, and on some dates you were support for Raphael Saadiq. How was that experience for you guys?
The way that Quadron works is that I handle the production side and Coco handles the live side, so I actually was not touring. We have a band for Quadron, but I witnessed one concert at the Music Box here in LA. That was amazing! It seemed like a lot of people knew Quadron, and that some of them even came to see Quadron, but Raphael Saadiq is one of our main heroes and influences. Period. He blogged about us, in reference to one song that he really liked that he was inspired by. He said this while working on his new record, and once we saw that, we started to think of how we could get to be in concert with him. It just happened to be that our manager is really good friends with his manager, they’re like best buddies, so that helped it a lot. We were then invited to his amazing studio complex/facility, and we played each other our records and it seemed like he really liked it. After that he invited us back, to work on a song with him. So we’ve done one song with him for the next album. He’s an amazing guy. Super sweet, amazing musician, and it was just an honor to be in his presence and also work on music with him. He could have asked anybody to warm up for him, so him, not even picking an American act, but a European act doing American-inspired music, was an even bigger compliment.
In that experience, being on this tour in the US, was there any clear differences that you have seen between American and European fans? In regards to the way they react to the music and the live show?
We did a US [tour] last year that lasted almost a whole month. We did 15 or 16 cities all over the states, and I’ve also attended a few shows in LA and New York as a spectator, and it’s very different. People are very direct and much more enthusiastic, or encouraging the live act and not afraid to show it. People have a different fascination with music and music that they like. When they like it here, they would kill for it, you know? We love that, but it’s not very typical of how we were raised and how people like music in Denmark. People stand with their arms crossed, a little more reserved and introverted. Their attitude is, “Don’t think you can so easily impress me. You have to deserve it.”
Which is a good thing to experience because you really have to show what you can do. You are on the spot and you really have to deliver, which we also have to do over here, but you get much more direct feedback than you do in a lot of places in Europe. The first time people hear you in Europe, they have to figure out if they like it or not. Here, they are going to the concert because they want to like it, and they want to have a good experience. They are interested in having a good experience, and that’s why they go to see it live.
Speaking more on the European market, specifically that of Denmark, have you seen any clear changes or shifts in the music industry there from when you were a child until now?
Oh definitely, primarily in the way that people are consuming music—that’s pretty global now at least in the very developed, industrial countries. You see a very different way of listening to music and consuming music and that’s also the same in Denmark. Growing up, I think my generation is the generation that’s gone through the biggest or largest amount of different platforms in media. From vinyl, to cassette tapes, to compact discs, to mini discs, to DAT tapes, then obviously to DVDs, MP3s and audio files in general…the last 30 years have probably been the most changing of platforms in media. I definitely see a different way in consuming.
How has this affected your music, your approach to it and its delivery?
The way it has affected my approach to music, is actually very contradicting. On one hand, I tend to find that my patience and level of concentration has been reduced, because everything is moving along so much quicker. On the other hand, that makes me want to, even more than before, take the proper time to go into depth with things and make sure that they aren’t just a product that will be consumed really quickly, and at least try to make something that is more sustainable and that will hopefully stand the test of time.
The way it has affected the process of making music, is that there are a lot more options and possibilities than when I started out, and equipment is cheaper, which means that more people have a chance of creating. This is great. I think that we are in a time of extremes, and once we realize if we actually need to have all the possibilities available for us 24/7, access to every song in the world, or be able to make a “song” in 10 minutes, we will be able to find a better and healthier balance. But right now, we are still developing all these platforms and getting the world closer to our doorstep.
When you and Coco formed Quadron, you were experimenting a lot with song structure and songwriting. One of your songs, “Horse”, which I love, is quite enjoyable because of the fact that it is a little loungy, but has a lot of down-tempo, instrumental space. It doesn’t sound like a typical song. How important would you say slassical song structure to you guys when you are in the studio creating and recording?
It’s very important, but I also believe all rules are made to be broken. “Horse” is an interesting track because it’s written in ¾ time signature, which immediately changes the feeling of the song. It’s not uncommon for songs to be written in ¾, especially in Jazz or instrumental music. On this track, there are certain places where we go out of the ¾ feel, and include one bar more here and there, to give you the feel of not knowing when certain things are going to happen. “Horse” is a demo I had left over from the Owusu and Hannibal record. I always liked it and always played it for people, and luckily Coco got it and worked her magic on it. It’s one of those songs that I believe we are both very satisfied with.
In regards to music, and most other things, in order to move forward, we have to take heed of our influences from the past. With that said, I would like you to finish this statement: “I create music to make people feel…”
You can just put, “to make people feel”. It’s as easy as that. No matter what we do, we want to have some level of feeling and emotion, so the listener is moved by it. Some people use it [music] for real emotional purposes, some use it just as background music, some just have it in their car, but as long as it makes them feel something, and it’s not just wallpaper music, that’s really important to us.
As you said earlier, you worked on a track with Raphael Saadiq for the new album. Do you have any hints as to when we can expect new music?
We’re working on it, but as of right now, there is no deadline. We have a large amount of demos and want to take the time to finish all the songs, then choose all the ones that will best fit the record.
For updates on the daily occurrences of Quadron, be sure to follow them on Twitter, @quadron_quadron.
Images of Quadron shot by Eric Kim exclusively for Stark.